Expert witness Asvi Warman Adam, historian of the Indonesian Science Institute LIPI, started his testimony by saying that “I am not here to make my country and people look bad.” He said he was present at the Tribunal as a researcher who concluded that the Buru imprisonment camp was “the most obvious” system of oppression. The most obvious in numbers, location, command hierarchy, and timeline.

Some 1,600 political prisoners were incarcerated in Buru from 1969 to 1979. They were clearly ‘B’ category prisoners. The location was clear: Buru, which is twice the size of Bali.The chain of command was also clear: at the helm was the Pangkopkamtib (the highest military commander responsible for security and public order matters), with the head of the Buru Resettlement next, followed by the regional military commander of the Maluku region.

Besides Buru, only Moncong Koe and Paltungan camps were that clearly organized. In those two places, incarceration periods were shorter, and there were less prisoners compared to Buru. Plantungan was only for female prisoners.

As the chain of command and oppression was so obvious, the camp can be compared to the Russian Gulag under Stalin.

The Buru camp’s mission, Asvi explained, was officially to “save the general population from them (the prisoners)”, “turn the political prisoners into followers of the state ideology Pancasila,” and “produce food.”

Asvi further explained that Soeharto’s New Order government apparently constructed the Buru camp with political goals in July 1968, when it was clear that it would not be able to conduct a general election which would turn out to its advantage. With this political goal in mind, the regime set up the Buru camp to jail people who were “dangerous to society,” or in other words: those who would not guarantee an election victory for Soeharto. Thus, the elections were shifted to 1971.

In the context of the Buru camp, Asvi also underlined the oppression suffered by the prisoners there. One example was writer Hersri, who got flies shoved into his ear, which made him permanently deaf. Enslavement was clearly present, with prisoners forced to report to their wardens at 4 AM to receive their orders. Buru island is an isolated place, so this camp is a concrete and perfect example of incarceration and enslavement as a result of the 1965 tragedy.