Subject: Aceh Truth Body Demanded by Human Rights Groups for Past Crimes

The Jakarta Post

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Groups demand Aceh truth body

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Leading human rights groups urged Tuesday for the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission to address past crimes against humanity in Aceh.

Rafendi Djamin, coordinator of the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), said at a hearing with the House of Representatives lawmakers that settlement of gross human rights violations in the once strife-torn province was a mandate the Indonesian government had yet to fulfill following the peace agreement it signed with the Free Aceh Movement nearly three years ago.

"The government has so far not made efforts to resolve human rights violations in Aceh. There have been no serious attempts to prevent widespread violence from recurring," Rafendi said in a joint statement.

Both the Aceh peace agreement signed in Helsinki in 2005 and Law No. 11/2006 on the Aceh government, stipulate the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission to deal with the atrocities in the westernmost province.

Violence was rampant during the military operation to crush rebels in Aceh between 1989 and 1998, marked by extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, tortures and intimidation.

"The government should reveal the truth about what happened in Aceh, especially during the period when conflicts prevailed," Rafendi said.

International Center for Transitional Justice head Galuh Wandita said the commission would help to rehabilitate victims of violence in Aceh, particularly women and children, and deliver justice to them.

Special rapporteur for Aceh Syamsidar said the peace agreement in Aceh had not brought about justice for the victims since perpetrators of the atrocities remained at large.

"The victims expect justice that can explain why they or their families were sacrificed. They need to know the whereabouts of their missing parents or where they are buried if they are already dead," Syamsidar said.

The commission, he said, would ensure there would be no more gross human rights violations in Aceh.

The House passed in 2004 the truth and reconciliation bill, which many had expected would address past human rights violations in the country. But the government kept delaying inauguration of the commission's elected members, before the Constitutional Court annulled the law in December 2006.

In the absence of the law, efforts to form a truth and reconciliation in Aceh will likely to face legal barriers.

The government has yet to move to revise the law and start over the selection of truth and reconciliation commission members. (rff)

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