Declassified US documents show need to investigate 1965 atrocities in Indonesia

October 25, 2017 Asia , HUMAN RIGHTS , News , OPINION/NEWS

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Amnesty International


Newly-released US government documents on mass killings in Indonesia in 1965 have provided new momentum for the authorities to reveal the truth about the atrocities that have been ignored for decades, human rights NGO Amnesty International stated.

Last week, the US government made public 39 declassified documents in Jakarta – running to a total of 30,000 pages – under the request of the National Security Archive at The George Washington University.

On 1 October 1965, an alleged coup attempt took place in Jakarta. A small group of the military tried to seize power and six army generals were killed. What precisely happened next and who was responsible has never been established.

General Suharto crushed the possible coup attempt within days and blamed the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) for masterminding the attempt. A nationwide campaign of human rights violations was carried out against all those considered members of the Indonesian Communist Party and their suspected sympathisers.

According to different estimates, the number of victims may well have reached half-a-million deaths. Killings, arrests, torture and disappearances lasted for several years.

The previously secret documents are diplomatic cables sent by the US Embassy in Jakarta to the US Foreign Ministry, highlighting systematic human rights abuses during the 1965 atrocities.

For example, a telegram dated 28 December 1965 recorded that people accused of being part of the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party were brought to an unknown location where they were slaughtered and buried. Another cable from December 1965 stated that the Indonesian Army handed 10 to 15 prisoners over to civilians who then summarily killed them.

It remains unclear how authorities in Indonesia will use these reports to shine further light on the full facts of the mass killings of 1965, or to provide justice and reparations for survivors.

Amnesty International Indonesia now calls on the authorities to renew efforts to reveal the truth about the tragedy to ensure accountability and provide justice for survivors and their families.

Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia Director, said:

“These documents show how crucial it is for the Indonesian authorities to seek ways to ensure truth, justice and adequate and effective reparations, in accordance with Indonesia’s international obligations following the release of the declassified documents.

“We urge state institutions, including the Indonesian military which is mentioned many times in the archives, to respect the right to freedom of information and reveal their own records publicly. They must also respect the right to freedom of expression so that survivors, their families, academics and civil society can openly discuss what happened in 1965.

“We also call on the National Human Rights Commission to proactively use this momentum to continue the investigation into the 1965 human rights violations.”





A three-year investigation into the human rights violations committed in 1965 was carried out by the National Human Rights Commission and completed in July 2012.

It concluded that the abuses meet the criteria of gross human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, as defined by the Indonesian Law No. 26/2000 on Human Rights Courts.

To date, however, there has been no indication that the government will even launch a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, attempts to establish a truth commission on the national level have stalled due to a lack of political will.

Since 1966, Amnesty has documented human rights violations around the events of 1965. An archive of the organisation’s research can be accessed here:






Amnesty International is a non-governmental organisation focused on human rights with over 7 million members and supporters around the world. The stated objective of the organisation is “to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.”

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