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Komnas HAM opens probe into bones found at Aceh's Rumoh Geudong

Jakarta Post - April 2, 2024

Jakarta – The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) is launching an investigation into the human bones that were discovered at the site of a memorial park in Aceh's Pidie regency to commemorate the victims of the Rumoh Geudong tragedy.

"Komnas HAM has obtained information from the people of Bili Aroen village in Glumpang Tiga district, Pidie regency, as well as [from] media reports on the discovery of [human] bones at the construction site of the Rumoh Geudong Living Memorial Park project," Komnas HAM commissioner Abdul Haris Semendawai said in a statement issued on Saturday.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo ordered that the memorial park be built to remember the victims of gross human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, alleged to have taken place during the military operation against the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) from 1989 to 1998 in what was then called the Aceh military operation region (DOM).

President Jokowi visited the Rumoh Geudong site in June 2023, six months after he acknowledged and apologized for 12 incidents of gross human rights violations committed by the government between 1965 and 2003 in a bid to make good on his campaign promises.

Construction workers reportedly discovered six human femurs while excavating a former drainage ditch.

Initially found late last year near the ruins of a traditional house the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) used as a base during the military operation in Aceh, the bones were stored in a warehouse for months before they were reburied at the site on March 3.

Local community figure Teuku Faisal Ibrahim led the prayers and rituals during the bones' formal burial, which was undertaken at the behest of former Bili Aroen village head Fakhrurazi.

The bones are believed to be the remains of Acehnese people who were victims of extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by members of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) during ABRI's decade-long operation in Aceh, according to Komnas HAM.

Komnas HAM reported that ABRI troops used Rumoh Geudong, which soldiers reportedly burned down in 1998 to eliminate evidence of human rights violations, to interrogate people suspected of being GAM members or sympathizers

It also said soldiers used the house to torture, lock up and even store the bodies of people who were executed without trial for their alleged involvement in GAM.

In its statement on Saturday, Komnas HAM has urged Coordinating Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Minister Hadi Tjahjanto to secure the bones, in collaboration with the local administration, as potential evidence of past human rights violations that occurred at Rumoh Geudong.

The commission also called on the Attorney General's Office to conduct comprehensive forensic tests, including DNA analysis, to verify the victims' identities and locate any surviving relatives.

The government must provide a channel for victims, their families and the public to access information about the bones' discovery to fulfill the rights of the victims to truth and transparency.

These measures should be undertaken in line with the precautionary principle, commissioner Abdul Haris emphasize, "considering the possibility of [finding] other evidence at the project site".

Earlier on March 27, a civil society organization issued a statement demanding that the government temporarily halt all construction at the Rumoh Geudong site "to avoid destroying [potential] evidence or obstructing justice", Tempo.co reported on Thursday.

Source: https://asianews.network/komnas-ham-opens-probe-into-bones-found-at-acehs-rumoh-geudong