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Indonesian body seeks ICC help on 12 rights abuse cases

National rights commission says it has run out of patience with Jakarta's failure to address serious violations

Indonesian body seeks ICC help on 12 rights abuse cases

Victims of past human rights abuses hold a silent protest every Thursday outside the presidential palace in Jakarta under police guard. (Photo: Konradus Epa/UCA News)

Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) says it intends to take a series of unresolved human rights abuses to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague following the government’s failure to address them.

There are 12 cases of gross human rights abuses that need to be brought before the court, the commission said on Jan. 27.

The cases include the bloody 1965-66 anti-communist purge in which at least 500,000 people were killed; the 1989 massacre of 300 members of an Islamist commune allegedly by the army in Talangsari in Lampung, south Sumatra; and the deaths of more than 1,000 people during riots across the country in 1998.

Other abuses include two shooting incidents in Jakarta in 1998 and 1999 in which 29 people were killed, as well as the murder of 114 alleged black magic practitioners in East Java, again in 1998 and 1999.

"These cases have yet to be settled by the government, so we will take them to the International Criminal Court," commissioner Mohammad Choirul Anam told reporters. 

“The Indonesian government has a commitment to handle these cases, but it doesn’t have the willingness to establish an independent ad-hoc investigation team to solve them.” 

The government responded by saying it would not stand in the commission’s way.

"Go through all formal channels if you want to act, please do," presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rachman told reporters in Jakarta.

Rachman said the government had proposed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission bill to settle those cases. 

Many families of victims and abuse survivors backed taking the cases to The Hague.

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Maria Catharina Sumarsih, chairwoman of the Victims Solidarity Network for Justice, said her group had all but given up on getting justice through the government.

“We have a better chance the cases will be settled if they are brought before the ICC,” said Sumarsih, whose son was shot in 1998 during the first shooting tragedy in Jakarta. 

Bedjo Untung, chairman of the 1965 Murder Victims Research Foundation, said international pressure to resolve mass murders of the communist purge was probably the only avenue survivors and families of victims can now take.

“The victims can only hope the case will be settled through pressure from the international community, particularly the ICC,” Bedjo told UCA News. “There are still people who can be held responsible in positions of power.” 

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