Indonesian rights commission probes Suharto-era crimes

Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission has opened inquiries into mass killings and widespread rights abuses during the 32-year Suharto dictatorship, in an attempt to finally bring the perpetrators to justice.
Four teams have begun collecting evidence in the purge of communists during Suharto’s rise to power in 1965, alleged atrocities by Indonesian soldiers in the remote Aceh and Papua regions and scores of killings and abductions blamed on security forces in the mid-1980s.

Suharto died in January at age 86 without having seen the inside of a courtroom, but “there are still so many people involved in the human rights violation cases that have remained untouched,” commission member Ridha Saleh told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The inquiries will be conducted by dozens of commission members and experts until May 17, Saleh said, but that period may be extended.

The commission, which has the power to investigate rights abuses but can not issue arrest warrants, will present its findings to the Attorney General’s office. The Attorney General could recommend that an ad hoc human rights court be formed to conduct criminal trials against individuals.

The House of Representatives and ultimately President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would have to sign off on the creation of such a tribunal. Yudhoyono, a former military officer who rose through the ranks under Suharto, has rarely, if ever, mentioned the need to prosecute or even investigate abuses under the former dictator.

Efforts so far to prosecute abuses have failed largely because many of those implicated in the events are still in positions of power, critics say.

Suharto seized control of the military in a 1965 coup after which between 300,000 and 800,000 alleged communist sympathizers were killed. Up to 300,000 died during military operations against separatists in Papua, East Timor and Aceh. (*)

Source: The Jakarta Post

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