Profile | Vision & Mission | Focus Program | Structure of Organization | Others
Two years before KontraS (The Commission for “the Disappeared” and Victims of Violence) was founded, the hope for a new society in Indonesia under a democratic system was almost destroyed. In 1996, Indonesia’s authoritarian regime took steps to destroy political aspirations, and muzzle the voices of the so-called “undercurrent” of political opposition.
The victims were not only political parties, but also nearly all independent and community-based organizations. NGOs and student movements experienced cooptation and intimidation through increasingly brutal investigations, arrests and detentions. Some were done through “official” channels while others were conducted secretly and arbitrarily.
These actions occurred as a result of New Order regime’s need to consolidate its power before the 1997 general election. Predicting that violence might result from reactions to the general elections and the general session of the consultative assembly, a number of NGOs established KIP-HAM, the Independent Commission for the Monitoring of Human Rights Violations, located at Jl. Diponegoro 74, Jakarta Pusat.
The New Order regime became more and more despotic in an attempt to keep their power. They victimized political opposition by muzzling and controlling political parties. They also targeted grassroots political activists by abducting a number of students, NGO activists and vocal political party’s members.
At this time the first enforced disappearances, of Desmond Mahesa, Pius Lustrilanang, and Haryanto Taslam, came to the surface, and began to raise people’s anxieties. Violence continued as economic crisis continued to escalate.
This critical phase of the New Order regime intensified as the regime increased its repressive actions, arrests, and military operations. The State, using military agents, conducted kidnappings and arrests. Student activists such as: Andi Arief, Waluyo Jati, Nezar Patria, Herman Hendrawan, Bimo Petrus, Mugiyanto, Wiji Thukul, Suyat and others became victims of enforced disappearance. At the same time, the pro-democracy movement demonstrated to show its opposition to this increased repression.
With a deep concern for the increasing number of victims of state sponsored violence, activist from NGOs and student organization such as YLBHI (Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation), Elsam (Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy), AJI (Alliance of Independent Journalists), KIPP (General Elections Monitoring Independent Commission), PIPHAM, PMII (Indonesian Islamic Student Movement), and CPSM decided to establish an investigative task force to find parties responsible violence and disappearances. This effort was also supported by a number of influential persons.
It was at this point, March 20, 1998, that KIP-HAM transformed into KontraS: The Commission for “the Disappeared” and Victims of Violence. With a powerful alliance behind it, KontraS became a leading organization confronting the authoritarianism of the Soeharto regime. During that period, the tactical and strategic nature of the task at hand dominated KontraS’ performance.
With the fall of Soeharto, many expected that a new era would emerge in Indonesia. However, the Habibie political regime suffered from weak political leadership, strong influences from the old regime, and a lack of commitment to the eradication of the roots of authoritarianism—such as militarism. This caused bigger and more serious problems: horizontal conflict, rampant corruption, and uncertain law enforcement.
It was during Habibie’s leadership that KontraS was forced to confront significant structural problems in the government. This included the innermost characteristic of the authoritarian New Order regime: militarism. Militarism was at the center of social riots, disappeared persons and the killing of students. KontraS started addressing this culture of militarism in its original and structural form. In this period the student movement became a key support for the work of KontraS.
The multitude of parties and ideologies in the post-Soeharto period created the possibility that many old problems would develop into new conflicts and violence. KontraS therefore has to face all forms of “horizontal” as well as political violence to help build a new, strong, more mature and effective organization.
On 2004, KontraS, KontraS Aceh, KontraS Papua, KontraS Sumatera Utara agreed to establish the Federation of KontraS as an organization for coordinating the activities of all members. Now, the Members of Federation are : KontraS, KontraS Papua, KontraS Sumatera Utara, KontraS Sulawesi and ad hoc KontraS East Timor.
In national level KontraS is a member of The Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) and The International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID). In the regional level KontraS is member of The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN), Solidarity of Asian People Advocacy (SAPA Forum) and Asian NGOs Network on NHRI’s (ANNI). Since 2008, KontraS is a strategic partner of Amnesty International in Indonesia.