11 Years of KontraS:
Surviving Persecutions and Keeping Stronger
Mugiyanto and Mary Aileen D. Bacalso
Enforced or involuntary disappearance is not an exclusively Latin American experience but a global phenomenon that demands a global response. Families and victims of enforced disappearance don’t only share the same tears, fears and uncertainties but they also share the common struggle to combat enforced disappearances and all other forms of human rights violations and to fight for global justice. They shall also partake in whatever small and great victories they may achieve along the way.
Solidarity defines our common humanity. It gives each one of us the duty to stand up, not just for our own rights but also for those of the others. This spirit of international solidarity is what the Madres de Plaza de Mayo – Linea Fundadora of Argentina brings to Indonesia. Unmindful of geographical distance, language, cultural and many other diversities, they crossed continental boundaries to participate in events related to the 11th anniversary of the founding of KontraS and the commemoration of Kartini Day.
Lidya Taty Almeida and Aurora Morea, representing the Madres de Plaza de Mayo - Linea Fundadora, the world’s symbol of the struggle against enforced disappearances and impunity, are presently in Indonesia. On this same occasion, Mrs. Angkhana Neelaphaijit, wife of disappeared lawyer, Somchai Neelaphaijit, joins the mothers in Argentina in forging their unity and solidarity with the Indonesian people. Women human rights defenders, representing the families of victims of human rights violations from Timor Leste are also present to extend the same solidarity with their Indonesian neighbors.
With them are mothers and wives of desaparecidos and other women who are direct victims of human rights violations from different parts of Indonesia. Their togetherness supports each other in building solidarity and in learning from the strong and dedicated women exemplified by RA Kartini of Indonesia at the beginning of the 20th century and the Madres de Plaza de Mayo of Argentina during the last quarter of the 20th century.
Since thirty-two years ago, dressed in black and veiled with white scarves with embroidery of the names of their disappeared children, the Madres de Plaza de Mayo have been marching around the Plaza de Mayo of Buenos Aires for over three decades. Their struggle continues to inspire us in the Asian region to campaign against the failure of our own governments to guarantee and protect their citizens’ fundamental rights, especially the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance provided for in the United Nations Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance adopted by the UN in December 2006.
Indonesia is no exception. Its process of democratization has failed to prosecute the perpetrators of the killings and disappearances committed during the darkest 32 years of Suharto dictatorship. More violations are being committed, including the killing of our very own former AFAD Chairperson, Munir. Indonesia all the more miserably failed the test of its democracy when at the end of 2008, Major General Muchdi Purwopranjono, a former deputy to the State Intelligence Agency (Badan Intelijen Negara or BIN), was acquitted for his involvement for the treacherous murder of Munir.
Such violations of human rights are also manifested in the absence of prosecutions of security forces who perpetrated violations during counter-insurgency operations in Aceh, East Timor, Papua, Lampung, Tanjung Priok and many others.
Amidst all these, during the last 11 years, KontraS, one of AFAD’s member-organizations in Indonesia, has been there to bravely respond to the challenges of human rights in the country. It has survived persecutions in their most brutal forms, such as, among other cases, the two consecutive raids of its office in 2002 and 2003. KontraS had to face the most bitter test of its strength during the brutal killing of its main pillar, its Founder Munir, on 7 September 2004.
The victims and the victims themselves, who are KontraS’ reason for existence, are the very source of KontraS’ formidable strength. Accompanying KontraS are human rights defenders in Indonesia, including victims and relatives of victims of human rights violations who have been consistently playing their important role in documenting cases, organizing and empowering themselves in more ways than one – all in the name of truth, justice, redress and the reconstruction of the historical memory of the disappeared. Inspired by their Latin American sisters and brothers, victims of human rights violations in Indonesia, in their black shirts and black umbrellas, march in silence and stand in front of Indonesia’s Presidential Palace every Thursday afternoon. They hold pictures of their disappeared loved ones and posters conveying a strong message that the government is accountable for the cases of human rights of the past. This coming Thursday, the victims of Indonesia, linking arms with their Latin American sisters, will be on their 107th silent black demonstration in front of Indonesia’s Presidential Palace. In unison, they will continue cry aloud: Never forget the past, otherwise, it is doomed to be repeated!
On the occasion of its 11th anniversary, in the name of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, we salute KontraS and victims of human rights violations in Indonesia for having withstood the tests of time - for having surpassed the violent storms in its journey towards a world without disappeared people, where truth, justice and peace reign supreme. KontraS has survived persecutions and amidst all these, it is keeping stronger!
Long live KontraS! Long live the struggle against enforced disappearances and against impunity in Indonesia!
Mugiyanto, the Chairperson of the IKOHI
and of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mary Aileen D. Bacalso , the Secretary General of AFAD, can be reached at email@example.com