Subject: Relatives demand justice for past human rights abuses in Aceh

Jakarta Post

Relatives demand justice for past human rights abuses in Aceh

Hotli Simanjuntak , Banda Aceh | Sat, 10/17/2009 1:09 PM | National

Hundreds of relatives of Acehnese people who went missing during the conflict, which lasted from 1976 to 2005, have strongly urged the provincial government to establish a special court to settle unresolved human rights abuses and provide them with compensation.

The coordinator of the the Association of Acehnese Families of Missing Persons (Kagundah), Roukayah, said recently that the establishment of an ad hoc human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission should have been conducted following the signing of the 2005 Helsinki Peace Agreement between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), but so far, the government has shown no political gestures to do so immediately.

She said more than 2,000 people were killed and hundreds of others went missing during the 29-year conflict between GAM rebels and the Indonesian Military.

The peace deal recommended a thorough investigation into human rights abuses and the rehabilitation of ex-combatants so that they were able to re-enter society.

The 2007 Aceh Special Autonomy Law also mandated the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission to deal with unresolved human rights abuses and provide compensation for human rights victims in the province.

"The formation of an ad hoc human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission will prevent such incidents from recurring in the future," Roukayah said during the first congress of the association held early this week in Banda Aceh.

She added that the establishment of the court and the commission would pave the way for the Acehnese to see justice and claim compensation from the Indonesian government, which deployed thousands of soldiers during the military operation and formed an emergency government in the deeply Islamic province.

The association has 200 families whose members were killed, abducted and raped during the conflict. The families come from 10 remote regencies.

During the meeting, participants also submitted a petition to acting chief councilor Hasbi Abdullah, who represented the provincial legislative council.

Aceh Governor Irwandy Yusuf has frequently pledged to take initiatives to establish a truth and reconciliation commission to settle the unresolved human rights abuses.

However, the provincial government has faced difficulties doing so following the annulment of the 2007 Truth and Reconciliation Law by the Constitutional Court.

Amir Helmi, a deputy chairman of the provincial legislative council, pledged to follow up the petitions to deliver justice to victims and forge reconciliation between the government and the victims' relatives.

He said the provincial legislature would invite the governor and the central government to seek a win-win solution to the unresolved human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in Aceh, Hendra Fadli, lambasted the government for its slow response to the increasing demand for justice, saying Indonesia should feel ashamed seeing as the international community has long expressed deep concern over the unresolved cases.

"It is astonishing that the international community cries out against the human rights abuses while we turn a blind eye to the incidents," he said in an anti-violence campaign here on Friday.

Hendra said the abduction of innocent people over the course of the conflict was a crime against humanity.

Furqan Muhammad Yus, head of Kontras' Aceh advocacy division, said Kontras and the missing persons' relatives would continue commemorating missing loved ones and campaigning against the violence committed against the Acehnese until an independent court upheld justice for the human rights abuses.

The anti-violence campaign reached its peak at the launching of the book Mereka Yang Dilupakan (Those Who Were Forgotten), at a dicussion featuring human right activists on Friday.

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