BROOKLYN, NY (June 30, 2014) — In a statement released today human rights groups urged the next government of Indonesia “to break with the past [and] fully and meaningfully address the legacy of impunity for past human rights violations,” adding that “the continued lack of accountability for past and ongoing violations of human rights threatens lasting progress.”
The statement, coordinated by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and signed by 32 organizations based in a dozen countries, urged the Indonesia government to “provide meaningful reparations for the victims, survivors and their families of egregious human rights crimes.” It also called on the next government to bring the military “fully under civilian control and the rule of law.”
The groups wrote that “Indonesian security forces operate with near impunity in the provinces of West Papua and Papua,” and called for the release of political prisoners, respect for freedom of expression, and ending restrictions on international access to the region.
The groups also urged the new government to build “genuine relationships between peoples” of Indonesia and Timor-Leste by committing to “an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the occupation, the opening of all relevant historical archives, including those of the TNI, and reparations for victims of Indonesia’s security forces.
“We are well aware that one presidential contender is an admitted and serial human rights violator and that the other has a former general indicted for crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste on his campaign team,” said John M. Miller, coordinator of ETAN.
“However, Indonesia’s new parliament and whoever becomes president have obligations under Indonesian law and international treaties. Our statement provides some measures with which to evaluate the new government’s actions on human rights.”
In April, Indonesians elected a new parliament that will be sworn in October 1. On July 9, they will vote on a new President who will take office October 20. Aspects of one candidate’s human rights record have been the subject of debate during the presidential campaign.
Former general Prabowo Subianto has been implicated in a series of human rights violations in Timor-Leste, Jakarta and elsewhere during his military career. He has confessed to kidnapping activists and planning a coup in May 1998. Recently, journalist Allan Nairn reported that Prabowo had called “Indonesia is not ready for democracy,” and while praising the military dictatorship of Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf, Prabowo asked “Do I have the guts, am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?” Referring to the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in Timor-Leste, Prabowo said that “You don’t massacre civilians in front of the world press,” saying that “Maybe commanders do it in villages where no one will ever know.”
His opponent Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo is younger and has never served in the military, but among his campaign team are several former generals accused of serious violations of human rights. General Wiranto was indicted in Timor-Leste for his role in the violence surrounding its independence ballot. General AM Hendropriyono has been implicated in a 1989 massacre of civilians Central Lampung, the assassination of human rights lawyer Munir while head of Indonesia’s intelligence agency (BIN), and in the forced deportation of over 250,000 people from East to West Timor in 1999. Other tainted Widodo supporters include: Former BIN deputy chief retired Major General Muchdi Purwoprandjono who is also accused in the murder of Munir and former Jakarta Military Commander Lieutenant General Sutiyoso, accused of torture in Timor-Leste. A 2007 attempt to question him about the October 1975 murder of five journalist in Balibo, Timor-Leste, caused a diplomatic incident. He was Jakarta military commander when thugs backed by troops and police attacked the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party in 1996. Retired General Ryamizard Ryacudu was “a hardline general known for his xenophobic remarks and criticism of rights activists.” As army chief of staff he oversaw the implementation of martial law in Aceh beginning in May 2003.
The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) was founded in 1991. ETAN supports democracy, human rights and justice in Timor-Leste, West Papua and Indonesia. ETAN is non-partisan. It works on issues and does not support candidates or political parties in any country. www.etan.org