About International People’s Tribunal (IPT)

An International People’s Tribunal is like a formal court. It is an initiative by a community, with international support, to direct attention to grave abuse of human rights and their impact on the community. It operates outside the mechanisms of government and formal institutions like the United Nations. Its authority comes from the voices of the victims, as well as that of civil society, both national and international.

No. An IPT differs from international courts, such as the ICTR in Rwanda and the ICTY (Yugoslavia). International courts are established by the United Nations Security Council or by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The authority of an IPT lies in its moral foundation and the conviction that the law is an instrument of civil society not owned solely by the state.

The strength of an IPT is its capacity to check evidence, keep accurate historical records about past genocide and crimes against humanity, and apply the principles of international customary law to the facts as found. Furthermore, an IPT steps into the void left by the state, but it is not intended that it replaces the role of a legal process by the state.

There are two different kinds: ad hoc, that is for a particular case; and permanent, that is it is institutionalized.

An IPT has the format of a formal human rights court. In the early stages, IPTs form a professional research team and prepare an international panel of judges. The research team is in charge of collecting, researching and reviewing the data and testimonies; then the team makes a legal analysis of the material and hands it to the team of prosecutors or attorneys. The prosecutor brings charges against the state, based on the evidence presented about the party responsible for the widespread and systematic genocide and crimes against humanity. Evidence consists of documents, audio and audiovisual materials, testimonies of witnesses and other recognized legal forms of evidence.

Based on its analysis of the evidence, the panel of judges formulates charges and sanctions against those responsible, as well as proposes reparations and compensation for the victims and survivors, which the state should then resolve legally.
The panel of judges come to a decision based on the material presented and then call the countries concerned, so that they realize that so far they have failed to take responsibility for the victims, both legally and morally. This decision can also be used as a basis for changing the historical narrative, and also as a lobbying document for a UN Resolution in relation to the crimes.

Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery, Tokyo 2000 (TPT)

TPT was formed in 2000 in response to sexual crimes committed by Japan during World War II. The tribunal aimed to raise international awareness of the ‘comfort system,’ to demand that those responsible be brought to justice, as well as draw attention to the ongoing impact of impunity experienced by victims.

TPT used charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and international crimes that are relevant to rape and other forms of sexual violence. TPT was organized by female activists and human rights, non-government organizations in Asia and internationally. The process was enriched by an abundant collection of testimonies by women victims and Japanese veterans, written documents, and historical evidence and academic writings of historians, legal experts, psychologists, etc.

The verdict of the TPT in 2001 stated that ‘comfort system,’ considered by the Japanese as voluntary prostitution, is a form of crimes against humanity; and it determined that the ten accused, Emperor Hirohito and nine high-ranking military commanders and several government ministers, were guilty. These nine were indicted because of their involvement in the establishment of the ‘comfort system,’ and because they had the power and capacity to stop the widespread rape.

Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP)>

The RToP was set up in 2009 in response to the silence of the international community in the face of violations of various international laws by Israel. The goal was to mobilize and encourage the involvement of international civil society in the Palestine issue. This tribunal investigated the sustainability of the occupation of Palestine by Israel, as well as its non-compliance with UN resolutions, including the pronouncement of the International Court of Justice concerning the construction of the separation wall by Israel within the Palestinian territories. The RToP also investigated the responsibility of Israel and other countries, especially the United States and the countries of the European Union, and various international organizations, such as the UN and the Arab League.

The Tribunal formed an International Support Committee consisting of important international figures, including Israel, the country under investigation. Among them were Nobel laureates, a former secretary general of the United Nations, former prime ministers and presidents, as well as representatives of various groups from civil society, such as writers, journalists, actors, scientists, professors, judges, lawyers, etc. The legitimacy of the TToP did not come from governments or political parties, but was based on credible professionals committed to fundamental rights.

At its last session, the RToP summarized some of its findings, including: violations of international laws by Israel; the practice of apartheid against Palestinians; the responsibility of the United States and the European Union and international organizations, such as the United Nations; the responsibility of private corporations that assist Israel in violating international law; and what needs to be done in the future.

There are many cases of serious crimes in other countries that have been resolved and many that have not. There are also many that have also been resolved with a retributive justice approach; for example, through judicial mechanisms, through restorative justice, such as reconciliation, rehabilitation, compensation and memorialization. One fairly well-known case that has not been resolved is the serious crimes that occurred under the dictatorship of President Francisco Franco, 1936 -1975, in Spain. More than 100,000 people were killed or disappeared; 300,000 children were abducted; and there were hundreds of thousands of other victims of violence. To this day, the ruling government in Spain has taken no action to investigate these serious crimes.

