The final report of the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) on crimes against humanity, committed by the Indonesian armed forces and civilian militias mainly between October 1965 and the early months of 1966, was released in The Hague on July 20, 2016. The report has called on the Indonesian government to investigate and prosecute all those involved in the deaths of more than 500,000 of its own citizens.1
The IPT was established to end the impunity for these crimes. Despite promising to give priority to the country’s unresolved cases of human rights violations during his 2014 election campaign, President Joko Widodo still refuses to apologise to the victims of ‘1965’ as the tragedy is commonly referred to.
The tribunal found that the mass killings were politically motivated with the aim of annihilating the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and those alleged to be its members or sympathisers, as well as a much broader number of people, including Sukarno loyalists, trade unionists and teachers.
The tribunal also found that the US, British and Australian governments at the time were all complicit to differing degrees in the commission of these crimes.2
The most widely accepted estimates are that between 500,000 to more than one million people were killed, with some estimates as high as two to three million. The upheavals led to the downfall of President Sukarno and the commencement of Suharto’s 31 year dictatorship which ended in 1998.
The chief justice of the civil society tribunal, Zak Yacoob, said the Indonesia government needed to act “urgently and without qualification” to address the injustices committed in the deadly purge.3
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Zak Yacoob also said that apart from prosecuting those involved in the killings, the government needed to also apologise to all victims or their survivors, as well as to ensure appropriate compensation and reparation.
The report also detailed ten gross human rights violations carried out against civilians, including imprisonment, torture and sexual violence.
The people’s tribunal was formed last year after numerous efforts to bring the mass killers to justice had failed.
1. Refer to Al Jazeera’s coverage of IPT’s final report. More information on the hearings conducted by IPT in The Hague as well as a link to the tribunal’s final report can be found here.
2. Refer to Brad Simpson’s article ‘Accomplices in Atrocity’, Inside Indonesia, Jan-Mar 2010. According to Simpson “Western governments, led by the United States, actively sought to create conditions that would lead to a violent clash between the army and the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and, once the mass killings began, offered quiet but enthusiastic support to the Indonesian army. The killings of 1965 and 1966 were, in other words, international events of global significance, as the governments that supported the army in carrying out the killings recognised.”
3. Refer to Saskia E. Wieringa’s article ‘Breaking the silence around the 1965 Indonesian genocide’, The Conversation, Oct 1, 2014. She states that “(t)he October 1965 massacre counts as one of the largest genocides after the Second World War. Yet it is the only one in which a process of truth-finding and reconciliation has not yet taken place.” She also claims that a nation that can “confront its past can learn from it so that these crimes will never be repeated.”