Hague court rules Indonesia mass killings were crimes against humanity

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/3 19:08:39

Photo: IC

After an international panel of judges in the Hague concluded that mass killings which occurred in Indonesia 50 years ago were crimes against humanity, the Indonesian government has been asked to face history.

The International People's Tribunal (IPT) 1965 ruled on July 20 that there is no credible material, including the denial of the Indonesian government, which disproves that the mass killings were a grave violation of human rights.

The court called upon the Indonesian government to apologize to all victims, survivors and their families and ensure appropriate compensation and reparations.

Between 1965 and 1966, between 500,000 and 1 million people were killed by the Indonesian military, militias and civilian groups. Most of those killed were communists, ethnic Chinese or those suspected of holding leftist views. Knowledge of these events was suppressed over the coming decades under the Indonesian leader Suharto and are still controversial in the country.

Indonesia's foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said that Indonesia was under no obligation to follow the recommendations of the tribunal as they were "not legally binding," news outlet aljazeera.com reported.

Nothing can justify the massacre, and the cruelty and scale of the killings make the events a true crime against humanity, Zhuang Guotu, head of the Center of Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, told the Global Times.

According Zhuang's research, at least 60 percent of those killed were ethnically Chinese.

Come back

"I did not feel scared or strange [when I came to China]…We knew it well and it's like coming back home," Lin Yade, who had never been to China before he arrived on a boat full of ethnic Chinese fleeing Indonesia on June 23, 1966, told the Global Times.

Most of these refugees were sent to live on local farms, but few of them stayed due to poor living conditions and many later emigrated either to Hong Kong or the West, Zhuang told the Global Times.

The victims and witnesses that are still alive could also help to stop such violence reoccurring by telling their stories to the world, as some of the perpetrators of the massacre are still in power, said Anonymous, the co-director of The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence, two documentaries on the events of the 1960s which were nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

"When I was interviewing those victims, I was also looking for the reason I shot the film, that is, to have them speak for themselves and express their feelings," said Anonymous.

"Though government propaganda doesn't mention it, we need to tell others that it [the mass killing] happened, victims exist and perpetrators have not been taken to any court while no evidence could justify the cruel massacre," he added.

The Jakarta-based director still chooses to keep his identity a secret 18 years after the fall of Indonesia's military regime, fearing reprisals for his work.

Bare truth

The Hague judges listed the crimes committed during the massacre, which included mass killing, imprisonment without trial, torture and slavery. They also found evidence of sexual violence, exile, kidnapping and political persecution.

The court also found that the US, the UK and Australia were condoned in the crimes against humanity as they were fully aware of those crimes via diplomatic reports.

The IPT was established in March 2014 and consists of Indonesian exiles, human rights activists and researchers, and also members of victims' organizations.

The panel of judges includes Zak Yacoob, a former justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa;  Shadi Sadr, an Iranian lawyer and human right defender; and Cees Flinterman, former member of the UN Human Rights Committee for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Though the killings were justified by the Indonesian authorities at the time as being part of an anti-communist purge following a failed Communist-backed coup, many Chinese victims interviewed about that time by Anonymous said they were not politically active at all.

A Chinese victim said he was tortured because it was believed he was a member of the Baberki, or Indonesian Citizenship Assembly, an organization launched in 1954 which aimed to integrate ethnic Chinese into Indonesian political and social life.

But the man said that he did not belong to any political organization, said Anonymous.

The massacre made many victims lose hope, while some perpetrators have grown to question whether their role in the massacre was morally right and have reached out to other perpetrators in an attempt to justify their actions, said Anonymous.

Newspaper headline: Judging history’s crimes

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