Ending darkness through a people’s tribunal of ‘65

Todung Mulya Lubis, The Hague | November 11 2015 | 4:45 PM

Fifty years ago on Sept. 30, in the middle of night, atrocities began. A number of military generals were killed and transported to Lubang Buaya (Crocodile Hole) in East Jakarta where the air force base was located. Allegedly, the killings were committed by members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), described as an attempted coup against then president Sukarno. The killings became justification for the witch hunt against PKI, then considered the largest and most militant party.

There has been no one single argument that can be used to justify the coup. The party allegedly behind the coup is also the party behind the violent movement against the government known as the 1948 Madiun Affair. The PKI was thus declared an enemy and traitor to the people and the nation, and of course must be crushed.

Once a traitor, forever a traitor. It is under this kind of environment and social psychology that the massacre of people associated with PKI started, estimated to having killed between 500,000 and 1 million people. No one knows how many people were brutally killed by the military and militias. It is perhaps among the historical and human tragedies that need to be investigated further.

Countless innocent people totally unrelated to PKI were also killed — friends, relatives, spouses and children killed because of their associations with PKI members or sympathizers.

The military and militia organizations involved in the mass killings took the law into their own hands, rendering the verdict that those people had to be killed. There has never been any due process of law, let alone presumption of innocence of those considered guilty by association. Can you imagine the darkness of darkness? That was the darkest year in Indonesia’s history, its rule of law, human rights and human civilization.

After World War II, after atrocities under Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, the mass killings in the aftermath of 1965 in Indonesia must have been one of the worst in our human history.

More than massacres, 1965 also reveals enslavement, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, persecution, forced disappearances, persecution through propaganda and complicity of foreign countries, notably the US, the UK and Australia.

No word can explain the magnitude of sufferings attached to the bodies and minds of people — which continue to today.

Fifty years is not a short time and yet, the wounds and pain stayed in the blood of survivors, relatives , children, and grandchildren, not to mention the whole nation.

It is an absolute necessity that truth be told in its entirety, honestly and sincerely. The wounds and pains will never be healed without the truth. History cannot possibly be whitewashed.

The burden is upon our shoulders. We will carry the burden if we fail to unravel the truth. Because only by knowing the truth can we start healing the wounds and pain.

Truth must be told before we can proceed to find justice, to reconcile and to forgive. Of course, no one will be able to forget the worst human tragedy, but people will be able to come to terms, to reconcile with the past.

There are nine counts that comprise crimes against humanity committed by the state, particularly Indonesia’s military and state apparatus in concert with certain elements of social organizations. Moreover, the state violated its inherent obligations as stipulated in customary international law. Each count will be further described with evidence by factual witnesses and experts if necessary.

It is our sincere hope that the honorable judges will have relatively complete description and evidence to fully understand the crimes against humanity committed by the state of Indonesia since 1965. Some of the crimes continue; they are continuing crimes. Stigma attached to all relatives, spouses and children of the alleged communists have not been lifted. The stigma has degraded their dignity.

It is our sincere hope that the judges will be able to acquire all relevant materials and evidences, to examine them and to understand about the magnitude of gross and systematic violations of human rights. Only by doing so will the judges be able to understand why our indictment charges the state of Indonesia of committing crimes against humanity.

So why are we here? Because we, and the nation, want to find the truth. We have been waiting for more than 50 years.

Despite all efforts to persuade the government to initiate a thorough investigation and legal action, we have seen no genuine attempt by the government to resolve all gross and systematic violations of human rights since 1965.

The people associated with 1965 have always been stigmatized and discriminated against, treated as pariahs. Nothing has changed despite having entered the Reform Era, where democracy, rule of law and human rights should be more respected.

Consciously and unconsciously the attitude is to forget the past, and focus more on the future. Do not look back, do not open wounds.

But the wounds have not healed. They remain open — and to heal them requires that the truth be told. Tirelessly, all the victims, with the help of human rights activists, continue their fight to find the truth at all costs. The truth cannot be hidden forever, one day it will come out into the open.

We greatly appreciate the investigation of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), which concluded that what happened in 1965 onward was a crime against humanity. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that prompted us to also pursue truth and justice in our own way, a path less traveled.

We come all the way from Indonesia not without risk. We are worried because in our beloved country the matters related to the 1965 atrocities are still taboo, not subject to discussion and deliberation.

The government refuses to openly discuss the matter and if there are discussions then very likely those discussions will be banned, such as what happened with the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali last week. Joshua Oppenheimer was not able to screen his films to the public.

This is not to say that no one attempted to hold the discussions and screen the films, however, they stood the chance of being confronted by police and possibly “anticommunist” groups, as well as the likes of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI). The bans have been brutal and violent.

We cannot contemplate what will happen when we return home. We may be accused of airing out dirty laundry, exposing the dark sides of our nation and society, and will be thus regarded as traitors to the nation. We will not rule out the possibility of being questioned by the authorities, or even worse, detained.

The fact that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has already refused to apologize leads us to conclude that the government does not want to deal with anything related to the atrocities of 1965 onward. But most victims have died; many survivors are old.

Therefore, we must proceed with this tribunal with the hope that we find the truth, and see the light at the end of the tunnel. We really hope that the government listens and does its utmost to carry out a genuine reconciliation and what follows after that.

After all, humanity should be regained, wrongs must be corrected and justice must be pursued.

The writer is a noted lawyer. The above is an abridged version of his opening statement at the International People’s Tribunal 1965 held in The Hague, the Netherlands from Nov. 10 to Nov. 13.

SOURCE m.thejakartapost.com