Newly Declassified U.S. Embassy Jakarta Files Detail Army Killings, U.S. support for Quashing Leftist Labor Movement

Washington, D.C., October 17, 2017 - The U.S. government had detailed knowledge that the Indonesian Army was conducting a campaign of mass murder against the country’s Communist Party (PKI) starting in 1965, according to newly declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive at The George Washington University.  The new materials further show that diplomats in the Jakarta Embassy kept a record of which PKI leaders were being executed, and that U.S. officials actively supported Indonesian Army efforts to destroy the country’s left-leaning labor movement.

suharto 1965

The 39 documents made available today come from a collection of nearly 30,000 pages of files constituting much of the daily record of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 1964-1968. The collection, much of it formerly classified, was processed by the National Declassification Center in response to growing public interest in the remaining U.S. documents concerning the mass killings of 1965-1966.  American and Indonesian human rights and freedom of information activists, filmmakers, as well as a group of U.S. Senators led by Tom Udall (D-NM), had called for the materials to be made public.

Book Reviewsoe tjen marching end of silence

Soe Tjen Marching: The End of Silence, Accounts of the 1965 Genocide in Indonesia. Amsterdam University Press BV, Amsterdam, 2017.

How could one better commemorate the victims of the human rights violations of 1965/66 and the years after (up till now), than by reading their accounts that have been gathered over the last few years by Soe Tjen Marching. The book has been structured according to the distance from the factual abuses in 1965: the oral history by victims themselves, their wives, their children and finally even their grandchildren. That makes very clear that the violations still continue in third generation taboo and discrimination.

The very informative introduction reveals the mechanism of using fear during the Orde Baru (1966-1998), that was one of the instruments Suharto used to stay in power. It still works today. In her introduction. Marching argues both with a detached scientific view and personal experiences. It makes clear why the fear still is there.

The victim’s accounts and those of their relatives are thus even the more courageous. But strangely enough they also make good reading. People become individuals with their own emotions and reflections. Very moving are the grandchildren of the forced labour prisoners on Buru, who were born in that exile. They end the silence in their families by adding an acronym to their name Svj (after one of the prisoners’ villages, Savanajaya). The man is proud to be born and raised in the exile of his grandfather.

It is difficult to choose one history as the most impressive. All have their own merits. The language is authentic and in no way sentimental. The photographs by Angus Nicholls do really add a dimension, to give a face to the story-teller. But also the other way round: they look into the lens and know they make themselves known to “the outside world”, and thus break the taboo for their fellow-survivors who not yet had the courage. As such this book is a monument for the author, a woman who has the courage to stand up even against the fear of her own mother, to end the silence. We can only hope that an Indonesian translation will make these accounts available to a broader Indonesian public soon. (Martha Meijer)

final reportIn a strong voice Judge Zak Yacoob spoke the words so many victims of the 1965 tragedy had been waiting for, for so long. The Verdict of the International People's Tribunal 1965 (IPT 1965) considers the State of Indonesia responsible for crimes against humanity committed in the period 1965/1966 and the years after. These crimes include killings, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, persecution, enforced disappearances and hate propaganda. The Verdict also considers foreign states, specifically USA, UK and Australia complicit of these crimes. The verdict notes that possibly those crimes can also be considered to fall within the definition of genocide. The report is available at:

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