Prof. Dr Saskia E. Wieringa, coordinator of International People's Tribunal

Prof. Dr Saskia E. Wieringa, coordinator of International People’s Tribunal

Activists and researchers, mostly in the Netherlands and Indonesia, are preparing an “International People’s Tribunal” on the 1960s violence. Researchers have come up with more documentation beyond the large body of evidence collected by the National Commission of Human Rights, in its report issued in mid-2012.

At the recent annual Tongtong Festival in The Hague, researchers Ratna Saptari and Saskia Wieringa addressed a discussion on the tribunal planned for this November in The Hague, while organizers distributed fliers about a “call for action” to spread the word.

Organizers are also working with the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK) to protect witnesses willing to come forward.

Wieringa acknowledged one source of inspiration was the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s military sexual slavery. Held in Tokyo in December 2000, it has raised global awareness on the issue. Survivors, in their 80s and 90s, have much more confidence and are no longer ashamed as there has been official recognition that they were victims, not willing prostitutes, Wieringa said.

“Imagine, one woman [in Indonesia] was asked by her grandchild, ‘so were you a whore too?’” she said.

Though Japanese leaders have repeatedly revoked any state admission of guilt regarding the jugun ianfu — or comfort women from Indonesia and other Asian countries — “the issue never went away from the political agenda” ever since the Tokyo Tribunal, Wieringa said.

Legal scholars point out that people’s international tribunals fill a gap in international law, mainly to assure people benefit from international law. States are the classically recognized subjects of international law, they cite, but states often use force in violation of global conventions, whether against other states or against their own people, as in the case of the 1960s in Indonesia.

The effective propaganda surrounding the alleged PKI coup attempt, said Ratna, an anthropologist, long suppressed mention of the issue and the decades of difficulties for victims, survivors and their families.

“I was somehow never drawn to take up the issue though it affected some friends,” said Ratna, who teaches at Leiden University.

S. Mintardjo, one of the former exiles of the 1960s, attended the talks, and later wandered off to a flower vendor at the Tongtong. “I bought jasmine,” he said, as was the habit of Liliana, his late wife, when visiting the festival.