Indonesian minister calls for probe into 1965 killings

Indonesia says it is looking to establish a “truth and reconciliation” commission to address human rights violations, including the anti-communist massacres of 1965-66. 

A commission began work in 2004 to examine crimes committed under the dictator Suharto, whose demise in 1998 began a transition to democracy.

But the body was scrapped after the Constitutional Court ruled that it was unlawful that not all violations would result in court trials. 

Indonesia’s security minister Mohammad Mahfud said legislation would revive the commission with MPs deciding whether cases should go to trial.

“The principle remains that human rights abuses need to be tried in court,” Mahfud said.

But if there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution, reconciliation could still be achieved, he added. 

The famous South African truth and reconciliation model under Nelson Mandela depended on full disclosure of Apartheid-era crimes without fear of prosecution to allow the country to establish a democracy. 

Twelve cases could be reviewed, including the murder of a million or more alleged communists after the 1965 coup, said Mahfud, a former judge who joined the cabinet in October. 

Around a million other suspected communists were jailed and tortured and families are still excluded from government jobs by association with the allegedly communist relatives. The numbers are imprecise as the Suharto regime faced minimal scrutiny from its allies in the west amid the backdrop of the Cold War. 

A 2016 non-binding international tribunal at The Hague ruled that the US, UK and Australia were complicit in the Indonesian massacres.

Declassified CIA documents from the time said, “there never was — and never will be — a reliable figure of the numbers dead”. 

“In terms of the numbers killed, the anti-PKI [communist] massacres in Indonesia rank as one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century,” the US document said. 

“In this regard, the Indonesian coup is certainly one of the most significant events of the 20th century, far more significant than many other events that have received much greater publicity.”

An incident in West Papua in 2001 that left four dead and five missing and the shooting of students in 1998 riots that brought down Suharto would also be investigated, Mahfud said. 

“What’s most important is that the law needs to bring closure. Don’t let this drag,” said Mahfud.

It is unclear if investigations could be launched into more recent atrocities in East Timor and brutality against protesters in the ethnically distinct provinces of West Papua and Papua.


Picture credit: YouTube