Rights watchdog invites government to examine data on 16 mass graves in Java

Kompas – April 26, 2016
Families of 1965 victims scatter flowers and pray - June 2015 (Kompas)
Families of 1965 victims scatter flowers and pray - June 2015 (Kompas)

Jakarta – Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) coordinator Haris Azhar has invited the government to examine its findings on mass graves of the victims of the 1965 affair.

Azhar conveyed this in response to a recent statement by Coordinating Minister for Politics, Security and Legal Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan who asked to see evidence of the mass graves of 1965 victims.

Azhar related how in 2007 Kontras conducted an investigation at the sites believed to be the location of mass graves containing victims of the 1965 mass killings.

From the results of the investigation, Kontras found 16 locations that can be identified as mass graves spread across the provinces of Central and East Java. “We found 16 locations that were verified. We only just updated our data last year”, said Azhar when contacted on Tuesday April 26.

In addition to verifying the locations, Kontras also gathered information and testimonies on the executions that occurred from local residents. Azhar however was reluctant to cite details of the locations on the grounds of security.

“Actually Kontras obtain information on the location of many more [mass graves]. But at the time we were restricted by human resources and costs”, said Azhar.

Azhar also related Kontras’ experiences in conducting an investigation at one of the sites where they heard a story from a local resident about how the security forces carried out the execution of prisoners.

Each night, he said, prisoners were brought to the location in trucks escorted by only a handful of armed soldiers. At the location, four to five prisoners were ordered to get out and dig a hole. The soldiers were then ordered to stand and execute the prisoners.

After this, continued Azhar, the next lot of prisoners was ordered to get out, cover the hole that was already filled with the corpses of the previous prisoners, after which they were ordered to dig a hole for themselves.

“So it continued. People were ordered to dig their own graves. We estimate that between 10 and 40 people were executed at each location”, said Azhar.

Azhar invited the government to examine the truth of the mass graves at these locations. According to Azhar, the signs and evidence of the slaughter at these sites can still be found to this day.

Government searching for mass graves

Earlier, Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered Panjaitan to find the mass graves of the victims of the 1965 affair.

Finding the mass graves, said Panjaitan, is for verification and at the same time to straighten out history in relation to the slaughter of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) followers in the years following 1965.

“Earlier the president told [me], ordered [me] to find out if there are any mass graves”, said Panjaitan following a meeting with the president at the State Palace in Jakarta on Monday April 25.

“Up until now, for years and years, we’ve been indoctrinated that there were so many hundreds of thousands of people that died. Yet, up until now we have never found a single mass grave”, he said.

Panjaitan said that it is possible that the state will apologise for the 1965 affair explaining that the possibility of the state apologising is always open if facts are uncovered indicating that mass killings occurred following the September 30 Movement affair in 1965.

These facts, for example, could be data on mass graves. Panjaitan explained that up until now, the government has not yet received any solid data or evidence to indicate that there was a mass slaughter.

The only data that exists is with regard to the murder of the six TNI (Indonesian military) army generals. Because of this therefore, said Panjaitan, the government does not know who to apologise to.

“Up until this day there has been no data on mass graves. [So] who should the government apologise to? What is clear is that six TNI generals were murdered. That’s already clear. There’s no data yet on any others, right”, said Panjaitan.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was Kontras Temukan 16 Lokasi Kuburan Massal Korban 1965.]

Source: http://nasional.kompas.com/read/2016/04/26/18433271/Kontras.Temukan.16.Lokasi.Kuburan.Massal.Korban.1965