Indonesia: Amnesty International submits information on human rights violations to the Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Amnesty International Indonesia tomorrow will hand over thousands of pages of its documents to the Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR Aceh), detailing hundreds of human rights violations and abuses involving thousands of victims during the conflict between the Indonesian security forces and the pro-independence Free Aceh Movement (GAM). The documents also include the organization’s persistent calls on the Indonesian and Acehnese authorities to fulfil their international obligations to acknowledge the truth and to ensure accountability for victim of serious human rights violations and their families.
The move, which marks the 13-year anniversary of the peace agreement signed in Helsinki that ended the conflict, saw a team from Amnesty International Indonesia travel to Aceh to meet with KKR Aceh Commissioners in a show of support for the Commission’s work to ensure truth and reparation for victims of the conflict and their families.
The KKR Aceh was established by the Aceh House of People’s Representative (DPRA) – independently of the Indonesian government – in 2013 and became operational in July 2016. It is mandated to establish the truth about human rights violations that took place during the conflict and to initiate reconciliation to strengthen the unity of people in Aceh. Its recommendations are expected to make recommendations to the Aceh government and the central administration to provide reparation to victims and their families.
However, the Aceh government has so far half-heartedly backed the Commission, and the central Indonesian government refused to recognize it or support its work.
“The work of KKR Aceh is pivotal to collect testimonies from the victims to preserve the memory of the public on the grave human rights violations and abuses that took place in Aceh during the conflict between Indonesian security forces and GAM. We should learn from the past to ensure that such crimes will not be committed again and that shared experiences are acknowledged and preserved,” Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director Usman Hamid said.
Amnesty International’s documents, which echoed the findings of other right groups, highlight human rights violations committed by Indonesian security forces and their auxiliaries during the 29-years of violence as part of a policy to suppress the independence movement. These include unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture  –  crimes that appear to have formed part of a widespread or systematic attack and may amount to crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, human rights abuses by GAM included hostage taking and the targeted killing of those suspected of having ties to the government.
At the time of the peace agreement in 2005, the topic of addressing crimes committed during the conflict was included in the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding and later adopted in the Law on Governing Aceh (No. 11/2006). However, 13 years after the historic peace agreement, which has brought relative peace and security to the province, victims and family members are still waiting for the Indonesian authorities to deliver on promises for truth, justice and full reparation. The ongoing failures to do so are only prolonging their suffering.
Amnesty International’s files show that many of the violations directed against civilians by Indonesian security forces and their auxiliaries appear to have formed part of a widespread or systematic attack and therefore may amount to crimes against humanity and that human rights violations and abuses committed by both sides of the conflict amount to war crimes. Despite this, only a handful of the crimes have been investigated and no one has been prosecuted before independent civilian courts. The conflict killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people, including many civilians.
A flawed legal framework means few victims have access to the courts, while Indonesia’s Criminal Code does not recognize crimes under international law. The Human Rights Courts that have existed since 2000 have a limited mandate, and all prosecutions before them – none of them for crimes committed in Aceh – have resulted in either acquittals or convictions that were overturned on appeal.
Although there have been some important initiatives by the authorities and the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to investigate human rights abuses committed, these have been piecemeal at best and failed to establish a comprehensive record of what happened, including the fate and whereabouts of those disappeared. Attempts to establish a truth commission on the national level have stalled due a lack of political will.
Thus, KKR Aceh is an initiative that must be fully supported both by the central government and local authorities in Aceh. Amnesty International calls on both the Acehnese and central government to provide their full support (including resources) and cooperation to the Commission so that it can operate effectively and in line with international law and standards.
“After 13 years, people in Aceh are still waiting for justice. This is the time for the central government to show its commitment to solve human rights in Aceh by throwing its full support behind the KKR Aceh. The decision to impose DOM in Aceh that resulted in massive human rights violations was made at the national level. It was a state policy. The central government must not try to evade its responsibility for what happened in Aceh by leaving it to the state authorities to provide victims with effective remedies,” Usman Hamid said.
Amnesty International is calling on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to issue a presidential decree that will serve as a legal basis for the central government to acknowledge and support KKR Aceh. Such a regulation will strengthen the legitimacy of KKR Aceh’s recommendation in the future. State bodies such as the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) must also proactively support the work of KKR Aceh.
“Peace is not enough if there is no truth about the past established in Aceh and no reparation to address the harms suffered by victims. The demands of victims and their family members for the government to recognize and remedy the human rights violations and abuses committed in Aceh in the past must be heard,” Usman Hamid added.
In a 2013 report, Time to face the past, Amnesty International highlighted the devastating consequences the current situation has for communities in Aceh.
The report is available both in English and Bahasa Indonesia and can be accessed here.
For further information, please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332