By Nursyahbani Katjasungkana*
Source Jakarta Post,Fri, August 5 2016
On July 20, a video of presiding judge Zak Yacoob reading out the major conclusions of the International People’s Tribunal on the 1965 Crimes Against Humanity in Indonesia (IPT 1965) was released simultaneously in Jakarta, Amsterdam, Melbourne in Australia, Frankfurt in Germany, Phnom Penh and Stockholm. The judges of the tribunal, which is not a criminal court but a court of inquiry, found Indonesia guilty of crimes against humanity in the systematic killing of at least 400,000 people.
These victims were not only leaders and members of theFri, August 5 2016 in 1965, but also members of affiliated associations or committed supporters of then president Sukarno. The tribunal also found that Indonesia was guilty of other crimes against humanity including slavery, involuntary disappearances, sexual violence and a campaign of hate propaganda inciting such crimes. These crimes are not only punishable under international customary law and other conventions, but also under Indonesia’s domestic laws, including those on human rights.
The prosecutors of the IPT 1965, led by renowned human rights lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, put forward enough evidence during the hearings last November to persuade the judges unanimously to agree that crimes against humanity had indeed taken place in Indonesia following the actions of the so-called G30S group, which ended in the murder of six generals and one lieutenant. But the judges went one step further than the prosecution.
They also studied the extensive report prepared by 40 researchers, half of them from Indonesia. The 1948 Genocide Convention defines genocide as that including any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group namely (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
The report argued that this was the case in Indonesia, also referring to the arguments of Daniel Feierstein, a leading researcher on genocide, particularly on the violence and killings in Argentina in the 1970s to 1980s.
The first argument in the research report for IPT 1965 was that the mass murders by the army and the militias trained and supported by the army constituted genocide as the partial destruction of an Indonesian national group.
The material presented demonstrated the extent to which society was completely and intentionally reorganized through terror and the destruction of a significant part of this group — comprising leaders and supporters of the PKI and other Sukarno supporters. In the process Indonesia’s history was rewritten to portray the PKI as an enemy of the state, ignoring attacks on the republic by the Darul Islam movement and regional rebellions in the 1950s.
Further, after Soeharto came into power, it became almost impossible to fight for social justice and human rights.
A second argument of the research report concerned the ethnic Chinese. It seems that most Chinese were murdered because they belonged to Baperki, an organization of Chinese Indonesians associated with the PKI by the New Order leaders. But ethnic motives played a role in mass killings of Chinese-Indonesian citizens as well, particularly in Aceh, Medan in North Sumatra, Makassar in South Sulawesi and Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara.
The tribunal concluded that where people of Chinese ethnicity were killed “with the specific intent to annihilate or destroy that group in whole or in part” this crime possibly also fell within the 1948 Convention.
The convention specifies that countries are required to prevent and punish such actions, whether carried out in war or in peacetime. However no country attempted to prevent the genocide unfolding under the watchful eyes of their embassies.
Some countries have laws that make holocaust denial a crime; these include Austria, Belgium, France and Germany. This helps those who fight for the non-recurrence of Nazism and racism. The European Union is debating whether condoning, denying or grossly trivializing genocide and crimes against humanity should be criminalized.
In Indonesia the opposite is the case. Human rights defenders such as activists of the IPT 1965 who call for state responsibility for the genocide are called “enemies of the nation”. Some groups have even called for violence against these activists. Yet if Indonesia wants to recover from the trauma of 1965, as the President promised to help achieve, if Indonesia wants to ensure that such atrocities will never be committed again, it should not deny the classification of genocide but instead use the final IPT 1965 report as a basis for reflection and action.
This is also what is recommended by, among others, retired general Agus Widjojo, the director of the National Defense Institute. New Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto will hopefully continue to engage in dialogue with victims of the genocide, as his predecessor did during a national symposium in April.
Indonesia is a major country. Its international peacekeeping corps, the Garuda Contingent, has implemented some 20 missions in three continents since 1956. The country should fulfill its international role to help establish peace and to prevent crimes against humanity all over the world with pride.
This pride is now marred because, unlike Germany, Indonesia has not conclusively dealt with its own traumatic, genocidal past.
So what steps can be taken next? The IPT 1965 fully supports the earlier recommendations of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) in 2007, and of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in 2012. Both reports document grave human rights violations and urge the government to instigate further research including a criminal investigation, as the basis for reconciliation.
Too much is still unknown, even the total number of those murdered, tortured and made to disappear are not available and hundreds of mass graves are unopened and unrecognized. Indonesia, as with all countries that were aware of the enfolding genocide but did nothing to prevent it, should open its archives to researchers.
The national road to truth finding, victim rehabilitation, reconciliation and remembrance lies wide open. The next opportunity for Indonesia to speak with pride about its national efforts to deal with its genocide is the universal periodic review of the UN Human Rights Council in April next year. The topic will also be brought up before the UN Security Council.
* The writer, a lawyer, is coordinator of the International Peoples’ Tribunal on 1965 Crimes Against Humanity, which took place last November in The Hague, the Netherlands.