Indonesia

Since President Soeharto fell from power in 1998, Indonesia has struggled to address a legacy of abuse cultivated under his regime. ICTJ works with civil society and state officials to help Indonesians ensure accountability for the human rights violations and crimes of the past.

A woman cries among 1000 'tombs' during a protest in Jakarta (REUTERS/Dadang Tri)

Background: A 32-year Campaign of Repression

Indonesia was under General Soeharto’s “New Order” regime from 1965 to 1998. This period was rife with violence and widespread repression, including systematic abuse in Timor-Leste, Aceh, and Papua.

After the Soeharto ended in 1998, the country took commendable steps towards democracy and rights protection. Indonesia introduced human rights provisions into its constitution and established a Human Rights Court to try those accused of crimes against humanity and genocide.

Despite these efforts however, of 34 persons tried by the Human Rights Court to date, all have been acquitted or had their convictions overturned on appeal.

A law establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was passed in 2004. Human rights organizations and victims’ representatives raised concerns about a clause in the law which allowed amnesty for perpetrators of serious crimes, and required victims to forgive perpetrators in order to qualify for reparations.

In response, in 2006 the Constitutional Court annulled the entire law, effectively halting the TRC process. This decision has also stalled the establishment of local truth commissions in Papua and Aceh.

The Indonesian government is currently in the process of drafting a new TRC law.

ICTJ's Role:

ICTJ has been engaged in Indonesia since 2002. We work with many different groups, strengthening their capacity to develop and pursue transitional justice at the community and national levels.

  • Truth and memory: Through trainings and workshops, ICTJ promotes local and national truth-seeking and accountability initiatives and legislation. For civil society groups pursuing documentation and memory projects, ICTJ has provided comparative experience from similar initiatives around the world, as well as technical expertise.
  • Reparations and victims rehabilitation: Together with civil society networks, ICTJ has participated in and supported focus groups resulting in a policy paper for reparations. In partnership with the Institute for Healing of Memories (South Africa), ICTJ trained facilitators to address victims’ trauma and healing needs.
  • National human rights mechanisms: ICTJ continues to engage with official human rights institutions, such as the National Human Rights Commission, the Commission on Violence Against Women, and other government agencies, providing technical assistance and comparative experiences on documentation, memory efforts, reparations and other initiatives.
  • Transitional justice capacity and dialogue: Since 2009, ICTJ Indonesia has held an annual course on transitional justice with participants from government agencies, civil society and victims groups. ICTJ also conducts research and produces public education materials on transitional justice in Bahasa Indonesia.