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Komnas HAM report puts Aceh human rights violations back on the table

Jakarta Globe - August 15, 2013

A recent report by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) alleges "gross human rights violations" by the Indonesian Military during its 30-year campaign against the separatist Free Aceh Movement. The report highlights issue that remain to be addressed, according to Amnesty International.

The bloody conflict began in 1976 and ended in 2005 with the signing of a peace pact in the wake of the massive 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. The war took a brutal toll on the population there, leaving between 10,000 and 30,000 dead, many of them civilians.

"These recent developments from Komnas HAM are positive and show that the issue is alive and needs attention," Isabelle Arradon, deputy director at the Asia-Pacific Program of Amnesty International, said on Thursday. "Many victims believe that with truth, justice and reparation, the peace process can not only be supported but can be strengthened."

In its investigation,, the results of which were released on Aug. 1, Komnas HAM examined five key cases, including the torture and mistreatment of detainees at the Rumoh Geudong military post in Pidie (1997-1998) and the infamous Simpang KKA incident (1999), in which the military killed 21 protesters.

Komnas HAM intends to follow up the investigation with an inquiry, which could eventually lead to criminal investigations and prosecutions in a human rights court.

"We urge Komnas HAM to ensure that these new findings, which offer some genuine hope for accountability, are not just buried in the same way that past reports have been," Arradon said.

The peace deal that ended the conflict called for the establishment of a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission for Aceh, but neither of these bodies exist or operate yet, although the the Aceh regional parliament is currently debating a bylaw that would establish such a commission.

"We have been encouraged to see the Aceh parliament taking the establishment of a truth commission seriously, in particular in the face of the almost complete lack of political will at the national level on this issue," Arradon said.

"The Aceh parliament must now ensure that this bylaw is debated, enacted and implemented as soon as possible and that the truth commission operates in line with international law and standards. Such a law would be an enormous step towards justice for the victims of the Aceh conflict."

Komnas HAM has also found that survivors and family members have yet to receive full and effective reparations from the government. Amnesty International reached a similar conclusion in a report earlier this year, which found that measures to compensate victims do not go far enough.

"Aceh lacks a comprehensive reparation program aimed specifically at victims of human rights abuses and their families," Arradon said. "Many women survivors of sexual violence have been unable to receive any financial or medical assistance for what they suffered, and must be supported as a priority."

Eight years after the end of the conflict, the legacy of violence is still part of the daily reality for thousands of people in the region.

"While victims and their families welcome the improved security situation, they cannot understand why their demands for truth, justice and reparations are being ignored," Arradon said.

To mark the eighth anniversary of the conflict's end, Amnesty International will publish a briefing, "No Peace without Justice," which will examine numerous abuses on the part of security forces and examine how countless victims and family members in Aceh are still looking for answers.

"President Yudhoyono, who oversaw the 2005 peace deal ending the conflict, must show his commitment to long lasting peace in Aceh by meeting the victims' demands before his term comes to an end next year," Arradon said.

A key step forward would be to offer a formal and public apology to all victims of past human rights abuses, she added.

Human rights violations committed by the Indonesian Army may amount to crimes against humanity. Amnesty International has called upon actors on both sides of the conflict to come out publicly against impunity for such crimes.