Indonesia continues to struggle with a legacy of mass human rights violations. The country has long been involved in state-sponsored community violence, compounded by rights violations by security forces, violent extremist groups, and big business ventures competing for natural resources. In the context of impunity, Indonesia struggles to resolve the root causes of conflict, making it vulnerable to social divisions and violence. Despite this, it has increasingly backed away from commitments to accounting for mass violations, and continues to respond to unrest with torture and violence.

Twenty-three years post-Reformasi, Indonesia has made headway in improving accountability, inserting human rights protections in its constitution, creating judicial mechanisms to try crimes against humanity and genocide, and establishing an anti corruption commission. However, Indonesia’s court system weakened by decades of repression was unable to deliver justice. Every single accused person brought to trial for crimes against humanity has been acquitted at first instance or on appeal. A truth and reconciliation commission law was passed in 2004 then annulled two years later without being established. Promises for local truth commissions in Papua (2001) and Aceh (2006) as provided under national legislation establishing two autonomous regions continue to be ignored. To date, thousands of victims still experience discrimination and neglect.

Efforts to strengthen the rule of law and human rights as part of Indonesia’s transition to democracy is put at risk when total impunity for past violations remain intact. In Indonesia, AJAR works with civil society groups and networks to help show the “missing link” connecting impunity for past violations and ongoing challenges faced by this country. Our current programmes include support for the Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR Aceh), advocacy and assistance to Timorese stolen children who were involuntarily brought to Indonesia during the occupation, and supporting current transitional justice efforts and community-based initiatives with survivors in Indonesia.

Priority Issues

In 1975, the Indonesian military invasion of Timor-Leste heralded a 24-year period of brutal suppression of the pro-independence movement, causing upwards of 200,000 deaths. During this period, thousands of Timorese children were taken from their homes to Indonesia, to live with military families, and often placed in religious boarding schools. Many Timorese families have for decades been putting flowers on the graves of children they believed had died. With the cooperation and assistance of the governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia, AJAR has been tracing these “stolen children”, identifying and reuniting them with their families.
During the anti-communist purge in Indonesia (1965)–also known as Indonesian politicide and Indonesian mass-killings–about 500,000 to 1,000,000 people with suspected ties with the communist party were murdered, disappeared, or forcefully detained. Beyond the tragic event, the survivors of the mass imprisonment then still face further structural violence and socio-cultural and economic disadvantage. AJAR has actively worked alongside the survivors to raise the awareness on the human rights violations and widespread violence and sexual abuses, engaged with youth human rights defenders in Indonesia, and ensured intergenerational learning through series of training and advocacy. Understanding that all of these are vital components of transitional justice.
Years after the introduction of West Papua’s special autonomy, the people of Papua still face ongoing structural and cultural violence rooted in the long history of racism. Presently, the West Papua province is a site of mass natural resources extraction for the regime’s economic interest, resulting in environmental catastrophe in the land of Papua. Consequently, the indigenous people of Papua suffers the hazardous impact of forest loss and degradation, on top of the ongoing structural and cultural disadvantages. AJAR, using participatory research, documents the structural violence and discrimination the indigenous community, especially women, has to face. AJAR also works alongside the local community and facilitates knowledge sharing to build the capacity of local organizations.
In 2013, the government of Aceh finally form the Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)–the first TRC in Indonesia. However, the pathway to justice for the victims of gross human rights violations is still progressing. During the years of violent conflict between Indonesia’s military forces (TNI) and Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM), civilians were the ones who needed to endure the consequences. Approximately 10,000 to 30,000 civilians were murdered and many were unlawfully detained. In the journey to truth and reparation, AJAR assists the TRC in developing the human rights defenders’ capacity to document the past violence, support the survivors, engage with international partners, and conduct knowledge sharing with the TRCs in other countries. AJAR also conducts the trainings to equip the human rights defenders in Aceh with the transitional justice perspective to properly manage the conflict in the future.
Presently, Indonesia is facing a shrinking civic space, with the rise of violent intolerant groups—resulting from the lack of accountability for past violence and insufficient reforms of implicated situation. This leads to the portrait of current Indonesia, where the perpetrators of sectarian and religious violence are not held accountable and the protection of minority rights is often minimum and poorly implemented. The unresolved causes of communal violence in Poso, ongoing human trafficking practices in East Nusa Tenggara, and ongoing violence against minorities—deeply rooted in intolerance are all only a fickle illustration of the lingering impact of impunity in Indonesia. AJAR alongside local CSOs have conducted a series of training for young Human Rights Defenders (HRD) to uncover the root causes of conflict in their respective community, to understand why impunity still persists and how we may collaborate to eradicate impunity.

Highlights of Programmes in the Past Year

Promoting awareness and understanding

Research, including interviews with hundreds of victims of serious human rights violations, examined the challenges faced by the pandemic in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. The research, combined with practical assistance, helped victims develop coping mechanisms to survive.

The ‘school of human rights and social justice’ for young students in Timor-Leste continued. This year more than 100 university students attended activities, building their commitment to fight against the recurrence of past violations.

Strengthening linkages and increasing social capital of human rights defenders

By linking the Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission with Timor-Leste’s Centro Nacional Chega! or CNC, AJAR facilitated exchanges of knowledge and strategies on truth-seeking, reconciliation, and designing urgent reparations programs. Young people from Papua, and other parts of Indonesia and Timor-Leste, visited the Aceh TRC to deepen their understanding of the work of truth commissions.

As a member of the Global Initiative for Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation, AJAR and partners worked to identify best practices for supporting women survivors of sexual violence, and children born of rape, in Timor-Leste, Nepal, Bosnia Herzegovina, and South Africa. Comparative studies on searching mechanisms in Latin America and Timor-Leste, and peace processes in Aceh and El Salvador were developed.

Contributing technical assistance, along with policy and legal inputs

AJAR contributed to regional and national links to UN bodies. Inputs, along with victims’ testimonies, were provided to UN events on reparations, focusing on empowering Timor-Leste’s stolen children.


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