INDONESIA: A state mechanism by which victims are able to press for justice is urgently needed


On the 7th December 2006, the Supreme Court in Jakarta abolished the highly controversial Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Bill of 2004, which the residing Judges described as “illogical”. Said residing Judge Jimly Asshidiqque; “The Court rules that the law goes against the Constitution and has to be dropped”.

Despite being introduced into domestic legislation in 2004, the Commission had never actually been established. Passed in early 2004, the Bill simply states that in order for the victims of the 1965-66 Massacres to be deemed eligible to claim compensation, they must first formally pardon their perpetrators; thus effectively granting them amnesty from prosecution. Nonsurprisingly, this has riled and infuriated many if not most Human Rights activists both in Indonesia and abroad, as well as the victims and their families themselves. President Yudoyono has been widely criticized for protecting the perpetrators of human rights violations, as opposed to their victims.

Says Mr. Asmara Nababan of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy on the matter; “They should apologize to the people, especially taxpayers, for having spent a lot of money to make a law that turns out to be against the Constitution”. Mr. Nababan went on to add that the recently abolished Bill testified to the failure of the Indonesian State and Government.

While the abolishment of the TRC Bill is indeed a most welcome, and long-overdue move, the troubles of the victims of the 1965-66 massacres are far from over.

Despite the recent abolishment of the TRC Bill, the existing domestic legislative system concerning victim and/or witness protection, the processing and prosecution of cases of torture and other human rights violations, and the provision of adequate compensation, support and redress to victims are shamefully threadbare; thus leaving victims of human rights violations in Indonesia, in a very vulnerable (and easily exploitable) position indeed.

Possibly the most crucial issue here, is state interpretation and public perception. To date, the Indonesian State has failed to accept responsibility for the grave human rights crimes committed by its agencies and officers during the period of 1965-66 (and later in 88/89), and moreover, has refused to acknowledge its actions as a gross violation of human rights. The Government’s feigned ignorance of the Military’s rampage of abductions and killings, and their failure to account for over 1 million (independent surveys place it at over 3 million) missing persons constitutes a clear violation of their obligations as a state-party to UN convention, and member of the UN Human Rights Council.

To date, those survivors of the 1965-66 massacres are subjected on a routine basis to institutionalized discrimination. Publicly branded as “Ex-Tapol”, they are denied even the most basic rights such as employment, housing, social welfare, health and education for their children. Even more shocking is the fact that till recently the Indonesian schools taught children that the 1965-66 massacres was a “heroic crusade” against the corrupt forces of Communism, for which the Government and the state Military are extolled as “national heroes”. With such a mentality embedded firmly in place, it is hardly surprising that even despite the prior existence of the TRC Bill, that the perpetrators of the 1965-66 massacres feel little compulsion to admit to their crimes.

Therefore, in light of this, there is a fundamental and most urgent need for there to be a change in the public psyche; but in order for this to happen, the State must first set a suitable example. It is imperative that the Indonesian State publicly accepts accountability for its role in orchestrating the 1965-66 massacres, and that it acknowledges that they were indeed gross human rights violations. This is the first, most crucial step.

Secondly, the Government must put an immediate stop to all forms of institutionalized discrimination against the survivors of the 1965-66 massacres. A few years ago, the Government passed a legislation prohibiting the public branding of 1965/66 survivors as ‘Ex-Tapol’, and promised to grant all survivors regular ID cards; to date, this promise has not been fulfilled. Moreover, the Government should provide additional assistance in relation to employment and housing, and educational scholarships for their children who have been long deprived of their fundamental right to a basic education.

Thirdly, it is most urgent that the Government conduct official investigations into the events of 1965-66, take appropriate prosecutory action against those officers of the Military who both orchestrated and carried out the civilian massacres and finally to take the necessary steps in accounting for and locating those still missing persons. This requires the establishment of a state mechanism by which victims are able to press for justice. The speed at which such mechanisms are put into place, the resources made available to the cause of justice for the victims of the 1965/66 massacres, the adherence to norms and standards will be the ultimate test of the commitment of the state to addressing the long-standing issue of long overdue justice for the victims of human rights violations in Indonesia, and in ensuring that such crimes are neither permitted nor tolerated in the future. Without such a definitive commitment, half-hearted measures such as the TRC Bill are near destined for failure. 

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-319-2006
Countries : Indonesia,