Indonesia: Time to Face the Past: Justice for past abuses in Indonesia's Aceh province

April 18, 2013

Indonesia: Time to Face the Past: Justice for past abuses in Indonesia's Aceh province

However, as illustrated by the quote above, most victims and their relatives have long been denied truth, justice and reparation in violation of Indonesia's obligation under international law. They are still waiting for local and national Indonesian authorities to acknowledge and remedy what happened to them and their loved ones during the conflict.

During a visit to Aceh in May 2012, Amnesty International spoke with various groups and individuals, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community organizations, lawyers, parliamentarians, local government officials, journalists, and over thirty victims and their representatives about the current situation in Aceh and the lack of measures to provide truth, justice and reparation for crimes committed during the conflict.

Victims and their relatives told Amnesty International that they welcome the current peace process and the improved security situation in Aceh; however they do not understand why commitments contained in the 2005 MOU to set-up a Human Rights Court for Aceh and an Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission have yet to be implemented. They also explained that, although some post-MOU programmes have provided some forms of financial support to many victims, these measures have lacked consistency and they were not specifically related to an acknowledgement of past human rights abuses.

At the time of the peace agreement in 2005, the topic of addressing crimes committed during the conflict was perceived by some as a threat to the peace process. However, seven years on, it is time for the central and local Indonesian authorities to face the past and take long overdue measures to implement victims' rights to truth, justice and reparation. Not only would it contribute to healing the open wounds of the civilian population, it would also help strengthen the rule of law in the country and secure the peace process in the long-term. As noted by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in August 2004:

"[t]ransitional justice initiatives promote accountability, reinforce respect for human rights and are critical to fostering the strong levels of civic trust required to bolster rule of law reform, economic development and democratic governance."

Addressing past crimes and acknowledging that serious human rights abuses were committed during the Aceh conflict would also send a strong signal to other victims of human rights abuses and their families in Indonesia, who are waiting for measures of truth, justice and reparation to address crimes committed in other situations.

In order to strengthen the rule of law in Indonesia and ensure that victims and their relatives have access to truth, justice and reparation for crimes committed during the Aceh conflict, Amnesty International recommends that local and central authorities undertake the following steps as a matter of priority:

  • Acknowledge that serious human rights violations and abuses, including crimes under international law, were committed during the Aceh conflict;
  • Set up immediately a truth commission in line with international standards to ensure that victims, their families and affected communities are provided with full disclosure about what happened during the Aceh conflict and ensure that specific measures are taken to reveal the fate and whereabouts of victims of enforced disappearances;
  • Take effective measures (including law reform) to investigate and, where there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecute those responsible for crimes under international law, including possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances committed during the conflict; and
  • Establish a programme to provide full and effective reparation including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition to all victims of human rights violations and abuses in Aceh. The programme should be devised in consultation with victims and should take into account the different experiences and needs of women and men, girls and boys, who experience conflict differently, as well as any other relevant groups.