What is impunity
If in a country human rights violations go unpunished, people will continuously be repressed, even after the violations have stopped occurring. The victims know the perpetrators are still at large and the perpetrators themselves feel above the law. So the violations can continue without any sanctions. This situation spreads fear through all sectors of society. Still human rights activists in Indonesia and other countries have the courage to speak out and demand that the truth be unveiled, and justice be done.
What are human rights violations
Human rights guarantee citizens to live in peace and dignity. They are intended to protect civilians from abuse by those in power, from violence and repression. Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.
"We need evidence, not just some promises." "We the victims of 1965, are already old."
Who is responsible
Each human rights violation is a crime that should be punished. The perpetrators are those who commit these violations, often on the basis of their powerful position in society. Unfair trials are often carried out by the law-enforcement officers like police officers and prosecutors. Each country should have independent bodies that have the power and the courage to speak out about human rights violations. Other violations of human rights are often also perpetrated by those in power, with the aim to remain in power. Not being punished for these abuses is part of that power play. That is what impunity is about.
What can we do
Several strategies can be employed to fight impunity. First and foremost is to try and break the vicious circle by which those in power protect themselves from prosecution. Individual lawyers, judges and prosecutors have a professional duty to expose those responsible for human rights violations. Often impunity goes hand in hand with corruption. How prosecution in the national judicial process can be improved is elaborated on the legal instruments pages.
A very special tribunal took place in November 2015 with regard to the human rights violations of 1965/66: The International Peoples Tribunal (IPT 1965). Based on a legal indictment and strengthened by testimonies of witnesses and experts, a quasi-legal procedure was carried out by a Council of Judges. These international human rights law experts concluded in their final statement that it was proven that those human rights violations as such constituted a crime against humanity. This is an important step forward towards an international procedure to come to terms with the past.
On 20 July 2016 the Panel of Judges of the IPT 1965 issued their final Verdict that also made a note on genocide. How effective this initiative will be is yet to be awaited. The Indonesian government quickly responded in the negative.