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The Helsinki MoU included a far-reaching provision providing a right to compensation, in the form of land, employment or social security for those unable to work, to ‘all civilians who have suffered a demonstrable loss’ in the conflict. This agenda of compensation was thus not linked explicitly to any wider truth-seeking or transitional justice framework. Instead, it continued a policy that had begun prior even to the signing of the MoU under which payments (diyat) were made to compensate members of the community who had lost family members in the conflict, without inquiring into who had killed them or under what circumstances. This policy was initiated by Azwar Abubakar, then deputy governor of Aceh, in 2002 and drew on Islamic law precepts about compensation as a means to substitute for eye-for-eye punishments in cases of criminal law. It also reflected a broader mindset in the Jakarta government and amidst sections of the local political elite that a thirst for revenge among family members of slain rebels and villagers was fuelling the conflict, as well as a frank assessment by them that legal investigations into killings of civilians by the military would be impossible.[1]

The closest Aceh has come to a policy of reparations in the years since the Helsinki MoU has been through the policies implemented by the Aceh Reintegration Agency (Badan Reintegrasi Damai Aceh, BRA). This body was formed in February 2006 as an ad hoc body through a President’s Instruction and a Governor’s Decree. Its mandate has largely focused on reintegrating former GAM combatants into society, and much controversy has surrounded the ways by which it went about disbursing cash and other forms of assistance to former GAM fighters. In fact, at this point it is important to note a larger context of transitional justice activities in Aceh: the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) framework according to which many of them were carried out. Disarmament and demobilization of former GAM fighters was from the start seen as a key to the success of the peace process in Aceh (various provisions of the Helsinki MoU dealt with the issue), and numerous programs were carried out and funds expended, to achieve these goals. Space does not permit a thorough review of the various DDR activities that took place in Aceh, or their failings and successes (a useful summary is MSR 2010). It is worth noting, however, that the DDR framework has provided an overarching meta-narrative through which many other activities that in other contexts might be considered part of transitional justice have been carried out. The core guiding principle of post-conflict activities in Aceh has very much been ‘reintegration’ rather than ‘transitional justice’.

A good example here is reparations. These have very much been seen as part of the reintegration process. Thus a large part of the work of the BRA has focused on assisting civilians who were negatively affected by the conflict. According to a World Bank report of 2010, to the end of 2009, the BRA had spent 72.2 billion rupiah (about US$7.4 million) to run its programs, with 43 billion (59.9 percent) disbursed to civilians. The money came from many different sources, including international agencies and local and central government. Various forms of economic assistance to individuals have been paid, including a continuation of diyat payments to family members of people who were killed in the conflict, the construction of houses to replace those destroyed (26,000 by late 2010, according to the BRA)39 and artificial limbs and other assistance to people who were seriously injured. There was considerable policy inconsistency within the agency and major problems of implementation, and the agency itself claims that its job is far from complete; however, there is no further commitment of money from the central government.

BRA programs to help civilians generated considerable controversy among local academics, peace scholars, civil society activists and victims, specifically about whether such programs could truly be considered reparations, from a transitional justice perspective. The government made this claim, at least implicitly. In contrast, many activists say that reparations first require truth seeking, in order to determine who is and who is not eligible for assistance. In this perspective, the efforts so far by the BRA amount only to emergency treatment as part of the general postconflict recovery effort. Though they are thus defensible, according to the activists, they must be seen as the beginning, not the end, of the process of compensating victims.[2]

One particular point of concern was that in the early years of its operations, BRA did not assist women who had experienced sexual or physical assault during the conflict because BRA refused to acknowledge rape cases in the absence of medical or other physical evidence.[3] It was only in 2009 that many such women were included in BRA’s target lists. This change happened after various local NGOs agreed to establish a Task Force on Emergency Reparations for women who experienced sexual assault or other forms of gender-based violence during the conflict. The Task Force met the BRA management and promotes the idea of emergency reparations for victims, providing the BRA with a list of women who need such assistance.

  • [1] See Aspinall, ‘Peace without Justice’, pp. 25-26 for more discussion.
  • [2] This opinion was aired in many discussions or workshops in Aceh attended by one ofthe authors (Fajran Zain), such as the Seminar and Workshop on Truth and Peace inAceh (23-24 September 2007), National Seminar and the Dissemination of the InitialDraft of TRC Bill (23-24 July 2008), Restrategy Workshop for the Empowerment ofthe Truth Seeking Coalition, KPK (4 June 2009), Public Discussion and Focus GroupDiscussion on Reparations in Aceh (24-25 June 2009), Socialization Agenda of theInitial Draft TRC Bill in 10 Districts (July - Aug 2009), Coordination Meeting betweenTRC Stakeholders Aceh and the Ministry of Law and Human Rights (17 July 2009).See also Ross Clarke, Galuh Wandita and Samsidar, Considering Victims: The AcehPeace Process from a TransitionalJustice Perspective (New York: International Centerfor Transitional Justice, 2008), pp. 32-33.
  • [3] Samsidar, ‘Kehidupan korban yang semakin sulit’, in M. Nashrun & W. Adi (eds.)Fakta Bicara: Mengungkap Pelanggaran HAMdi Aceh 1989-2005, Vol. 1 (Banda Aceh,Indonesia: Koalisi NGO HAM, 2011), pp. 209-213.
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