After the military coup in 1965 that brought Suharto into power in 1967, hundreds of thousands of people suffered from political oppression and were killed. This chain of events began with the killing of five right-wing generals on October 1, 1965. In the years that followed, numerous people were arrested, tortured, and disappeared all over Indonesia by the regime of President Suharto in the name of fighting against communism. Even today, these victims remain stigmatized, have been left without compensation and are often discriminated against. Thousands are waiting for remedies.
As many of the victims of these abuses are so old that they run the risk of dying before receiving justice, ongoing inaction by the State will leave the country in a situation where current atrocities—like those in West Papua—as well as future atrocities, will continue to increase in an environment of impunity. Now it is up to Komnas HAM to fulfill its mandate by bringing these cases to the Attorney General’s Office for investigation.
Today, a delegation in support of the victims of the ’65 massacres urged Komnas HAM in Jakarta to start inquiries into these atrocities, as this Commission is the institution responsible for addressing this issue according to Indonesian Law. The group of non-governmental organizations, comprised of KontraS, the Commission for Disappeared and Victims of Violence, the Asian Human Rights Commission, YAPHI, and the Institution for Indonesian Legal Resources, together with victims themselves, demanded that Komnas HAM begin inquiries by taking the victims’ testimonies.
This initiative is taking place in a country where gross violations of human rights are still occurring in different regions, like in the country’s east, in which access is very limited and the military virtually reigns over the civil population. In the Indonesia of today, the State often still oversteps the legal safeguards in place for the protection of individual rights, and the shadow of the past atrocities are the basis for how many Indonesians still see their State.
According to the Law on Human Rights Courts (Law No. 26 of 2000), Komnas HAM is the authority responsible for initiating the legal process by conducting inquiries into the massacres of 1965. Article 18.1 of the Law states that “Inquiries into cases of gross violations of human rights shall be conducted by the National Commission on Human Rights.” Article 18.2 further suggests that the Commission “form an ad hoc team comprising of the National Commission on Human Rights and public constituents.”
Komnas HAM is responsible for addressing human rights violations that fall into the category of gross violations of human rights. According to Articles 7, 8 and 9 of the same law, such violations include crimes against humanity, which are “systemic direct attacks on civilians, in the form of” killing, torture, enforced eviction or movement of civilians. According to Taufik Basari, Director for advocacy and legal aid at the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, the massacres of 1965 present such a case of gross violations of human rights.
Many of the victims were forced to spend decades in prison on the charge of being a member of the Communist party. Sakono Praptojuwono was one of the countless people detained for years in Buru Island. Sakono was a member of the student organization IPPI, which was thought to be associated with the Communist party. On that basis, he was arrested on November 2, 1965. He spent 14 years in prison condemned to hard labor in the forest. He was one of the few who survived the horrors of Buru Island. “It is not just a problem of compensation, but it is about the stigmatization that we face since our detention,” Sakono said. Many of the victims are stigmatized by society. Many other victims like Sakono were released at the end of the 70s without any explanation, recognition, or compensation.
We urge Komnas HAM to:
1. Conduct an inquiry into the gross violations of human rights during the period of 1965 -1966.
2. Respond to the complaints of the victims in different provinces, and follow up the inquiries in the Buru Island case.
3. Advocate reforms to end the policy of stigmatization of and discrimination against victims.
4. Implement legal provisions to safeguard the rights of the 1965 victims, such as the right to possess an identity document, the right to receive retirement aid and the right to protection of their property, each of which has been denied to many victims.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.