Statute of limitations
The concept of "statute of limitations" is wellknown and well-accepted in nearly all legal systems around the world. The more serious a crime the longer the period that prosecution can be implemented. For murder this period is 18 years. Only serious human riths violations such as crimes against humanity cannot be limited in time. That is the reason this this seemingly formal condition is so decisive.
The murder of human rights defender Munir is a serious human rights violation, said Amnesty International this morning at a meeting commemorating that Munir died 18 years ago. “All evidence is available that this was an attack against a human rights defender such as Munir.
Matt Easton: Munir's case
Matt Easton: We have tired of violence. The New Press, New York – London. 2022.
The sad history of the murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib in 2004 has now been documented in this book by human rights expert Matt Easton. The impunity since that moment, 2004, is an example of how in Indonesia those in power remain out of reach for accountability.
This book is a monument, a monument for human rights commitment of the persons described in it, a monument for the victim, Munir, and a monument for the perseverance of those around him to get justice done. During the past 18 years the friends of Munir have tried all legal ways to have all those responsible to account for their deeds in court. The book is the more impressive as we know beforehand that all legal experts, Indonesian and foreign, who tried to turn the line of history, did not succeed.
To be murdered without accountability has turned into a new vocabulary. In Indonesia people call it “dimunirkan” – to be murdered before the eyes of all involved without repercussions. It is also an example of how a “puppeteer”, “dalang” in Bahasa Indonesia, is known but not responsible. With the 2024 presidential elections coming near it is also good to be aware that the history of Munir’s impunity took place under different presidential leadership, from Megawati, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Djoko “Jokowi” Widodo. The rise of dynasties in Indonesian politics may draw lines of being dependent into the next generation. The book is limited to the legal saga and leaves the analysis of power relations to a further unravelling.
Aspinall, Edward and Ward Berenschot: Democracy for sale
Aspinall, Edward and Ward Berenschot: Democracy for sale : elections, clientelism, and the state in Indonesia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 2019
Democracy for Sale is an on-the-ground account of Indonesian democracy, analyzing its election campaigns and behind-the-scenes machinations. Edward Aspinall and Ward Berenschot assess the informal networks and political strategies that shape access to power and privilege in the messy political environment of contemporary Indonesia.
Andreas Harsono: Race, Islam and Power; Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia
With this book Andreaas Harsono presents an in-depth analysis of regional differences throughout Indonesia, based on religious and ethnic tensions. Early in the first decade of the 21st century the idea came up that after the fall of President Suharto in 1998, long suppressed causes might show that unity is not such an Indonesian feature after all. Harsono has aimed at writing a travelogue combined with inspiring background reading and personal interviews in 7 provinces.
In each of them he has selected one or two violent ethnic "incidents", some quite recent (a 2008 meeting with Filep Karma in Abepura), some from the early years of Indonesia's independence (the 1950's Permesta in Sulawesi), that give an insight in the continuity of the ethnic, racial and religious tensions. Another feature that returns in nearly all regional analyses is the role of militias during the struggles for power.
The long-term perspective Harsono applies by his backgaround reading has a great advantage of more deliberate comparison throughout times and regions. He quotes the late LIPI (Indonesian Academy of Sciences) researcher, Muridan Widjojo as saying "If it was possible to negotiate a resolution in Aceh, then it is possible to negotiate on Papua". In hindsight one may doubt whether the costs (sharia legislation in Aceh and mining profits in Papua) do find an even balance. Food for thought.
Harsono is well-known for his independent views. During the presentation of the book in Leiden, the Netherlands, in May 2019, he told how people in Aceh had called him "a Javanese puppet", while in Java he was called "a Chinese dog". Indonesia still has a long way to go before it achieves real "unity in diversity". Harsono's analysis is a very useful contribution.
The Killing Season, A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965-66 by Geoffrey B. Robinson
The Killing Season explores one of the largest and swiftest, yet least examined, instances of mass killing and incarceration in the twentieth century—the shocking antileftist purge that gripped Indonesia in 1965–66, leaving some five hundred thousand people dead and more than a million others in detention.
An expert in modern Indonesian history, genocide, and human rights, Geoffrey Robinson sets out to account for this violence and to end the troubling silence surrounding it. In doing so, he sheds new light on broad and enduring historical questions. How do we account for instances of systematic mass killing and detention? Why are some of these crimes remembered and punished, while others are forgotten? What are the social and political ramifications of such acts and such silence?
