Our analysis suggests that the transitional justice agenda in Aceh has been beset by two formidable challenges, both of which relate to the way by which transitional justice has been bound up in the politics of the Aceh peace process and its relationship to the wider political context. On the one hand, transitional justice in Aceh will necessarily take place in a way that is fundamentally conditioned by its Indonesian context. Yet the Aceh peace process, and hence the possibility of transitional justice, occurred at a time when the wider transitional justice process at the national level was already stalling. There are many reasons for this, most of which are beyond the scope of our discussion in this chapter, but one important factor was the continuing political influence exerted at least indirectly by the military. Everybody who counts in Indonesia’s official politics knows that the military would be a major loser in any process of truth telling about the Aceh conflict, and they can see little to benefit for themselves in antagonising the military on this issue. Without a supportive national context, the Aceh transitional justice agenda has therefore stalled, just like the process at the national level.
The second challenge concerns the local context. Aceh’s new rulers have been able to point to lack of action at the national level toward (re)establishing a framework for an Aceh TRC. In part, their reluctance to either press Jakarta on the issue or to bypass the centre and establish a local process is a result of a similar attitude of political pragmatism as that exhibited by national politicians: they see little to be gained from antagonising their most fearsome former rivals - and the most potentially dangerous peace spoilers - in the military, when there is so much to be gained politically and economically from securing the peace. At the same time, as already pointed out several times in this essay, former leaders and members of GAM also have reasons to suspect that a formal truth telling process would implicate them in crimes against civilians during the conflict years, crimes that do not fit easily within their narrative of an entirely ‘vertical’ conflict that pitted Aceh against the centre. Indeed, given the political dominance of the movement now in many parts of Aceh - and the thuggish behaviour of many of its supporters - it is even questionable whether people would feel sufficiently secure to be able to discuss former GAM abuses in formal hearings in GAM base areas. More broadly, however, many other influential voices in Aceh, including those of many religious scholars (ulama) have been raised to argue that the time is not ripe now, if it ever will be, for ‘digging into’ (mengungkit-ungkit) the unpalatable past.
Despite the efforts of many of Aceh’s highly committed civil society organisations, the lack of strong political backing suggests there is a possibility that Aceh will become like several post-conflict societies (Mozambique is one example), where there is an ongoing peace process without truth and reconciliation.