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Indonesia under fire for Aceh rights abuses

Nine years after conflict, justice is still elusive, groups say

Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta

August 15, 2014

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Rights groups on Friday accused the Indonesian government of lacking the political will to address human rights abuses committed in Aceh province during a bitter insurgency that ended nine years ago.

According to Amnesty International (AI) and the Jakarta-based Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) up to 30,000 people died in the conflict between the Indonesian government and the independence-seeking Free Aceh Movement.

Many of the victims were civilians, the rights groups said.

The conflict, which began in 1976, ended with the signing of a peace deal in Helsinki, Finland in 2005.

“Amnesty International and KontraS join victims of the conflict and their families in calling again on the authorities to fulfill their obligations to ensure truth, justice and full reparation for the human rights violations and abuses that occurred, including establishing a truth commission in Aceh,” the rights groups said in a joint statement Friday.

The continued delay in establishing such a commission “highlights the lack of political will by both the local and central governments in addressing impunity”.

AI and KontraS said the conflict’s victims and survivors still demand to know the truth.

“Thousands are still in the dark about the fate of ‘disappeared’ loved ones,” the statement said.

They urged the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to ensure that it completes investigations into five key cases of gross human rights abuses.

These included an alleged massacre at a protest in Cot Morong in North Aceh.

At least 21 people were killed and 156 injured when military personnel allegedly opened fire on the protesters.

AI and KontraS also called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who oversaw the peace agreement, to fulfill his commitment to ending impunity by meeting the victims’ demands before his office ends in October.

Siti Noor Laila from Komnas HAM acknowledged that the government needed to be seen to be addressing the rights abuse allegations stemming from the conflict.

“The government should be brave enough in making decisions. It means the government must be there and address the human rights abuses,” she told

The peace agreement failed to embrace victims when it was made, she said. “As a result, their needs such as reparations are difficult to be met.”

Regarding the investigations, she asserted that they remain ongoing.

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