4 August 2007

Past Crime in Aceh

By Imam Shofwan

If the Aceh bill is passed in Jakarta, lieutenant colonel Sudjono and his associates would probably have difficulties sleeping. The bill demands the establishment of a human right court and a truth and reconciliation commission in Aceh.

Such a system would have it that those understood as being involved in previous murders could finally be searched out and tried. If there is reconciliation, then they could possibly receive amnesty, so long as they are open and tell the truth about their former violations.

If Aceh is successful in trying the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, then at least in theory, Papua should also be able to find the murderers of roughly 100,000 Papuans since 1969, or even further still, the murderers of one, two or perhaps three million people who were killed on the island of Jawa in 1965-66.

Marzuki Darusman, a legialator with the Golkar Party and a member of the committee for the Draft Bill on the Government of Aceh, claims that the handling of the violations of human rights in Aceh cannot go on as it has:“the cases are beyond the mark and cannot handle by normal courts.”

There is yet another obstacle, “if the Acehnese understand peace as more important than the pursuit of these human rights cases,’ Marzuki notes.

Sudjono is Head of the Intelligence Section in Korem Liliwangsa at Lhokseumawe. On 19 July 1999, Sudjono led about 70 Indonesian soldiers in an ambush against a dayah (religion school) headed by Teungku Bantaqiah in Beutong Ateuh, West Aceh. The reason for the ambush was Bangaquah’s support for GAM, involvement in the black market for marijuana, stockpiling of weaponary, and his teaching of ”deviant philosophies”

That morning, according to a goverment investigation team led by Darusman and formed by then-President B.J. Habibie, Sudjono come to the dayah with Captain Anton Yuliantoro and Leutenant Colonel Hieronymus Guru, his colleagues in Batallion Yonif 328/Kostrad Cilodong, Bogor, which had been sent for operations in Aceh.

Yuliantoro asked Bantaqiah to surrendur his weapons. Bantaqiah responded that he had no weapons. Some soldiers pointed toward the radio antena, and Sudjono asked Usman, Bantaqiah’s son, to remove the antena. As Usman approached the antenna, several soldiers beat him by gunstock. Watching his son getting beaten, Bantaqiah called out, ”Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.” His disciples followed, and the atmosphere grew even more tense.

A number of soldiers opened fire. Bantaqiah was shot with a GLM (grenade launching machine). His intestines hung out in strands, bullets pierced his neck. Tens of his disciplies were wounded and many among them died, including Usman.

According to Otto Syamsyuddin Ishak in his book ”Sang Martir: Teungku Bantaqiah,” that soldiers forced local residents to dig up the mosque floor in search of weapons. They burned three houses, forced Islamic school students to undress, burned books, forced several womens to strip and groped them. Residents were ordered to prepare a mass grave.

In the afternoon, Sudjono ordered the evacuation of victims by two trucks, ostensibly so that they may be treated in hospital. In fact, the trucks stopped midway enroute, where the wounded were ordered to alight, then shot down in rows and thrown into a canyon. 34 died and 23 other were wounded that day.

The massacre at Beutong Ateuh is not particularly out of the order in Aceh. It is simply the result of Indonesian military operations. President Habibie had 25 sodiers put on trial in (civil and military) courts in Banda Aceh. All were found guilty and later appealed. Sudjono has deserted until now. Because Sudjono has never come to court, other officers, including Hieronymus Guru and Sudjono’s commanders, have never been made to take responsibility either. Anton himself has been imprisoned.

This is the history of crime in Indonesia. Since Hasan di Tiro declared the freedom of the ”Aceh nation” on 4 December 1979, it is as though mass murderers have become untouchable. According to Amnesty International, more than 10.000 Achenese have been killed since 1976. GAM itself has killed Indonesian soldiers, as well as Acehnese suspected of ”cuak” or working as spies.

Now since the Helsinki accords and consideration of the Draft Bill on the Government of Aceh - with the deadline of March 30 - people like Otto and Darusman remain pessimistic that even if the bill is passed, they will ever be able to brings officers like Sudjono to trial. Otto reminded us that there are two version of the Aceh draft bill. First, there is a version put together by Acehnese society itself by way of 33 public meetings. Second, there is the Minister of Domestic Affairs version, which is often referred to by GAM as a “betrayal” of the Helsinki spirit. The Jakarta version of the bill has even been challenged by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and an organization of retired officers.