Challenging conventional narratives of the mass violence of 1965–66 as arising spontaneously from religious and social conflicts, Robinson argues convincingly that it was instead the product of a deliberate campaign, led by the Indonesian Army. He also details the critical role played by the United States, Britain, and other major powers in facilitating mass murder and incarceration. Robinson concludes by probing the disturbing long-term consequences of the violence for millions of survivors and Indonesian society as a whole.
Based on a rich body of primary and secondary sources, The Killing Season is the definitive account of a pivotal period in Indonesian history. It also makes a powerful contribution to wider debates about the dynamics and legacies of mass killing, incarceration, and genocide.
Geoffrey B. Robinson is professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. His books include The Dark Side of Paradise: Political Violence in Bali and “If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die”: How Genocide Was Stopped in East Timor (Princeton). Before coming to UCLA, he worked for six years at Amnesty International’s Research Department in London. Robinson lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.
U.S. Embassy Tracked Indonesia Mass Murder 1965
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.
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.
The 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)
IPT 1965 Verdict published
In 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: http://ultimus-online.com/index.php/toko-buku/terbitan-ultimus/product/160-final-report-ipt-1965.
Jokowi and his exiled compatriots
by Aboeprijadi Santoso (The Jakarta Post, 28-04-2016)
On 22 April 2016 in The Hague, President Jokowi has been confronted with a drama at home and what is left of it abroad: the fate of Indonesian exiles since 1965. In 2000 Gus Dur met with exiles, calling them “wandering heroes”, but he was not able to restore their civil rights. Yudhoyono, who enjoyed being among the world’s top Who’s-Who, never really showed much concern for them. Jokowi, a simple man who’s not shy about his simplicity, likes to listen to people’s concerns. Taking a break from his business agenda, he approached his compatriots in the streets, talked at a hotel and visited Indonesian students in Leiden. Unfortunately, there was no chance given to this first president with no link to the New Order regime to meet exiled compatriots at exactly the same time his government at home was sponsoring a historic symposium to publicly discuss, for the first time, the tragic impact of the 1965 genocide. The Indonesian Embassy in The Hague apparently failed to see the significance of the opportunity for President Jokowi, who has promised to resolve the 1965 tragedy, to meet with exiles and compatriots concerned with the continuing impunity. But for Tante Cisca.
Jokowi's promises to solve past abuses in 2016
(Source: The Jakarta Post, 09-01-2016): President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has expressed a commitment to resolve a number of past human rights violations by the end of this year . In a dinner with journalists on Friday night, the President said he had ordered the coordinating politics, legal and security affairs minister, the attorney general, the National Police chief and the head of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) to seek comprehensive resolutions to unresolved cases of human rights violations.
The President himself did not mention which human rights violations in particular would be addressed. In a move to show that he is different from his predecessors, Jokowi has repeatedly reiterated his commitment to settling past rights abuses. Nevertheless, he has been criticized for his poor performance on human rights, which is far from his election campaign promise to improve their protection in Indonesia.
Several human rights violations occurred in 2015: Christian-Muslim strife in Tolikara, the burning and demolition of Christian churches in Aceh Singkil, the fatal beating of an anti-mining activist in Lumajang, the creation of internal Shia and Ahmadiyah refugees because of intra-Muslim religious intolerance and the criminalization of freedom of speech and expression are among the cases.
Meanwhile, older unresolved rights cases include a 1989 massacre in Talangsari, Lampung, the forced disappearance of anti-Soeharto activists in 1997 and 1998, the 1998 Trisakti University shootings, the Semanggi I and Semanggi II student shootings in 1998 and 1999, the mysterious killings of alleged criminals in the 1980s, the communist purges of 1965 and various abuses that took place in Wasior and Wamena in Papua in 2001 and 2003, respectively.
News from Jakarta
Embassy tells RI students not to attend 1965 tribunal
Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | November 05 2015 | 5:09 PM
The government has allegedly tried to ban Indonesian students from attending a “people’s tribunal” on the 1965 Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) purge in The Hague.The head of the tribunal’s organizing committee, human rights lawyer Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, said on Wednesday that the Indonesian Embassy in The Hague had warned the Indonesian Students Association (PPI) in Leiden, The Netherlands, not to attend the tribunal, to be held from Nov. 10 to 13.“I received a letter that says ‘our Indonesian students were called to the Indonesian Embassy in The Hague and told they will lose their scholarships if they join us. The embassy itself has decided it is a form of resurrecting communism’,” she told The Jakarta Post. Nursyahbani said the embassy had no business intimidating Indonesian students and had no right to revoke their scholarships.
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