Activist groups call for rights tribunal in Aceh
Claiming that none of alleged rights abuses during the 30-year-conflict between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) have been resolved, a coalition of human rights watchdogs has called for a tribunal to hear past cases of rights violations.
The coalition, which includes Amnesty International and the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said that such a tribunal as well as a truth and reconciliation commission, were mandated by the 2005 Helsinki peace agreement.
Between 10,000 and 30,000 civilians are said to have lost their lives during those years and hundreds of women were raped. But none of parties or individuals responsible for the atrocities, either from the Army or GAM, have been arrested.
“Those who survived the conflict suffer immensely. Children never stop asking the whereabouts of their parents and siblings. Families continue to dig up mass graves to search for the remains of their relatives for years,” said Murtala, a survivor at the launch of a report on Aceh by Amnesty International on Thursday.
While looking for the remains of his relatives, Murtala helped set up a community for victims in North Aceh where he is a counselor for survivors from the conflict.
Murtala said that women, especially rape victims, struggle to get by in the community due to the stigma attached to them.
“Many of them blame themselves. They believe that they were raped because they failed to take care of themselves during the conflict,” Murtala said.
Authorities could help rape victims by acknowledging their plight.
“We don’t wish for vengeance. We only want the state to admit the abuses we suffered. Such a recognition will help us, if not the whole of Aceh, to move on and build true peace, not one that is imposed
on us,” Murtala said.
Kontras Aceh coordinator Destika Gilang said that rape victims endure continual insults from their communities as well as government officials.
“Neighbours look down on them. Even when they do seek help, some are subjected to further humiliation from officials, who ask them to provide photos of their genitals to prove that they have been raped,” Destika said.
The former base of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus), known as Rumah Gedung, according to Kontras, is where many of the rapes and killings took place in the early 1990s.
The Amnesty report says human rights abuses that occurred between 1976 and 2005, and peaked during the military operations in 1989, could be considered crimes against humanity and war crimes. As a member of the United Nations, Indonesia must comply with international law and should start to prosecute the abusers.
“By addressing the situation in Aceh, Indonesian authorities cannot only heal open wounds but strengthen the rule of law and secure peace for the long term,” Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director Isabelle Arradon said.
Contacted separately, former GAM spokesman in Pidie, Adi Laweueng, acknowledged that the rights violations did occur, but he also wanted the public not to rush to conclusions.
“GAM respects the law. We hope that the public also does the same. Let’s wait for the ongoing discussion on the provincial bylaw to set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which I believe will restore justice in Aceh,” he said.