The Trisakti Tragedy took place during the social unrest surrounding the fall of President Suharto. Four students were killed by gunfire.

Rights violated:

  • right to life

Chain of events of the Trisakti Tragedy:

A planned non-violent protest against the Suharto government started at Trisakti University on 12 May 1998. By 10:00 WIB, over 6,000 students, lecturers, and staff had assembled in the university parking lot. The demonstrators began by lowering the Indonesian flag to half mast. As noon approached, protestors prepared for a "long march" to the People's Representative Council Building (Indonesian: Gedung DPR/MPR). A few hundred metres from the campus, they were stopped by the Indonesian National Police, in front of the West Jakarta Mayor's Office. In response, the protestors conducted a sit-in, completely blocking S. Parman Street. Military reinforcements for the police arrived not long after. At 15:30 WIB, Dean of the Faculty of Law Adi Andojo convinced the demonstrators to return to the Trisakti campus.

By that time, the security forces on-site at the time were the Police Mobile Brigade, 9th Cavalry Battalion, 203rd Infantry Battalion, KOSTRAD Air Defence Artillery, 202nd Infantry Battalion, Kodam Jaya riot squad and a motorised brigade. They were equipped with riot shields, tear gas, Steyr AUGs, and Pindad SS-1s.

By 17:00 WIB, most of the demonstrators had returned to the campus. Insults were then heard coming from the military and police; not long afterwards, they opened fire, causing the protestors to panic and scatter. Two students, Elang Mulya Lesmana and Hendriawan Sie, were shot and killed while attempting to enter the rectorate in the Dr. Syarif Thayeb building.

An hour later, students who had not taken refuge within university buildings congregated in the open central plaza. Soldiers perched on the nearby rooftops continued shooting, wounding more students and killing another two, Heri Hartanto and Hafidin Royan. At roughly 20:00 WIB, the shootings stopped and the wounded were rushed to nearby hospitals.

At 22:00 WIB, Adi Andojo announced at a press conference broadcast live on the campus radio station MS3 FM that four students had been killed, and released their names.

Although the military has denied using live ammunition, autopsy reports indicated that the students had been shot with live rounds from a distance.

Four Trisakti students were killed in the gunfire:

  • Elang Mulia Lesmana (5 July 1978 – 12 May 1998) was a student at the Faculty of Architecture. On-campus, he was known for his humour, and during the demonstration was waving a sign saying "Lower the price of photocopies and perfume!" (Indonesian: "Turunkan harga fotokopi dan minyak wangi!"). He was shot outside the Dr. Syarif Thayeb building and buried in Tanah Kusir Public Cemetery, South Jakarta.
  • Heri Hartanto (c. 1977 – 12 May 1998) was a student at the Faculty of Engineering. He was not known to be politically active. He was shot in the plaza near the Dr. Syarif Thayeb building, not far from Hafidin Royan. He was also buried in Tanah Kusir Public Cemetery, South Jakarta.
  • Hafidin Royan (28 September 1976 – 12 May 1998) was a student at the Faculty of Civil Engineering, known amongst peers for being a devout Muslim. During the demonstration he had been standing in one of the back rows, clapping his hands. He was shot through the head in the plaza near the Dr. Syarif Thayeb building, not far from Heri Hertanto. He was buried in Sinargalih Cemetery, Bandung on 13 May 1998.
  • Hendriawan Sie Lesmana (3 May 1978 – 12 May 1998) was a student at the Faculty of Economics. He was shot outside the Dr. Syarif Thayeb building and later buried in Al Kamal Public Cemetery, West Jakarta.

The next day the social unrest in several cities started, leading to the resignation of President Suharto on 21 May 1998.


In the first trial in August 1998, when the police were still part of the armed forces, two police lieutenants were tried by a military tribunal for failing to observe proper procedures when they ordered troops to fire on demonstrating students at Trisakti University in West Jakarta, killing four. This incident on 12 May 1998 was followed by three days of rioting that prepared the way for the resignation of President Soeharto on 21 May. One of the two officers was sentenced to ten months imprisonment and the other to four months. It had been announced that another sixteen officers, including a lieutenant-colonel, would be tried but they were never brought to court. The failure to go ahead with the trials of the other defendants stimulated public suspicion of a ‘coverup’, especially as the students were killed by metal bullets, not the rubber bullets issued to the police. Many observers suspected that the shooting might have been a deliberate attempt by elements within the military to achieve political objectives when demands for the overthrow of the president were rising. In January 2001 a special parliamentary committee began a reexamination of this case. (Source: ICG, 2001)

In 2008 Komnas HAM reopened investigations into the 1999 killing of four demonstrators at Jakarta's Semanggi intersection and the 1998 killing of four students at Trisakti University and nine demonstrators at Semanggi intersection. In a departure from past practice, one retired general and some retired police officers cooperated with a Komnas HAM investigation into the 1989 Talangsari massacre. Komnas HAM resubmitted its findings to the Attorney General's Office (AGO), but the AGO returned the documents to Komnas HAM as "incomplete." (Source: US State Department report 2009)

"We have good news this year [2011] as Deputy Attorney General Darmono promised us the AGO will look into the incident along with the House of Representatives to find out why progress in the case has stalled,” Trisakti student president Sutan Nalendra said. (Source: The Jakarta Post, 13-05-2011).