The Home Affairs version of the Draft bill notes that the Government ”should fulfill, advance, and secure human rights in accordance with their understanding under the intenational convenants.” The government must also form a special Human Rights Court and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Human right trial also formation of Commission of Propriety and Reconciliation.But these clauses are in fact too vague to become operational. Amirudin al Rahab from Lembaga Studi dan Advokasi Masyarakat (a legal advice institute) refers to the passage as ”pasal bodoh, [stupid clause].” The language fools no one.

Amiruddin is from Papua. He is the translator of Robin Osborne’s classic book “Indonesia’s Secret War: The Guerilla Struggle in Irian Jaya”, with the Malay title ” “Kibaran Sampari: Gerakan Pembebasan OPM dan Perang Rahasia di Papua Barat.” He is also active in Perkumpulan Masyarakat Jakarta Peduli Papua [Assembly of Jakarta Society Concerned with Papua] which has noted many of the weaknesses in the Undang-undang Otonomi Khusus Papua (Special Autononomy for Papuan Acts) of 2001. At that time, President Megawati Soekarnoputri offered up the Papua Act as a substitute for the independence Papuans desired.

The Papua law also required the Indonesian government to form a human rights court and reconciliation comission. The act was passed five years ago, ’Until now there’s not even a hint of progress’, notes Amiruddin.

He Suggest DPR adds several clauses to the Aceh Draft Bill mentioning particular institutions responsible for formation of the human rights court and truth commission. The Draft bill should also have language guaranteeing compensation for victims, judges and witnesses.

Propriety commission. Beside that, Aceh Draft Bill need clause who assured of availability of compensation fund for victims, judge and witness.
Learning from the South African experience, the Indonesian state should also prepared compensation money for victims’ families. This is important, as we must remember the severe and lasting damage to the lives of victims. Even the descendants of human rights victims, two, three, perhaps five generation down the line, will have difficulty living in peace. They want revenge on the state.

Conversely, sincere efforts at reconciliation, in South Africa for instance, help to make democratization more stable. President Nelson Mandela chose reconciliation because his state was unable to follow the model of German denazification following the second world war. Notably however, both the German and South African economies have grown healthily partly due to their honest dealings with the past.

Indonesia is not yet stable due to its past. Amiruddin refers to the 1984 murder of Moslems in Tanjung Priok, Jakarta. Victims’ families found it difficult to obtain compensation, as was ordered by the courts, because no particular institution was made accountable.

How can a legal process carry on without funds even for the provision of witnesses? How much longer must we wait for the Bantaqiah case and thousands more cases to go forward when there’s not even provision for finding perpetrators? Amiruddin makes reference to the Abepura case in which the court at Makasar did not even have funds to bring the most important witnesses from Jayapura. With the lessons of Abepura in mind, Amiruddin suggests that the human rights court and reconciliation commision should be based in Aceh, and given the necessary funds and authority so that it may engage the representatives of the Acehnese.

Sudjono himself has ignored the summons of the Bande Aceh court. According to Sang Martir, Sudjono has been seen in Bali and Jakarta. I have also made attempts at finding Sudjono for an interview, by calling on the help of activists friends and his former colleagues in Batallion Yonif 328/Kostrad in Bogor and Bondowoso. Sudjono is an alumnus of School for Officer Candidates in Bandung, 1976.

Another debility of this Aceh bill is that there is no deadline for the formation of the court and reconciliation commission. The DPRD Aceh version sets the deadline at one year. ”But this passage is deleted in the Jakarta version of the law, and sets no deadline at all,” according to Amiruddin, ”establishment of a human right court and a truth and reconciliation commission is only empty promise.”

Amiruddin’s suggestions have been received well by Marzuki Darusman. ”These suggestions are important and should be distributed to other DPR members,” he has said. Otto Syamsuddin Ishak, however, is pessimistic, ”if I keep close watch on the spirit of this Aceh Bill, actually Indonesia is just toying with us, how to manage a small Indonesian state called Aceh. If this thing doesn’t get solved, then this state is going to blow up.”[end]

Translated by Scott Schlossberg, Doctoral Candidate Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies UC Berkeley
Indonesian version of this article uploaded in Pantau Website in 06 Maret



I am amazed you're willing to write about Aceh...my hometown...love this mas bro...