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UK article sparks new call for Indonesian massacre probe

British involvement in inciting mass killings of communists warrants reopening of investigation, Amnesty International says

UK article sparks new call for Indonesian massacre probe
Members of Banser, the youth wing of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, burn a communist flag in Blitar in eastern Java on Sept 30, 2015, during a rally commemorating late Indonesian dictator Suharto coming into power in 1965 after a failed coup that authorities blamed on communists. (Photo: AFP)

Amnesty International Indonesia has urged President Joko Widodo to reinvestigate the bloody 1965-66 anti-communist massacres after recently declassified documents in Britain revealed the extent of the United Kingdom’s role in one of the worst mass killings of the 20th century.

In a recent article titled “Revealed: How UK spies incited mass murder of Indonesia’s communists,” the Guardian newspaper reported that “British officials secretly deployed black propaganda in the 1960s to urge prominent Indonesians to ‘cut out’ the ‘communist cancer.’”

Citing the recently declassified documents, the article said British propagandists secretly incited anti-communists, including army generals, to eliminate the Indonesia Communist Party (PKI).

It is estimated that at least 500,000 people — some estimates go to 3 million — linked to the PKI were eliminated between 1965 and 1966. The party is still outlawed in Indonesia.

The revelations prompted Amnesty International Indonesia to call for a new investigation into the killings.

“Such a revelation of British black propaganda shows that there are so many facts which remain available with regard to the tragedy. This fact destroys the government’s argument that the tragedy cannot be reinvestigated because it happened a long time ago and evidence is no longer available,” Usman Hamid, Amnesty’s executive director, said in a statement, a copy of which was received by UCA News on Oct. 19.

[He] needs to come good on his promises and reinvestigate the 1965 tragedy to guarantee accountability and justice for all victims

“The facts revealed by the British media are very important for the Indonesian nation to know about its dark past. If the government has the political will to resolve the case through, among others, a reconciliation process, then these facts can be a great contribution to the search for Indonesia’s historical truth with regard to the 1965-66 tragedy.”

So far, the government has failed to properly deal with gross human rights violations such as unlawful killings, forced disappearances and rape during the purge.

Hamid also reminded Widodo that during his presidential campaign back in 2014, he promised to deal with historical human rights violations through the justice system to end impunity.

“[He] needs to come good on his promises and reinvestigate the 1965 tragedy to guarantee accountability and justice for all victims,” he said.

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According to Amnesty, a three-year investigation into human rights violations committed during the purge was carried out by the National Commission on Human Rights and completed in July 2012. It concluded that the abuses were gross human rights violations that included crimes against humanity.

However, there has been no indication that the government will launch a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, attempts to establish a national truth commission have stalled due to a lack of political will, the rights group said.

Speaking to UCA News, Bedjo Untung, a victim of the anti-communist purge and founder of the 1965 Murder Victims Research Foundation, backed Amnesty’s call, saying the new revelations need to be examined further.

“If President Widodo refuses to change his stance in which he seems to blame all those who were imprisoned [during the purge], it means that he wants to protect criminals,” he said.

Referring to the newspaper article, he urged foreign countries involved in the mass killings to apologize to victims.

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