Press Release

23 May 2012


“Violence is certainly an important part of the short history of Indonesia. The Indonesian government has systematically violated fundamental human rights for over 20 years and continues to do so with impunity.” Asia Watch Report 1990

For almost three decades Acheh had become a slaughter-house, a killing field for the Indonesian armed forces, in its efforts to crush the Free Acheh Movemnet (GAM) – a popular movement to liberate Acheh from the Republic of Indonesia. During the process, thousands of Achehnese civilians had been killed, including extra judicial killings, massacres, torture, arbitrary arrests and 'disappearances'. And international and local human rights organizations had extensively documented about these atrocities.

It is worth noting that the above pattern of brutalities and past abuses by military during the conflict have been totally overshadowed or forgotten by the 2005 Helsinki peace deal.

On the Boxing Day of December 2004, Acheh was devastated by the Indian Ocean Tsunami and about 200, 000 Achehnese died. This natural disaster coupled with a prolonged war had brought the two parties, the Indonesian government and GAM, to the negotiating table. The accord was reached on 15 August 2005 in Helsinki, the capital of Finland and thus, one of the longest armed conflicts in South East Asia eventually ended.

This happened largely due to the GAM’s exclusion of the "independence" option from the agenda. But, according to some experts such as Aspinal (2005), the success of the talk was simply because of “the reduced strength of the GAM by ruthless martial law operations” prior to that devastating tsunami. And in return, GAM was given a ”self-government”, allowing the establishment of local political parties, a Human Rights Court (HRC), Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) along with amnesty for political prisoners, etc.

The world took a deep sigh that one of the Indonesia’s dirty wars, after East Timor, had come to an abrupt end. Achehnese who had suffered most in this conflict came out to the streets in thousands, celebrating the news with prayers and tears of joy.

Now, seven years after the deal, the people of Acheh have witnessed how the stakeholders of Helsinki accord, the defunct GAM and Indonesia, have been trifling with their lives and their future. Most of the Helsinki promises such as TRC, HRC and a dozen other articles stipulated in MoU and the Law of Acheh Government (LoGA), remain unfulfilled. And it is obvious that instead of establishing judicial measures, the stakeholders have been busy finding pragmatic solutions to resolve the past cases.

Even the most fanatical adherents of the peace process have now begun to realise that these two major human rights institutions, supposed to be providing access to justice for the victims of past military abuses, will not be established in Acheh.

According to the New York based International Centre for transitional Justice (ICTJ) report in 1998, that in a peace building process, the voice of victims should not be marginalised, for the victims are important stakeholders; and as peace itself is a process, justice must be upheld by addressing the roots causes of the conflict such as reforming institutions implicated in human rights violations.

But, in Acheh, human rights have become a thing of the past. Violations of these rights still continue to take to this very day despite the peace deal. So, the impact of impunity here is self-evident, and this is due to irresponsible attitude of the government and its unwillingness to respond to these cases. Unless the right to self-determination to the people of Acheh and other fundamental freedoms are recognised, violations of human rights will continue unabated.

Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor, winner of Nobel Peace Prize, once said:

“When governments state that certain events have not happened, and yet we have the victims before us that they did, government loses its credibility, and it loses its authority. No government, which govern by the use of force, can survive, except by force. There is no going back, because force begets force, and the perpetrators of crime live in fear that they might become victim in their turn.”

Now it is up to the government to prove that the above statement was wrong. And it is also the duty of the international community to help Indonesia prove that “no government, which governs by the use of force, can survive, except by force” was not correct.