Kontras locates mass graves in Central Java
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) claims it has located 17 mass graves in Central Java where suspected communists murdered during the 1965 purge were buried.
The human rights organization has requested the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) exhume the bodies from the graves, the location of which was not disclosed.
Komnas HAM is concluding the findings of its investigation into the mass killings that followed the 1965 abortive coup, blamed on the now defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
The head of KontraS’ impunity and victims’ rights division, Yati Andriyani, said the discovery of the mass graves was more than enough to supply Komnas HAM with undeniable evidence of the atrocities committed.
“We located the mass graves by interviewing prime sources in several areas between 2008 and 2011,” said Yati.
The prime sources mentioned by Yati were civilians who in 1965 were directed by soldiers to dig the graves and bury corpses or, worse, ordered to carry out the executions, with their own lives at stake.
“The methods used [in the executions] were similar; victims’ thumbs were tied together, most were blindfolded and then shot, either in the head or throat,” Yati said.
Yati cited the 2000 Law on Human Rights Trials, which defines gross human rights violations as “systemic, direct and widespread killings”.
If by exhuming the corpses the assumptions were proven, the findings would be significant evidence to prove gross violations as stipulated by the law, she said.
Yati added that KontraS was currently deliberating whether to extend their research to a wider area, particularly to East Java.
Responding to KontraS’ statement, Komnas HAM’s investigation team head, Nur Kholis, said even though his team was eager to gather as much evidence as possible, exhuming mass graves was not an easy task to carry out.
“We have to get a permit from the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) before exhuming the graves,” he said.
Although Komnas HAM has claimed to have evidence pointing to the involvement of government officials in the systematic persecution of PKI members following the abortive coup, it has yet to name the atrocities as gross human rights violations.
Komnas HAM had previously confirmed that “mass rapes, torture, and killings, in violation of the 2000 Law, occurred nationwide between 1965 and 1966, ending only in the early 1970s”, as conveyed by Nur Kholis earlier this month.
On Thursday, KontraS also launched a report aimed at documenting various findings from legal advocates, historical research and their own and other human rights organizations which, according to the commission, were still scattered.
The report reiterates that an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 people became the victims of extra judicial killings, with thousands of others being imprisoned and/or forced into exile.
A son of a former PKI board member in Palu, who was executed in 1967, stood up at the launch and urged Nur Kholis, as the official Komnas HAM representative present at the event, to pay serious attention to the latest findings.
Gagarisman, 51, who currently works at a marketing office in Jakarta, said he wasn’t interested in legal action; he simply wanted to find his father’s remains so to be able to bury them properly.
“I don’t want anything other than to bury my father in an Islamic way,” he said. (aml)