Sat, 12 Aug 2000

Rights body to exhume eight Priok graves

JAKARTA (JP): The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) plans to start exhuming eight of the 22 graves believed to contain victims of the 1984 bloody incident in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, later this month, its executive said on Friday.

Komnas member Maj. Gen. (ret) Koesparmono Irsan said the decision to exhume the eight graves was made after a team from the commission succeeded in gathering detailed information on the remains.

"The remaining 14 are still being looked into," the former senior police detective told a meeting between dozens of relatives of the victims and Attorney General Marzuki Darusman at the latter's office here.

According to Koesparmono, Komnas HAM had yet to decide on the precise date for the procedure. He gave no reason.

The remains of the victims, he said, would be important evidence for the team to aid their work in completing their findings to be submitted to the Attorney General's Office.

The unearthed remains would be examined later by forensic experts to help find the cause of their death which could become legal evidence for the Attorney General's Office in bringing the case to the court later, he said.

"That's why we asked officers from both the National Police and the Attorney General's Office to accompany the team during the digging of the graves," he said.

Koesparmono explained that the commission's team had obtained consent from Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso to exhume the graves, as required by a city regulation.

The victims' relatives, led by Beni Biki, the son of the late Amir Biki, a local Muslim preacher who was shot dead in the incident, were accompanied by Koesparmono and several other Komnas HAM staff and activists from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).

The case of the Tanjung Priok incident, which was buried for years during former president Soeharto's rule, has been in the hands of the Attorney General's Office.

But the office required that the commission include forensic examination results in their findings.

The initial findings submitted by the commission were considered by many to be based only on data and testimonies made by the military and government.

The findings, for example, stated that there was no evidence of intentional mass killings or burials during or after the incident.

The Sept. 12, 1984 incident revolves around clashes between civilians and military personnel which allegedly erupted following emotionally charged lectures at Tanjung Priok's Rawa Badak Mosque by preachers, who were reportedly criticizing the government.

The military claimed 23 people were killed and 60 were injured; eyewitnesses said they saw a truck loaded with charred bodies.

During the Friday's hearing, Munir from Kontras handed new evidence -- in the form of documents -- of the bloodshed to Marzuki, proving that the past regime had deliberately obscured the identity of the victims.

The documents consist, among other things, of copies of publications which revealed statements made by a number of state officials, including Soeharto, who at the time blamed the incident on the Tanjung Priok residents. (bby)