Jakarta: Australia was complicit in crimes against humanity committed by Indonesia during an anti-communist purge after October 1, 1965, according to a civil society initiative held in a church in The Hague.

The International People’s Tribunal, which was held in The Hague over four days last November, is not a criminal court and has no power of enforcement.

The tribunal said the brutal murder of around 500,000 people was aimed at annihilating a section of the population and could be categorised as genocide.

A panel of seven international judges found Australia, Britain and the US were all complicit to differing degrees in the commission of these crimes.

The judges, who included Australia’s Dr Helen Jarvis, considered the testimonies of expert witnesses and survivors and charges brought forward by six international prosecutors based on a report by more than 40 researchers.

They found the US supplied lists of the names of officials from the now defunct Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), when there was a strong presumption this would lead to their arrest and/or execution.

“The UK and Australia conducted a sustained campaign repeating false propaganda from the Indonesian army, and that they continued with this policy even after it had become abundantly clear that killings and other crimes against humanity were taking place on a mass and indiscriminate basis,” the tribunal’s findings, released on July 20, said.

It said the propaganda against those accused of being linked to the PKI helped to justify the extra-legal persecution, detention and killing of alleged suspects, and to legitimise sexual violence and other inhumane conduct.

The judges said it was regrettable Indonesia did not accept the invitation to participate in the tribunal, noting the US, Britain and Australia also failed to do so.

They recommended the Indonesian government apologise to the victims, survivors and their families and investigate the crimes against humanity.

“The Indonesian genocide must be included among the major genocides of the 20th century,” the tribunal said.

Dr Jarvis said the tribunal hoped the report would be an additional voice in the long overdue search for justice in Indonesia.

“(We hope) that it may assist in urging the government to take up the recommendations made by its own human rights organisations, recognising that crimes against humanity did occur and that the surviving victims deserve rehabilitation,” she told Fairfax Media.

But Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Panjaitan said Indonesia had its own legal system.

“I don’t want other people to dictate to this nation. We will settle it our way with universal values. This is my comment – I am quite strong about it.”

However the prosecutors – led by prominent human rights lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis – said in their closing statement they believed it would open the door for apologies, reparations and rehabilitation.

Jemma Purdey, whose research on the mass killings of ethnic Chinese in 1965 and 1966 was cited in the report, said it was significant the judges had ruled that the events constituted genocide.

“I do think that term carries a lot of weight in international law and people’s minds,” said Dr Purdey, a research fellow at Monash University.

The 1965 tragedy was triggered by the kidnapping and murder of several high-ranking army officers, which was blamed on the PKI.

The military – and former president Suharto – depicted communists as a bloodthirsty political force that had to be defeated to save Indonesia.

“We were told that we were under attack. The choice was to kill or be killed,” Iman Azis, an historical archivist from Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, told The Jakarta Post in April.

But Dr Purdey said the tribunal’s report found there was no well-founded fear of a “huge threat that had to be put down”.

“It makes it clear this was a big myth based on propaganda,” she said.

Indonesia has consistently ruled out an apology to victims of the 1965 massacres, despite Indonesian President Joko Widodo promising to resolve human rights abuses during his election campaign.

Kusnendar, 83, was jailed for 14 years on Buru Island without trial because he had friends who were members of a labour union.

He said it was up to the Indonesian government if it wanted to apologise.

“What we actually want is concrete steps to give back our rights to the pension and return our property,” he said.

He said survivors who had been forced to flee Indonesia after 1965 also wanted the right to return to Indonesia. “Our demands are not complicated.”

By Jewel Topsfield

Source : The Age World, July 20 2016