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Government told to address past rights abuses

Indonesian law stops victims' compensation, say NGOs

Katharine R. Lestari, Jakarta

September 2, 2013

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The government must address past human rights abuses committed by the military in Papua and Aceh so victims can receive compensation, say NGOs dealing with human rights issues.

“The government’s continual reluctance to take legal measures in cases of human rights violations that took place in Papua and Aceh … not only hampers criminal punishment of those responsible but also the rights of victims to reparation due to burdensome requirements under the Human Rights Court Law,” the Jakarta-based Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) and the Hong Kong-based Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) said in a joint statement Monday.

The law requires the conviction of perpetrators before compensation can be provided to victims.

“Denying victims effective access to justice puts the government in a very ‘comfortable’ situation since they can avoid the trouble of prosecuting perpetrators and allows them legal justification to wash their hands of the obligation to provide reparations,” the NGOs said.

The statement highlighted alleged atrocities perpetrated by the military against autonomy-seeking Papuans in the 1970s and Acehnese in 1999.

In Papua, the official number of victims has not been revealed but interviews with surviving witnesses put the number of those killed at 4,000.

The military allegedly conducted indiscriminate shootings against Papuans and strafed their villages.

In 1999, in Aceh, the military opened fire on residents of Simpang KKA, in Dewantara subdistrict, who were conducting a protest against a military operation that injured around 20 people.

It was reported that the shootings, known as the Dewantara Incident, left up to 52 people dead, at least 150 injured, while 10 others disappeared.

“The government must bring to justice those responsible for gross human rights violations, provide comprehensive and adequate reparation for victims and their families, and hold comprehensive security reform,” the NGOs said.

Speaking to on Monday, Indria Fernida, coordinator of KontraS’ International Advocacy acknowledged the government has tried to address past human rights abuses.

“But it was insignificant,” she said.

Human rights abuses should be addressed by using four pillars of transitional justice compromising truth seeking, judicial proceedings, reparations and security system reform.

The KontraS and ALRC  joint statement was issued ahead of the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council, scheduled convene in Geneva later this month.

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