INDONESIA: Mass grave uncovered – impunity over 1965 Massacre must end


Urgent Appeal Case: UA001123



AHRC UA Index: 001123 23 November 2000 
UA 40/00: Mass grave uncovered – impunity over 1965 Massacre must end 

INDONESIA – Impunity continues after 35 years 

A mass grave containing at least 24 victims from the 1965-66 massacre has been uncovered in a forest near Wonosobo, Central Java, Indonesia. Digging at the site began on 16th November, and further bodies were still being discovered when the excavation had to end at 5pm on the 18th. Many bullets were found with the bodies, and the skulls bore holes identified by the forensic expert as the type caused by bullets. MOst of the bodies are suspected to be those of political prisoners from a Yogyakarta jail who were allegedly killed by the military. 

The digging was coordinated by the Indonesian Institute for the Study of the 1965-66 Massacre (YPKP), led by 74 year-old Ibu Sulami, on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of victims and family members who survived Suharto’s bloody purge of suspected communists. It is estimated that well over one million persons were killed at this time. Ibu Sulami, a survivor of 20 years as a political prisoner under Suharto, was relieved to be able to uncover through official means the first of many mass graves from that time. Unfortunately she suffered a stroke on the second night of the excavation and is now recovering after being transferred to a Jakarta hospital. 

In the wake of the grotesque discovery in Wonosobo, YPKP has called on the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to conduct a full investigation into the massacre. To date not one person has been prosecuted for these killings, which were encouraged, supported and sanctioned by the state and religious leaders. 

Impunity creates an environment in which perpetrators feel they can use any means needed to gain and maintain power. At a time when Suharto is avoiding trial, his son, remains at large, and the family and their allies such as former General Wiranto still exert enormous power over military, bureaucratic and government institutions, ignoring the 1965-66 massacre is incredibly dangerous. Yet this is what Komnas HAM plans to do at this stage. 


Write to Komnas HAM, calling on them to enter the process to conduct a full investigation into the massacre of 1965-66, which could lead to the prosecution of those responsible for the massacre. A sample letter is included below, as well as the contact details. Please send a copy of your letter to the Indonesian president and to the Urgent Appeals desk. 

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear Mr. Nababan 

I was shocked to learn that a mass grave was discovered near Wonosobo in Central Java, containing at least 24 bodies of murder victims from around 1966. Apparently the grave was discovered not by the police or other government body, but by a group of senior citizens who are family members of victims from that time. It seems that there are many other such mass graves, and that the number of people killed around that time when Suharto came to power is probably well over one million. 

I am writing to urge you to begin a process to conduct a full investigation into the massacre that occurred in 1965-66. While such an exercise may anger some important people in Indonesia, that suffering is incomparable to the suffering of the victims who lost their family members and their freedom under the direction of the government and religious leaders of the time. Two years after Suharto’s 32-year rule ended, the victims have surely waited long enough to see justice done. If even the gruesome discovery in Wonosobo is not enough to begin the process leading to prosecutions, the perpetrators of these crimes will no doubt get the message that further similar crimes may be committed with impunity. This sets up an extremely volatile environment. The South African example showed that the crimes under dictatorship must be addressed as quickly as possible in order to build a true democracy. 

I look forward to hearing about your plans for cooperating with the victims’ group to investigate, prosecute and resolve this crime against humanity in the coming weeks. 


SEND LETTERS (preferably by fax) TO 

Mr. Asmara Nababan 
Secretary General 
Komnas HAM 
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng 
Jakarta Pusat 
FAX: (6221) 392 5227 
SALUTATION: Dear Mr. Nababan 

Mr. Abdurrahman Wahid 
President, Republic of Indonesia 
Presidential Palace, Jakarta 
Istana Negara, Indonesia. 
Fax: 62-21- 345 7782 
SALUTATION: Your Excellency 

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA001123
Countries : Indonesia,