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Rights Group Calls for Improved Indonesia Justice System

  • Kate Lamb

FILE - Indonesian soldiers patrol the streets of Lhokseumawe, Jun. 24, 2003, in the restive province of Aceh, Indonesia.

FILE - Indonesian soldiers patrol the streets of Lhokseumawe, Jun. 24, 2003, in the restive province of Aceh, Indonesia.

A new report is calling for Indonesia to improve its justice system, which it says has failed to adequately respond to victims of Aceh’s separatist conflict from nearly eight years ago.

It is estimated that between 10,000 and 30,000 people - many of them civilians - were killed during Aceh’s bloody separatist conflict.

On Thursday, London-based human rights group Amnesty International released a study of how the government has addressed the killings and disappearances during the conflict.

Eight years later, Amnesty says the fate of hundreds of ‘disappeared’ people is yet to be accounted for and many Acehnese are still waiting for answers.

“The victims and their relatives of past human rights abuses are still waiting for measures of truth, justice and reparations to be implemented," said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s deputy Asia Pacific director. "The lack of justice, truth and reparations is feeding resentment and tension between communities. It is very important that the justice element of the peace process is implemented as soon as possible to ensure the peace process is supported and sustained in the long term.”

The protracted conflict between Aceh’s pro-independence fighters and the Indonesian government dates back to 1976 and continued until the Helsinki peace deal was brokered in 2005.

Unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, rape and torture are among the human rights abuses inflicted upon civilians during that time.

Amnesty says that many of the rights abuses constitute crimes under international law, including possible crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Under the 2005 peace deal, the government was mandated to establish a Human Rights Court and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Aceh.

But it has failed to do either.

There are also worries that the legal immunity which security forces operated under in the past persists in some places today.

Last month, army special forces known as Kopassus killed four detainees in police custody in Yogyakarta. Arradon says the Indonesian government’s weak response to such incidents fuels a culture of impunity for human rights abuses.

“Amnesty International is also concerned that with human rights violators walking free, it’s always a real possibility that they may be placed in a situation where they can repeat past abuses," she said. "The recent case of the extrajudicial executions by the members of the Kopassus forces in Java is also a stark reminder that comprehensive reform of key institutions and also the lack of steps to combat impunity can lead to new abuses in Indonesia, as a whole.”

The Indonesian government has failed to address past human rights violations, including during the communist purges of 1965, the 1998 May riots, and the conflicts in Aceh, Papua and East Timor.

Two former army generals - Prabowo Subianto and Wiranto - accused of past rights abuses are today influential political figures and heads of political parties.

According to Amnesty, there have been limited attempts by the Indonesian government to investigate the Aceh conflict, but the results have never been made public.
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