About the International People’s Tribunal for crimes against humanity in 1965 (IPT 65)

As the name implies, the International People’s Tribunal for genocide and crimes against Humanity 1965-2015 (IPT 1965) is a people’s court run by civil society. The authority of the Tribunal comes from the voices of the victims, as well as national and international civil society. The IPT 1965 has chosen the events of 1965 and their impact because they constitute the largest humanitarian disaster in the history of Indonesia. Further it has been completely ignored by national courts, and this has a major impact on future generations of Indonesians.

IPT 1965 hopes to urge the state to conduct legal and equitable formal proceedings in relation to the human rights
violations surrounding the massacres of 1965, and their impact. The IPT 1965 is not intended or tasked to substitute for the state; it has no authority to hold formal trials, impose legal sanctions or ensure redress and reparation for victims and survivors.

IPT 1965 hopes to bring political and moral pressure to encourage people—namely, citizens, political parties, mass organizations, NGOs, victims and survivors, the international community, foreign states, UN agencies and other organizations—to urge the Indonesian government to conduct a formal judicial process; that is, to carry out thorough research, examine cases and testimonies of victims and survivors, and find a legal resolution.

IPT 1965 is necessary so that the state—the prosecutor’s office and the courts—begins a judicial process based on thorough research in relation to the massacres of 1965 and their impact; and provides reparations and compensation to victims and survivors. Although considerable evidence has emerged related to genocide and crimes against humanity in 1965 and thereafter, the Indonesian government has failed to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to trial. The state should prosecute perpetrators at all levels, apologize formally and provide reparation and meaningful compensation to victims and their families.

The failure of the Indonesian state should not be allowed to silence the voices of victims and their families; also the Indonesian government must not be allowed to escape responsibility for genocide and other crimes against humanity. IPT 1965 is organized to reverse the tendency, which has long historical roots, to belittle, marginalize and obscure genocide and other crimes against humanity, in particular rape, sexual violence, and torture of female detainees.

Joko Widodo, who became president on 20 October 2014, promised during his election campaign to address past human rights violations, including those that occurred in 1965 and 1966. However, the human rights abuses from those years were excluded from his priority list. The new Attorney General, HM Prasetyo, stated that a permanent solution to human rights violations of the past has to be found, including those of the 1965 tragedy. This solution will be sought in reconciliation efforts. (Jakarta Post, 22 May 2015). This means that the government will ignore the phase of searching for truth and justice; however, without this process, reconciliation efforts will not be very meaningful. The response of the government to the 2012 National Human Rights Commission makes it clear that domestic mechanisms to implement its recommendations are completely inadequate.

The IPT 1965 will be held 10-13 November 2015 in The Hague. This city was chosen as it is a symbol of justice and international peace. The Peace Palace is located there, as well as the International Criminal Court. Several important special tribunals have been held there or have their secretariats in the city, such as the Yugoslavia Tribunal. The Tokyo Tribunal, the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery, delivered its verdict in The Hague in 2001.

The jurisdiction of IPT 1965 is defined in its Charter, and covers:

… crimes committed against the civilian population in the form of genocide and crimes against humanity, and other crimes under the provisions of Customary Law, the Criminal Code of Indonesia and the Indonesian Human Rights Law. It applies to the entire territory of Indonesia. These crimes include, but are not limited to, the following: genocide, mass murder, extermination, deportation, rape and other forms of sexual violence, enforced disappearances, forced labor and slavery, torture and persecution. The court must have jurisdiction over acts or omissions by the State of Indonesia and other countries, including the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom, which have violated international law, with respect to the crimes referred to in the above paragraph. The time period included in jurisdiction of this tribunal is from October 11965 to the time of the adoption of the charter of IPT 1965 (2015).

The panel of judges must agree to this charter. The charter will then give IPT 1965 jurisdiction to make judgements on genocide and crimes against humanity under customary international law, and human rights law in Indonesia; IPT 1965 will also have the obligation to state clearly whether all claims are supported by sufficient evidence or not; and IPT 1965 has to give a decision based on the evidence presented.

a) For the Indonesian government

Of course the outcome of the IPT 1965 will not be automatically binding in any formal legal sense on the Indonesian State. However, because it is a People’s Court at international level, it can be a legal basis for citizens to demand that the State be capable of delivering justice in relation to the tragedy in 1965-1966. At the same time, this will break the
impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators.

The results of the IPT 1965 can also be a source of legitimacy for the State of Indonesia to show that it is capable of
being accountable for gross human rights violations committed in the past; thereby becoming part of the international community respected for responsiveness in the resolution of serious human rights violations in the past.

