Graves Could Hold Bodies of 5,000 Killed in 1965-66, Indonesian Group Says

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata
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171115-indonesia-communists-620.jpg Anti-Communist Youth Group members Ade Selon (left) and Rahmat Imran demonstrate outside the offices of Komnas HAM (National Commission of Human Rights) in Jakarta, Nov. 15, 2017.
Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata/BenarNews

Updated at 11:50 a.m. ET on 2017-11-16

A man representing victims of massive anti-communist purges 50 years ago in Indonesia told reporters Wednesday he had informed officials about a new set of mass graves that could contain remains of up to 5,000 massacre victims.

The group recently discovered 16 mass graves in Central Java’s Purwodadi town, about 517 km (323 miles) east of the capital Jakarta, and on the island of Bali and in East Nusa Tenggara, the country’s southernmost province, according to Bedjo Untung, chairman of the 1965 Murder Victims Research Foundation (YPKP 65).

Bedjo said that he gave the locations of the graves to Indonesia’s human rights commission, locally known as Komnas HAM.

“There are more that I have not listed yet. There are also [mass graves] in Bali and in East Nusa Tenggara. At least I noted there are 138 and many others,” he told reporters after handing over his report to human rights officials and asking them to investigate.

In October 1965, following an attempted military coup against President Sukarno in which six generals were slain, the Indonesian government gave free rein to soldiers and civilian militias to kill anyone they considered a communist, historians say.

At least 500,000 people died between 1965 and 1966 in an ensuing bloodbath that victimized members of the ethnic Chinese minority, trade unionists, teachers, artists and suspected members of PKI, the Indonesian communist party, which the government outlawed in ’66 and whose membership was largely wiped out during the purge.

Last month, the National Security Archive, a U.S.-based NGO promoting public transparency, released 39 documents from the American Embassy in Jakarta dating to 1965-66. The documents showed that U.S. diplomatic personnel were fully aware of the scale and savagery of the mass killings, Human Rights Watch said.

How group calculated number of graves

According to Bedjo, at least 5,000 bodies were buried in mass graves in Purwodadi.

His group came up with the figure after calculating that, at the time, at least 50 political prisoners were abducted daily from a detention area over a three-month period in one location.

Bedjo said the bodies in mass graves in Purwodadi may have also come from other locations.

At the time of the anti-communist purge, Bedjo said, anyone suspected or considered to be a PKI member would be arrested indiscriminately.

“Those who were only followers were also arrested, or if their names were mentioned (as a PKI member), they would immediately be arrested,” said Bedjo, who held talks with Komnas HAM commissioner Amiruddin al-Rahab.

Bedjo said his group initially discovered 122 mass graves on Oct. 24, but recently found more in other locations.

Anti-communist group protests meeting

During Bedjo’s visit, members of the Anti-Communist Youth Movement (Gepak) demonstrated outside the human rights commission’s offices, urging Komnas Ham not to exhume the remains.

“Are they willing to experience the second LBH?" said Gepak leader Rahmat Imran over a loudspeaker. He was referring to a meeting by human rights activists and YPKP 65 in September that was shut down after demonstrators rioted outside the offices of the Legal Aid Institute (LBH).

After their rally, four Gepak representatives entered the commission’s building and met with Amiruddin.

“We do not want the communist groups to flourish,” said Ade Selon, chairman of the Jakarta Youth Movement, a Gepak affiliate.


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