Retas Sejarah

Indonesian Commission Urges Trials of Military Rights Abusers

After a three-year investigation and testimonies from 349 witnesses, Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has declared that the systematic prosecution of alleged members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) when former president Suharto and the military seized power in 1965 constituted gross human rights violations. It urged that the military officers involved be brought to trial.

Speaking at a press conference on July 23, Nur Kholis, the head of the investigative team into what is officially described as a coup attempt by the PKI, said that state officials under the Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order (Kopkamtib) who served from 1965 to 1967 and between 1977 and 1978 should be tried for crimes including murder, extermination, slavery, eviction or forced eviction, deprivation of freedom, torture and mass rape. Kholis said that his team had handed over the 850-page report to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and “hoped that the AGO would follow up the report”.

Kholis said that military officials had deliberately targeted innocent civilians during the operations, which occurred nationwide. “Many of the victims had nothing to do with the communist party or its subordinates. The military officials made it look like those people were linked to the party”, he was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post.

Anti-communist purge

On the night of September 30, 1965, a group of middle-ranking military officers kidnapped and killed six generals they accused of organising a coup against Indonesia’s leftist President Sukarno. Blaming the incident on the PKI provided the pretext for sections of the military, led by Major General Suharto, to mount a bloody counter-revolution in which as many as 1 million communists and left-wing sympathisers were killed. Hundreds of thousands of others were imprisoned for years without trial.

According to newspaper reports at the time, Western governments, particularly the US, were delighted with the turn of events in Indonesia, with a cable by Secretary of State Dean Rusk expressing support for the “campaign against the communists” and assuring Suharto that the “US government [is] generally sympathetic with, and admiring of, what the army is doing”. The US also supplied Suharto’s forces with money and weapons to conduct the anti-communist purge as the CIA ticked off names from a list of key party leaders and figures which it had provided to Suharto several months before.

Formal apology

Nur Kholis said that the team demanded that the government issue a formal apology to victims and their families. The apology should be followed by rehabilitation, reparation and compensation. The Institute for the Study of the 1965-1966 Massacres (YPKP) said that while Suharto was the person most responsible for the crimes, the fact that he had died should not deter the AGO from investigating the case, noting that many other perpetrators remained alive. Although Kholis declined to provide names, YPKP chairperson Bedjo Untung told Kompas newspaper that in legal terms it was very clear who was responsible. The release documents of prisoners incarcerated over the 1965 affair, he said, cite the names of Indonesian military commanders from the subdistrict (koramil), district (kodim) and regional (kodam) military commands.

Former PKI members and others accused of involvement in the alleged coup suffered decades of stigmatisation and discrimination. People linked to the PKI were not allowed to become civil servants, military or police officers, teachers, preachers or legislators. Their IDs were labelled with “ET” (ex-political prisoner) making them vulnerable to harassment and extortion by government officials; finding work was nearly impossible because they had to produce a letter stating they had no affiliation with communism.

Following a landmark Constitutional Court ruling in 2004, former PKI members were allowed to contest elections, and in 2006 the government deleted the ET label on IDs. However, a 1966 decree on the dissolution of the PKI and prohibitions on Marxist, Leninist and communist teachings remain in force. Public events related to 1965 and the PKI are routinely harassed and attacked with impunity by the police and military-backed Islamic thugs.

Mysterious shootings

Komnas HAM also released the findings of an investigation into a spate of killings in the early 1980s of hundreds of petty criminals throughout the country. The report said that the military and the police, with their territorial commands, were most responsible.

Speaking at a press conference on July 24, Komnas HAM commissioner Yoseph Adi Prasetyo said they had found proof of crimes against humanity. “The team found evidence of gross violations of human rights in the mysterious shootings that took place between 1982 and 1985. This campaign was carried out by state security personnel and was widespread across the country”, Prasetyo said. “The killings followed certain patterns, such as the thumbs of the victims being tied together behind their backs, the bodies were wrapped in sacks and Rp10,000 [US$1.06] was left on top of the bodies for funeral costs”.


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