News / Asia

Indonesia Faces Its Murky Past

Maj. Gen. Suharto, 2nd left with sunglasses, is shown in this Oct. 6, 1965 file photo. The late dictator was an army general who crushed Indonesia's communist movement and pushed aside the country's founding father to usher in 32 years of tough rule.
Maj. Gen. Suharto, 2nd left with sunglasses, is shown in this Oct. 6, 1965 file photo. The late dictator was an army general who crushed Indonesia's communist movement and pushed aside the country's founding father to usher in 32 years of tough rule.
Kate Lamb
JAKARTA — In a landmark move, Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission said this week gross human rights violations were committed in mysterious summary executions in the 1980s and the communist purge in 1965. The findings are significant, but human rights proponents say there is reluctance to look into the country’s dark past.

Indonesian scholars conservatively estimate that some 500,000 suspected members of the Indonesian Communist Party were slaughtered during the 1965 coup.

Others say the figure was closer to one million.

But now, 40 years later, there is no longer confusion about who conducted the widespread and systemic killings.

This week, the government human rights agency Komnas HAM issued an 840-page report that blames security forces under former dictator Suharto for incidents of murder, rape, torture, slavery and prostitution, among other grave rights abuses.

Komnas HAM also announced that the Indonesian police and military conducted summary executions between 1982-1985 as a means to reduce the country’s crime rate.

It is now up to the attorney general’s office to further investigate these incidents of Indonesia’s murky past.

But Haris Azhar, executive coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, says he does not have high hopes.

"We have several experiences of negligence by the attorney general’s office on the other gross violations of human rights cases. So, I think looking at the legal mandatory it is their duty, but looking at their experiences I think we are not comfortable and really not sure about the position that has been presented," said Azhar.

For example, the attorney general’s office never looked into reports about the mysterious disappearances and deaths of activists and students in 1998 - the year that marked the end of Suharto’s 30-year dictatorship.

The AGO says cases before the year 2000 must be tried by an ad hoc rights tribunal and such a tribunal must be rubber stamped by the parliament, and the president.

Several lawmakers are already pushing for the tribunal and a victims association says they now have enough evidence to take the case to the International Criminal Court.

But Haris Azhar says that, although Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, or SBY, is considering a formal apology, personal interests might get in the way.

"SBY is not totally in favor to solve the human rights violations, especially human rights violations from the past. One of the problems in [19]’65; one of the main people responsible for ’65 is his father-in-law - the father-in-law of Mr. President," he said.

No names were mentioned in the National Commission on Human Rights report, but victims’ groups have identified specific individuals involved.

Komnas HAM and survivors of the purge have urged the president to follow up on the finding and make an official state apology to seek closure on two dark chapters of Indonesia’s history.

You May Like

Official: S. Sudan President, Rebel Leader to Meet in Tanzania

Talks part of effort to end conflict in country that has left more than 10,000 people dead, displaced more than 1.5 million others More

Dutch Deny Link to Mystery Submarine Off Sweden

Netherlands denies Russian claim that 'foreign vessel' photographed in waters off Sweden could be Dutch More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid