Rights groups protest every Thursday in front of the State Palace in Jakarta to demand the government resolve past cases of human rights abuses, including forced disappearances. (Antara Photo/Teresia May)

Jokowi Must Bring Justice to Indonesia's 'The Disappeareds': Rights Groups


AUGUST 31, 2017

Jakarta. A number of human rights groups on Wednesday (30/08) called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to tell families of "Orang Hilang" — Indonesia's The Disappeareds — the truth about what happened to their loved ones and bring them justice through long-overdue reparations.

The groups urged Jokowi to meet the government’s obligations under international law and fulfill his own promise — announced on Indonesia’s Independence Day in 2015 — to solve past cases of human rights violations, including forced disappearances.

"Several years ago, Jokowi said he wanted to form a search team to be managed by the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister, but this still hasn't happened," Wanna Yeti, an activist and member of the Indonesian Association of Families of the Disappeared (Ikohi), said in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Wanna's father went missing after the Tanjung Priok massacre, in which at least 24 were killed due to official government estimates, in North Jakarta in 1984.

Wanna said the families of 13 political activists who were "disappeared" in 1997-1998 — Sonny, Yani Afri, Ismail, Abdun Nasser, Dedi Hamdun, Noval Alkatiri, Wiji Thukul, Suyat, Herman Hendrawan, Bimo Petrus Anugrah, Ucok Munandar Siahaan, Yadin Muhidin and Hendra Hambali — continue to demand that the government uncover the truth about what happened to them over 19 years ago.

Meanwhile, victims' groups and Acehnese NGOs also urged Indonesian authorities to reveal what happened to the 1,935 disappeared and missing persons in Aceh during the 29-year bloody conflict in Indonesia’s most westernly province between the military and armed opposition group Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh Movement).

In East Timor, according to a report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for East Timor, at least 18,600 people were disappeared or went missing during the period of Indonesian occupation — from 1975 to 1999 — and during the chaotic period immediately following the 1999 independence referendum.

A National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) report also shows there were at least 32,700 victims of the 1965-1966 anti-Communist pogrom, whose cases have never been brought to trial.

Putri Kanesia, the deputy coordinator of advocacy at KontraS (Commission for the Disappeareds and Victims of Violence), said in 2014 at least five soldiers were arrested in connection with the disappearance of Dedek Khairudin. Dedek's whereabouts remain unknown to this day, while the government has failed to launch an independent investigation into the case.

"If our government is not serious about solving cases of enforced disappearance, cases like Dedek Khairuddin's will continue to happen," Putri said.

These rights groups stressed that families of the victims are still demanding that Jokowi fulfill his pledge to solve past cases of enforced disappearances.

The families themselves said they have been disappointed by the government's official statements and recommendations on the issue, which sounded promising at first but were never followed through.