The Aceh provincial legislature’s decision to further delay the setting up of a truth and reconciliation commission is a major setback to end impunity in the region, a leading human rights group says.
Amnesty International has been urging the Aceh parliament and central government to deliver on their promises made in 2005 and commit to ensuring truth, justice and full reparation for victims and their families during the era in which the province was militarized.
“There has been little progress in ensuring accountability for crimes committed during the armed conflict in Aceh, including murders, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment,” Josef Roy Benedict, Amnesty International’s campaigner for Indonesia, said in a statement on Saturday.
The organization said that the 2005 Helsinki Peace Agreement and the 2006 Law on Governing Aceh contained provisions for the establishment of a Human Rights Court and an Acehnese branch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“However both have yet to be established,” Benedict said.
Last week, Abdullah Saleh, a member of Commission A of the Aceh provincial council, said that the council would have to wait for the passing of the national truth and reconciliation commission law.
“We have to delay setting up the commission while we wait for Jakarta to pass the law first,” he said.
Amnesty said that the establishment of truth commissions did not relieve states of their obligation to bring those suspected of criminal behavior under international law to trial.
He added that an important step is to understand the circumstances that led to past violations, claiming that learning from the past will ensure that such crimes will not reoccur.
“All victims of gross human rights violations, crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law have a right to know the truth,” the statement read.
More than 15,000 people were killed and thousands more disappeared during Aceh’s pro-independence movement from the 1970s to early 2000s.
The Indonesian Military (TNI) launched a crackdown on separatists until the state of emergency in the province was lifted briefly between early 2000 and 2003.
In 2003, the TNI again declared Aceh a military emergency zone and moved to quash the pro-independence Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Though fighting flared up again after that, a devastating tsunami in 2004 refocused the country’s efforts toward rehabilitation and eventually led to a peace agreement.
Amnesty said it met with victims’ groups from Aceh who told the organization they continue to demand to know the truth about the harm they suffered. They want to know the causes, facts and circumstances in which such violations took place.
The organization also met family members, particularly of those who were killed or disappeared, who wanted to establish the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones.
“They expressed disappointment that they continue to be ignored by the authorities,” Benedict said.