Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Healing Old Wounds

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    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo had better get due process of law to begin immediately in the cases of crimes against humanity that occurred in the Rumoh Geudong and other military posts in Aceh. The pieces of evidence forwarded by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) are more than enough to drag the perpetrators to an Ad Hoc Human Rights Court.

    A National Human Rights Commission Report submitted to the Attorney General has revealed the nefarious side of the military operation that was instigated between 1989-1998 in Aceh. The Commission revealed many crimes against humanity: from forced detention with no due process, rape, torture, to murder. These tragedies were centralized at the Rumoh Geudong, a typical Acehnese house in Glumpang Tiga, Pidie Regency, used as a military post and coincidental house of torture.

    One witness went through a whole series of torture: from being stripped naked to being tortured in their private parts. Another witness saw persons being buried alive or hanged. Acts of savagery were conducted on civilians who were forced to admit to being members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Some were accused of having family members in the movement were stamped as sympathizers or were harangued under the accusation they knew about the whereabouts of GAM members. They were, in fact, ordinary farmers, nursery holders, and homemakers. 

    The Rumoh Geudong case obviously fulfills all criteria for gross violations of human rights, particularly for crimes against humanity, such as governed in the Law for the Human Rights Court. Komnas HAM has concluded the acts of torture and the killings were carried out systematically. The operations were conducted under a single chain of command, from the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia (ABRI) to the field commander, who oversaw the Special Command Forces (Kopassus). All action in the entire operation was reported to the Commander of the Bukit Barisan Regional Military Command 1.

    These crimes against humanity impacted hundreds of victims. A total of 74 women were allegedly raped. At least 109 civilians were tortured. Nine people were murdered in the Rumoh Geudong, and eight people have disappeared and were never heard of since by their families.

    The Attorney General should have no difficulty in resolving the case because Komnas HAM has collected strong initial evidence. Several documents and a testimony by former Commander of the 011/Lilawangsa Military Precinct Command concerning the military operation supports the testimonies of the victims and the findings of the National Commission. Descriptions by victims are also in accordance with each other. With the findings, the Attorney General can immediately investigate all the perpetrators, including the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces at the time who created the operations policy.

    President Joko Widodo should take immediate action. The President should ensure the Attorney General investigates the Rumoh Geudong cases. The Attorney General’s Office’s investigation will be fodder for parliament to obtain a recommendation to establish an Ad Hoc Human Rights Court. A similar mechanism was once used to uncover cases of gross violations against human rights in Timor-Leste.

    Do not let the Rumoh Geudong tragedy melt into thin air like the other cases of gross human rights violations. These are such cases as the 1965 Tragedy, the Trisakti, and the Semanggi I and II, which had been investigated into by the Komnas HAM, and to date has been left to fester because the government simply does not care. During Jokowi’s administration, not a single finding uncovered through the hard work of the Komnas HAM has been taken to court.

    President Jokowi needs to prove his commitment to unentangling the many cases of human rights atrocities, as he promised in his 2014 Election campaign. Without a human rights court, the kin of the victims and the witnesses to the Rumoh Geudong tragedy will continue to be swathed in grief and sorrow with no rehabilitation nor compensation.