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Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday launched a program aimed at resolving past human rights abuses across the nation and providing restitution to victims through non-judicial means.
Widodo launched the program to implement recommendations of non-judicial settlements in the Pidie regency of Aceh Province, the first area where the program was launched, the Presidential Secretariat Office said.
“This is an effort to heal the wounds of the nation due to past gross human rights violations, which have left a heavy burden on the victims and their families,” the president stated on Twitter.
Widodo said this showed his administration’s commitment to preventing similar abuses in the future. He assured that the government would not negate the judicial mechanism despite taking a non-judicial approach.
The government did not specify the number of people eligible for the program.
Widodo has previously expressed regret over 12 incidents classified as gross human rights violations from Aceh’s northernmost province to the easternmost province of Papua between the 1960s and 2000s.
These include the mass killings and civil unrest that occurred during the Indonesian communist purge in 1965–1966, which resulted in an estimated death toll of 500,000 people.
Widodo also acknowledged the disappearance of anti-government activists between 1997 and 1998, which was later found to be the work of the army’s Special Forces Command, led at the time by Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, who currently serves as Widodo’s defense minister.
Other rights abuses include a shooting campaign against criminals between 1982 and 1985; the torture of suspected rebels in Aceh in 1988–1989; a deadly raid on an Islamic community in Lampung in 1989; the killing of students and anti-government protesters in 1998; anti-Chinese attacks and alleged mass rapes in 1998; and deadly raids against civilians in Wasior and Wamena in Papua Province between 2001 and 2003.
“With a clear mind and sincere heart, I, as head of state of the Republic of Indonesia, acknowledge that gross violations of human rights did occur in various incidents. And I deeply regretted the 12 incidents of human rights violations,” Widodo said.
Widodo formed a team last year to seek non-judicial settlement of past human rights abuses. However, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said the team includes people suspected of having a track record of human rights abuses.
AHRC specifically highlighted the appointment of As’ad Said Ali as a team member, who was suspected of having been involved in the murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib in 2004.
“We consider that the formation of the [Human Rights Violation Settlement Team] containing alleged perpetrators of human rights violations by the President further shows that the issue of past serious human rights violations is only used as an annual political agenda for political contestants, including President Joko Widodo,” AHRC said in a statement on Oct. 6, 2022.
The commission urged the government to guarantee “the disclosure of the truth and the judicial process” in its settlement of past human rights violations.
“Without revealing the truth, reconciliation or other non-judicial processes will only serve as blank cheques or a means of impunity for perpetrators of past gross human rights violations,” it added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.