Banda Aceh, April 17, 2013
Mr. Chairman, Members of the House of Representatives, thank you for the opportunity to submit a statement on today’s hearing on the proposal to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Aceh.
Human Rights Watch is an independent organization dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights around the globe. Human Rights Watch has reported on the human rights situation in Aceh for over 20 years. Our first report, Human Rights Abuses in Aceh, was published in December 1990. We published a series of reports on abuses during the armed conflict by the Indonesian armed forces and other state security forces, and by the armed opposition Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh Movement, or GAM).
Human Rights Watch strongly believes that accountability for past serious international crimes is the foundation for post-conflict reconstruction based on the rule of law and respect for human rights. Impunity for atrocities committed in the past sends the message that such crimes may be tolerated in the future. Peace and justice should be seen as complementary, not contradictory, objectives.
The 2005 Helsinki peace agreement and the 2006 Aceh Governing Law mandate that a truth and reconciliation commission should be established in Aceh. Human Rights Watch recognizes that truth and reconciliation commissions can play a valuable role in addressing past human rights abuses and in establishing facts for victims and the public, here and abroad. However, Human Rights Watch believes that truth and reconciliation commissions should not preclude justice for victims, including efforts to prosecute perpetrators for serious human rights abuses, either by providing immunity or making evidence unavailable or unusable in potential court cases.
Human Rights Watch documented various human rights abuses during the conflict in Aceh. They include:
• Extrajudicial killings
• Attacks on civilians
• Enforced disappearances
• Torture and other ill-treatment
• Sexual violence
• Arbitrary detention and due process violations
• Forced displacement
• Looting and pillage
• Extortion and restrictions on economic activity
• Threats, intimidation, and unlawful restrictions on domestic and international journalists
• Restrictions on freedom of movement
• Arson attacks on schools
• Compulsory night guard duty (jaga malam)
To be credible and effective, the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Aceh should have a mandate that would allow it to independently examine the actions of both the Indonesian security forces and GAM. It should attempt an impartial documentation of human rights abuses, from the beginning of the conflict in 1976 to the signing of the Helsinki agreement in August 2005. Information should be documented and made public in a manner that would allow it to respond to the needs of victims; to promote healing and reconciliation; to assist efforts to pursue criminal accountability; and to prevent a repetition of the abuses suffered.
The proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission should make recommendations on improvements to the legal and judicial system to address impunity for past serious violations. It should identify impediments that prevent victims from using legal system to seek redress for human rights abuses perpetrated both during the conflict and since then, and make recommendations to overcome them.
Human Rights Watch believes that the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be greatly enhanced if the commission’s staff includes women at all levels and persons with expertise in sexual and gender-based violence. These gender advisers should provide gender sensitization training and ensure that the work of the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including investigations and hearings, are carried out in a sensitive manner. The final report on the findings of the proposed commission needs to give full attention to gender-specific abuses committed during the Aceh conflict.
There are too many victims to recount here. But in closing please allow me to mention the names of some of the victims whose families have still not learned the truth about what happened to their loved ones or obtained justice. The first is Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, who was abducted and killed in August 2000 in Medan. Another victim was Maj.-Gen. (retired) Teuku Djohan, the provincial chairman of then ruling party, Golkar, in Banda Aceh on May 10, 2001, just as he was leaving the city’s main mosque after sunset prayers. Others include Fuadi Mukhtar, and Teungku Usma, and Mak Pri who were killed in May 2001 in Aceh’s Samalanga subdistrict.
We urge you to uncover the truth of what happened to these people.
We wish you success in your discussions and in drafting a law on setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Aceh.
On behalf of Human Rights Watch
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Indonesia, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/asia/indonesia
More Human Rights Watch Documents About Rights Abuses in Aceh
Aceh at War: Torture, Ill-Treatment, and Unfair Trials (2004)
Aceh Under Martial Law: Inside the Secret War (2003)
Aceh Under Martial Law: Muzzling the Messengers (2003)
Aceh Under Martial Law: Can These Men Be Trusted to Prosecute This War?
The War in Aceh (2001)
Continuing Human Rights Violations In Aceh (1991)
Human Rights Abuses In Aceh (1990)