The decision of the IPT 1965 can also be used as a basis for change in history textbooks for school children; and also in other ways to help fight the hate propaganda produced and reproduced by the Suharto regime.

b) For the general public

For the general public, the results of the IPT 1965 can be a way of helping Indonesians to reach a more honest and just understanding and finalization of the history of the political conflict in the period 1965-1966. In this way the results can contribute to the creation of a political climate in Indonesia, which recognizes and respects human rights. In the future, politics by the use of force, whether genocide or crimes against humanity, will not be so easily tolerated, either by the State or the public.

c) For the victims

For the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity in 1965-1966, and their families, the results of the IPT 1965 can contribute to a recovery process, because the IPT 1965 process is a quest for the truth about the events of 1965 and all forms of injustice experienced by the victims. Acknowledgement by the State that there has been injustice and systematic and widespread violence in the period 1965-1966 is the key to the process of recovery for the victims.

By the recovery of the victims is meant efforts such as rehabilitation, reparation and restitution. Another hoped for
impact as a result of the IPT 1965 is the end of stigmatization of victims and their families who were involved, directly or indirectly, with the PKI. It is hoped that an end to stigmatization will lead to the restoration of the legal position of the victims and their families before the law.

The IPT 1965 also aims to gain international acknowledgement of the acts of genocide and crimes against humanity that were committed by the State of Indonesia in 1965 and the following years; of the involvement of certain western countries in the military campaign against those who were accused of supporting the 30 September Movement; and also of the inaction of the state in bringing the perpetrators to justice, among others, by not inviting the UN Special Rapporteur on Past Human Rights Violations to Indonesia.

The IPT 1965 has been working since 2013, and as of September 2015 it is completing the proposed research results and legally formulating them so they can be given to the panel of judges. Hearings will be held in The Hague, Netherlands, 10 -13 November 2015 and is open to the public. It will also be streamed live. The judges’ decision will be read in Geneva, Switzerland, at a time that will be announced later.

The IPT 65 will cooperate with state institutions, such as the Indonesian Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK), the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), and the National Commission of Women (Komnas Perempuan); also several Indonesian non-government organizations and institutions of legal protection with regard to issues of safety and protection of victims and local human rights defenders, such as the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) and the Legal Aid Institute (LBH).

About the events in 1965 and the gross human rights violations

On the night of 30 September 1965, a group of middle-ranking military officers, supporters of President Sukarno and a few leaders of the Indonesian Communist Party, PKI, abducted and killed six of the highest army generals in Indonesia. The group called itself the 30 September Movement. They claimed to have taken President Sukarno into protection, in order to prevent a military coup against him. General Suharto immediately took control inside the military. What happened on that night is referred to as the ‘Events of 1965’ (Peristiwa 1965). A few days later the violence began.

General Suharto immediately blamed the PKI and its associated mass organizations for the murder of the generals. On 10 October, he established the Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order (KOPKAMTIB), an extrajudicial military intelligence agency. KOPKAMTIB was put in charge of restoring order and given excessively wide legal powers to revoke protection for the PKI and pursue and arrest its members and sympathizers. After the establishment of KOPKAMTIB, it conducted massive campaigns everywhere. It systematically associated sexual slander with the progressive Indonesian Women’s Movement, Gerwani, accusing its members of castrating the generals. The massive campaign was also accompanied by a campaign of terror against the people who were suspected of being communists and their associates, including socialist women’s groups, leftist activists, artists, progressive intellectuals, members of farmers’ groups and trade unions, and members of the Chinese community. The abuse was also directed at supporters of popular local culture and followers of indigenous religions, many of them were imprisoned or killed. In 1966 Suharto succeeded in taking over power from President Sukarno, and the following year he was appointed as the new President. He established a repressive military
regime, which ruled until 1998.

From the end of October 1965, the genocide was carried out by trained soldiers, units of armed militias, and groups and organizations recruited by the army—religious groups, student organizations and right-wing trade unions. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed, imprisoned, tortured, raped, and many of them disappeared forever. Between October 1965 and March 1966 it is estimated that around 500,000 to one million people were killed, and more than 1.7 million people were imprisoned without trial. The killing by these groups falls into the category defined as genocide under customary international law. The campaign of terror continued throughout the rest of 1965 and 1966, although towards the end of 1966 it began to slow down. The ‘New Order’ (Orde Baru) regime of President Suharto also revoked the passports of hundreds of students and PKI sympathizers who refused to support his government. They were left stateless for many years, before they were given asylum in the Netherlands and other European countries.

As described in the CIA report in 1978, the killings in 1965 in Indonesia can be classified as ‘one of the worst mass murders in the 20th century.’ However, there is little known in the international community about this genocide, especially if we compare the widespread attention received by the mass killings in Rwanda, Yugoslavia and Cambodia. For more than three decades of authoritarian rule by Suharto’s New Order government, all voices that campaigned for human rights were silenced. Political manipulation continued through hate propaganda to convince people that the female members of Gerwani really did treat the generals cruelly, including using sexual torture. Other hate propaganda campaigns declared that PKI was an atheist organization and the mastermind behind the 30 September Movement. This propaganda continued incessantly, despite scholarly evidence that proved that the PKI (as a whole entity), as well as its associated mass organizations, was not involved in the killing of the generals on 30 September.

