“A bullet hit my head and I had to be operated several times…There are still bullet splinters in my head but I cannot afford the necessary treatment… I hope that this violence will not be repeated. The government has to pay attention to us. There has to be a court to try the perpetrators and a truth commission. If the perpetrators are not tried, they will feel encouraged to repeat what they have done, maybe to do even worse.”
This is a young woman’s testimony of what happened to her at a massacre during a peaceful demonstration in May 1999 in Lhokseumawe, northern Aceh. On that fateful day the Indonesian military killed more than 50 people and wounded more than 100. The perpetrators have never been brought to justice.
The young woman is one of the tens of thousands of people affected by the 30 years of conflict in Aceh. More than 15,000 people were killed and thousands tortured or disappeared.
The tsunami in December 2004 devastated the province and its people but also brought a new beginning for Aceh. It offered Acehnese something that that they had been longing for so long: to live peacefully with their brothers and sisters.
On 15 August 2005 the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) finally signed a peace agreement.
Looking back at the past five years it is obvious that amazing achievements have been made in Aceh. In addition to the successful post-tsunami reconstruction several parts of the peace agreement have been implemented as planned.
Soon after the peace agreement political prisoners were released, weapons handed over and Indonesian soldiers withdrawn. Additionally, a long-term reintegration programme has been introduced for former combatants to prevent them from returning to arms.
Yet there are still challenges to guarantee a sustained peace in Aceh. What the young woman above asks for is indeed an unfulfilled promise of the peace agreement of 2005. Aceh should have established a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission within one year of the peace deal.
Neither the national government of Indonesia nor the provincial government of Aceh has shown any serious efforts to implement the justice mechanisms as stipulated in the agreement.
CAFOD works together with partners in Aceh to promote long-term peace and justice. Our partners don’t believe that peace can be sustained unless the people affected by the conflict get justice.
They support people in their efforts to receive reparations from the government and to come to terms with their past. And they lobby parliamentarians to make the establishment of a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission their priorities.
They support and represent people affected by the conflict in their struggle for truth and justice. As well as collecting evidence of past human rights violations, providing psychological assistance and strengthening people to speak out.
Most of all, our partners in Aceh support people emotionally. They meet them in small groups on a regular basis to discuss their concerns and develop joint plans for action.
Through our work, people affected by the conflict have turned into active citizens, who don’t ask for pity but rather claim their rights self-confidently. To involve people in the struggle for justice is an important step to end the climate of impunity that still exists in Aceh today.
Earlier this year our partners organised a public testimony for people massacred in Lhokseumawe. The commemoration was attended by more than 1,000 people.
The event enabled some of the survivors to speak about their experiences at a well attended ceremony. Apart from the young woman who still suffers from bullet splinters in her head, there was a mother who lost her youngest child at this incident and a young man who was shot in the legs with 19 bullets at the age of 13. One victim left the stage prematurely because he still couldn’t bear recalling his memories.
The fifth anniversary of the peace agreement cannot be celebrated without noting the unfulfilled promises. There is no doubt that a lot has been achieved so far, but some work still needs to be done in order to guarantee sustained peace in Aceh.
That is why we have not ended our work after the tsunami. We want to secure what we have supported so far. A possible breakout of violence might put everything that we have achieved in the last five years in danger.
Posted by VeraR