Haris Azhar: Transitional Justice in Aceh, Moving Nowhere
Haris Azhar, the Coordinator of KontraS, spoke about what has been done to address human rights violations in in Aceh following the thirty-year conflict between Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (“GAM”) and the Indonesian Security Forces. Azhar noted two moments of transition: the reform era that began in 1998, and the interventions that took place following the tsunami in 2005. Regarding the first transition, Azhar described several steps that were taken to account for the conflict, including public apologies and the establishment of the Independent Commission for Investigation of Violence in Aceh. However, there was also a notable setback during this period, which was the imposition of martial law during the Megawati era.
Turning to the post-tsunami era, Azhar discussed six objectives of the Helsinki Peace Agreement and the Law of Governance of Aceh (LoGA), both of which were passed in 2005. Collectively, these two legal responses provided for: recognition of Aceh political freedom and identity; recognition of Aceh's economic rights, including the right to enter into agreements with international entities and the right to 70% of its natural resources; recommendations regarding the rule of law and legislation; a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program; a recommendation that members of military be tried in civilian court if they commit a public crime; and the release of (most) GAM political prisoners. More specifically, the recommendations regarding rule of law included a recommendation that Indonesia ratify the ICCPR and ICESCR (which was accomplished in 2006), and a recommendation to establish a human rights court and TRC in Aceh. The human rights court would only address future human rights violations, though the TRC would engage the past. However, neither the human rights court nor the TRC have been established.
Azhar concluded by commenting that the proposed remedies have focused on the perpetrators rather than the victims. There is still not political or legal recognition of past abuses, and victims’ voices are largely absent from political decision-making processes. Jakarta’s commitment to establishing a human rights court and to reforming the military has proven weak. Furthermore, as a result of weak government institutions, people in Aceh have started to “have their own justice, their own truth,” which is apparent in such actions as the digging up of mass graves and the suit filed against Exxon in the U.S. under the Alien Tort Claims Act.