General Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan
Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law, and Security
Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat 15
Republic of Indonesia
Thank you very much for your willingness to meet with Human Rights Watch representatives over the past two years. We greatly appreciate your readiness to engage on various human rights issues.
We write to you at this time regarding the Indonesian government’s expressed commitment to begin identifying, confirming, and exhuming alleged mass grave sites of victims of the 1965-66 massacres. Identification of possible victims and determination of how they died are important components of a process toward accountability for those crimes.
Mass grave sites are crime scenes that require the deployment of forensic experts with the requisite skill and precision to ensure that exhumation is done as part of a careful and systematic process that preserves crucial evidence and allows for identification of bodies. Exhumations without forensic experts can destroy critical evidence and greatly complicate the identification of bodies. In places like Kosovo and Iraq, spontaneous and disorganized exhumations greatly complicated victim identifications and destroyed evidence.
We therefore urge you to ensure that any exhumations are conducted with the assistance of international experts with experience in mass grave recovery operations. The Indonesian government should invite impartial international forensic experts, including those with experience working before criminal tribunals, to help preserve and analyze evidence in any newly accessible mass graves. We believe that the Indonesian government should seek the assistance of foreign governments and the United Nations to support such investigations. International donors should help finance the preservation and analysis of evidence that could be vital to future domestic accountability processes to address serious crimes.
One such organization with extensive experience and an unimpeachable record of credible and impartial investigations is the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (www.eaaf.org). The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense, EAAF) is a nongovernmental, not-for-profit, scientific organization that applies forensic sciences—mainly forensic anthropology and archaeology—to the investigation of human rights violations in Argentina and worldwide. EAAF was established in 1984 to investigate the cases of at least 9,000 “disappeared” people in Argentina under the military government that ruled from 1976-1983. Today, the team works in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Human Rights Watch would be happy to provide whatever assistance possible to help the Indonesian government undertake forensic exhumation of alleged mass grave sites that apply the best international practices.
Human Rights Watch