The genocide and crimes against humanity carried out by the Indonesian army and its militia and other groups came right at the height of the Cold War. Western countries, especially the United States, Britain and Australia, were relieved when the left-leaning leader of one of the most important countries in Asia had been toppled from power. Although they were aware that a terrible tragedy had occurred in Indonesia, they remained silent and even actively and secretly supported the Indonesian military.

The serious crimes committed in 1965 in Indonesia still have a broad impact on today’s generation. There are so many unanswered questions about this period: the millions of Indonesian citizens who were victims, and the discrimination which is allowed to continue to this day. Many families and communities in Indonesia are still divided by the conflict, and Indonesians still cannot coexist in peace as a great nation. In addition, the type and pattern of violence that occurred during 1965 to 1967 still continues to this day: anti-communism is used to label groups of individuals in the community and justify making them targets of violence. Thus the chain of violence has to be broken. People in the new era of democracy in Indonesia should learn from their dark past and build a new moral standard of humanity, which will strengthen the nation of Indonesia.

The crime of genocide is defined in international law in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (Genocide Convention) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. It defines genocide as acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. More than 130 nations have ratified the Genocide Convention, though Indonesia has not yet done so.

The intent to commit genocide can be inferred from a systematic pattern of coordinated acts. Perpetrators need not intend to destroy the entire group. Destruction of only a part of a group, such as its educated members or, in the case of Indonesia, leaders and cadres of the PKI and its associated organisations is also genocide.

In 1965-66 in Indonesia, as in Argentina and Cambodia, victims were for the most part killed not because of their ethnicity, nationality or racial or religious identity. They were killed because of their alleged political beliefs. The Argentinean Daniel Feierstein, a respected genocide historian, argued that the military perpetrators in Argentina’s ‘Dirty War,’ 1974-1983, proposed to destroy a specific structure of social relations, namely that of their left-wing political opponents. Their aim was to produce a significant change that would alter the life of the entire society, and as such the mass murders qualify as genocide.

Professor Helen Fein of Harvard University argues that Genocide is a series of purposeful actions by perpetrators to destroy a collectivity through mass or selective murders of group members, and in so doing suppress the biological and social reproduction of the collectivity. In Indonesia the perpetrators clearly had the intent to destroy a particular national group, which they themselves defined; and the killing was systematic and widespread. The society of Indonesia in 1965 was totally changed, its history was rewritten and its future deeply affected.

These arguments allow the organisers IPT1965 to argue that the killings in 1965-66 in Indonesia offer a good case for possible classification as genocide.

Settling Past human rights violations in Indonesia

In 2012, the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia (Komnas HAM) investigated the crimes committed in 1965 and found that the violence constituted systematic and widespread crimes against humanity. Komnas HAM recommended a follow-up criminal investigation by the Attorney General, the establishment of an ad hoc human rights court to prosecute the perpetrators, and the establishment of a non-judicial Truth and Reconciliation Commission as already stipulated in Law No. 26/2000 about a Human Rights Court. However, Komnas HAM’s report was rejected by the Attorney General, with the argument that its findings were not sufficiently or legally adequate. Research and a judicial settlement by the state of the crimes of 1965, and the impact of these crimes over the last 50 years, is ignored by the state for political reasons.

Before Komnas HAM investigated the background to and the committing of genocide and other crimes against humanity, some civil society organizations had been doing research on these crimes and had already challenged the national version of history forced on the population by the Suharto government. Some of these organizations have been active in efforts to build peace and reconciliation at grassroots level: the Islamic Syarikat and Lakpesdam NU; the national human rights organizations KontraS and Elsam; the Coalition for Justice and Truth (KKPK ) – a network of smaller human rights organizations; and other locally based organizations—JPIT in Kupang in West Timor, YAPHI and Sekber65 in Solo in Central Java, SKP HAM in Palu in Central Sulawesi, etc.

In November 2000, the Foundation for the Study of Mass Murders in 1965/1966 (YPKP 1965/1966) had permission from local authorities to begin excavation of mass graves in Kaliworo in Wonosobo, Central Java, and in 2002 it got permission to excavate the grave sites in Blitar, East Java. However, both efforts were hampered by local Muslim organizations. In Blitar, local authorities cancelled permission for the proposed excavation, claiming that it would generate social unrest. In a social climate of anticommunism, YPKP 1965/1966 only succeeded in excavating in Wonosobo with the help of the Muslim Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Ansor Youth Network. That effort proved that the location was indeed one of the sites of mass killings in the district.

There are active groups from civil society both in Indonesia and also outside the country. Some victims of the violence of 1965 have formed their own groups; others who are active include researchers, NGOs and human rights institutions, the media and mass organizations.

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