The case remains unsolved - see The Jakarta Post 23-05-2014.

Quoting the account in connection with the Semanggi shootings by KontraS:

The victims’ families, who demanded that the state be responsible for the case, were forced to struggle against various obstacles both politically and formal legalistically.  The military court for Trisakti case which was held in 1998 sentenced 6 officials from Indonesian Police department. In 2002 the military court sentenced 9 members of Gegana (bomb squad)/Regimen II of Brimob Polri (brigade mobile police). In 2003 the military court also prosecuted the perpetrators in the shooting occurred in Semanggi II but the result is still unclear.      

The military court brought disappointment to the victims’ families because it only prosecuted the lower level officials without bringing the main perpetrators responsible for the crime to court.  Moreover, the military court held was an internal court. The students and victims’ families continued with their demand until DPR (the House of Representatives) finally formed a Special Committee for Trisakti, Semanggi I and Semanggi II in the year 2000 with the task to monitor the resolution process of the case. In 2001 the Special Committee concluded that there was no severe violation in Trisakti, Semanggi I and Semanggi II cases and recommended a resolution through the existing on-going process in public court or military court. This result was equally disappointing for the victims’ families.

Reasoning that there has been a systematic and widespread severe human rights violation, the victims’ families and the students continued their demand to Komnas HAM to conduct investigation on the cases. KPP HAM for Trisakti, Semanggi I and Semanggi II was then formed in 2001. However, the investigation process faced various obstacles such as difficulty to access information from the state’s institutions and the uncooperative attitude coming from TNI and Polri towards the investigation of their members. In its report, KPP HAM concluded from the adequate preliminary evidence that there has been a severe human rights violation in Trisakti, Semanggi I and Semanggi II incidents with 50 people as suspected perpetrators. Komnas HAM investigation result was then submitted to the Attorney General office to be processed in accordance with Law No. 26/2000 in April 2002.

The Attorney General’s office returned the documents to Komnas HAM because it was considered unable to fulfill pro justicia procedure. Komnas HAM made some revisions and completion and re-submit the documents to the Attorney General’s office. However, the evasive attitude did not stop there. Based on DPR’s recommendation that there was no severe human rights violation, the Attorney General’s office acted passively by ignoring the case until 2004. Beginning 2005, DPR promised to review and cancel the recommendation.During year 2006, the victims’ family and KontraS still pressured parliament to discuss about this case in BAMUS. Unfortunately, on 9 february 2006  the parliament canceled to discuss again about case of Trisakti/Semanggi I & II due to ethical matter. Again, victims’ family and KontraS pushed BAMUS on 23 february to propose agenda on the case of Trisakti Semanggi to be brought to Paripurna meeting and ask commission of third to discuss on this case. In 2007, there was no significant progress for this case, therefore victim’s family kept to maintain the issue to pay attention from public conducted several campaign in University and other events. During this campaign, the pressure was to demand Parliament to annul recomendation of Pansus in 2001 and to propose next agenda to handover the post card to Agung Laksono, the chairman of parliament. 

On 26 March 2008, there were several victim’s families met to President SBY, representatives of tragedy Semanggi I, May Riots 1998, disappearance activist 1997, Tanjung Priok massacre 1984 and KontraS reported directly to President about the difficulties to resolve the case and who the responsibility of all cases occurred. To respond their report, President would conduct meeting special limited cabinet to be attended all ministers and other assistants of President who handle to the human rights violence resolve. On the meeting, President also promised to ask clarifications from AG, Mr Hendarman Supanji about the statement of lost documents of Trisakti Semanggi, as well as the statement of minister of defence, Mr Juwono Sudarsono on not essential for military officers and former members of TNI to fulfill of Komnas HAM invitation to be witness in inquiry team.

On July 1, 2008, KontraS and IKOHI visited the Third Commission of the Parliament. The group demanded that the Attorney General (AG) be called to explain why he is not implementing the MK decision to conduct further investigation on the four gross human rights violations. Specifically, the group’s calls were: (1) Demand the AG to investigate enforced disapperance cases which occurred in 1997-1998 especially that of 13 persons who remain missing up to this day.  Since these cases are continuing crimes, these should be handled by the permanent human rights tribunal and not necessarily by an ad hoc tribunal; (2) The President must establish an ad hoc human rights tribunal for past cases based on the documents which Komnas HAM have already submitted to the AG.  The victims’ families and surfaced victims are now closely monitoring the developments related to their calls.