Amnesty says July 27 attack on PDI office was most brutal rights violation that year

Source – July 28, 2023
Crowd gathers outside PDI offices in Menteng, Central Jakarta – July 27, 1996 (Lensa Indonesia)

Nicholas Ryan Aditya, Jakarta – Amnesty International Executive Director Usman Hamid says that they once made a journal about the July 27, 1996 attack on the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) offices, or the Kudatuli tragedy as it is known.

The journal contains the conclusion that the July 27 attack and ensuing riots were the most brutal human rights violations that year.

"The July 27 affair was one of the most brutal human rights violations that year. And Amnesty made a journal, the correct term is a 'raid', an attack with violence", said Hamid during a discussion titled Reflecting on the July 27, 1996 Affair at the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) Central Leadership Board (DPP) offices on Jalan Diponegoro in Menteng, Jakarta, on Thursday July 27.

Hamid said that the Amnesty report in August 1996 received a response from the government through the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia (KBRI) in Britain.

"The British KBRI wrote to Amnesty [asking that the term] 'raid' (serangan) be changed to 'riot' (kerusuhan)", he said.

Hamid explained that at the time the government was of the view that the term raid was a one-sided view.

"It was considered [the view of] one party and relying on witnesses, not the government's view. And the government asked to replace raid with clash", added Hamid.

Hamid explained that the government also denied that it had used excessive state instruments. "The government also denied that it had used excessive state instruments, but the incident was so brutal", he said.

Hamid said that the PDI was not the sole opposition at the time, but there were a number of different groups fighting the New Order regime of former president Suharto.

He gave some examples of opposition groups aside from the PDI, namely students, the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and individual activists.

"This case must be exposed, if it isn't exposed it could be repeated", said Hamid.

Also attending the discussion as speakers was PDI-P Secretary General Hasto Kristiyanto, PDI-P politician Ribka Tjiptaning and historian Bonnie Triyana.

The discussion was also attended by a number of other senior PDI-P officials including Rokhmin Dahuri, Ahmad Basarah and Wiryanti Sukamdani. Also present were the families of the victims of the July 27 tragedy who are part of the Harmony Communications Forum (FKK) 124.


Following Megawati Sukarnoputri's popular election as chairperson of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) in 1996, the Suharto regime, who feared a PDI led by Megawati (who could draw upon the tremendous popularity of her father Sukarno, the founding president of Indonesia) might threaten the state party Golkar's dominance in the upcoming 1997 elections, sponsored a rebel PDI congress in Medan, North Sumatra, and succeeded in replacing her with their own pro-regime candidate, Suryadi. Following weeks of protests and the occupation of party's headquarters in Central Jakarta by pro-Megawati PDI supporters, on July 27 paid thugs backed by the military attacked and destroyed the PDI offices resulting in the death of as many as 50 people. Popular outrage at the attack sparked several days of mass rioting and violent clashes with police which was blamed on the People's Democratic Party (PRD), who's members were hunted down and arrested as the masterminds behind the riots.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Kenang Kudatuli, Usman Hamid: Bentuk Pelanggaran HAM Paling Brutal pada 1996".]