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Many more mass graves from Indonesian red purge found

Families of victims, survivors say they have pinpointed nearly 350 new sites containing more than 100,000 bodies

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Many more mass graves from Indonesian red purge found

Bedjo Untung, chairman of the 1965 Murder Victims Research Foundation, hands over a document containing new evidence of mass graves to a National Human Rights Commission representative on Oct. 4. (Photo supplied)

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Families of victims and survivors of Indonesia's bloody 1965-66 anti-communist purge have submitted what they say are the locations of another 346 mass graves to the Attorney General’s Office and the National Human Rights Commission.

The locations are believed to be where some of the estimated one million people who were killed during the purge were buried.

They were killed for having alleged links to Indonesia’s disbanded Communist Party and China, who were blamed for a failed coup attempt.

The findings submitted on Oct. 4 add to the previous discovery of 122 mass graves in 2015.

Bedjo Untung, chairman of the 1965 Murder Victims Research Foundation (YPKP), said the discoveries were the result of extensive research and the collection of evidence since 1999, soon after the foundation was established.

He estimated that 100,000 to 200,000 purge victims could be in the graves. "It is important that we make new evidence about the mass murders public,” the Catholic layman told ucanews.

He said the discoveries were compiled in a comprehensive document that included the victims’ names and how they met their end.

The mass graves were found across Indonesia from Sumatra to Java to East and West Nusa Tenggara, and other areas.

Untung said the foundation tracked down the grave sites after talking to survivors and people who witnessed the killings and dared speak out after decades of silence due to threats telling them not to say anything.

“The number of graves will increase because investigations are still ongoing,” he said.

He said the foundation has also called on the Attorney General’s Office to disclose how far it has followed up on rights violation cases regarding the purge, particularly on the establishment of an ad hoc court to resolve them. “All victims of the anti-communist purge need justice,” he said.

Attorney General’s Office spokesman Mukri, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name, welcomed the new discoveries and said investigators would take a close look at them.

“A team of prosecutors is already working on them and reports on previous discoveries,” Mukri told reporters.

Meanwhile, the YPKP called on the National Human Rights Commission to ensure no foul play takes place regarding the discoveries.

The commission “needs to protect the graves so that they aren't destroyed or disappear," Untung said. “Those sites need to be protected as some others have been covered or bodies removed to build malls, streets, housing and schools." 

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