A leading human rights lawyer has called for measures to ensure that the perpetrators of mass killings in Indonesia are brought to justice, at a screening of the BAFTA-winning documentary The Act of Killing, held at Wolfson College on behalf of the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society. Jennifer Robinson, a Wikileaks lawyer and Director of Legal Advocacy at the Bertha Foundation, made the comments by way of introduction to the film, which investigates how up to a million Indonesians were murdered in the 1960s, at the hands of a government that is still in power.
Mrs Robinson, who lived and worked in Indonesia and has represented West Papuan independence activists for the past decade, praised the film for its important role in shedding light on what has been referred to as the forgotten genocide, obscured by a censorship and propaganda campaign by the Suharto regime in Indonesia. Addressing an audience of over 100 people, she argued that, “those responsible for heinous crimes must be held accountable in order to deter acts like these from happening in the future, so that society says ‘never again’.
Describing the transitional justice mechanisms developed by the Indonesia government, she argued that these were designed as a means to escape international prosecution, and had singularly failed to deal with past crimes, citing the Human Rights Court that has failed to bring a single successful conviction, and a proposed Truth Reconciliation Commission that was stuck down as unconstitutional. The consequences of such failings were starkly brought home by her assertion that, “Where societies fail to examine and come to terms with their past, a culture of impunity develops and that allows a continuing circle of violence. Indonesia is the perfect example of this.”
Mrs Robinson concluded by describing the ongoing violence perpetrated by the regime, both through its illegal annexation of West Papua, and the widespread crimes against humanity committed in East Timor. She was joined by the West Papua independence leader and Nobel Prize nominee Benny Wenda, who vivdly recounted his own experience of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Indonesian regime, his current exile in Oxford, and efforts to secure self-determination of West Papua through the Free West Papua Campaign.
The event was one of a series of free termly film screenings that shed light on issues related to law, justice and society organized by the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society at Wolfson College. The film was followed by a related event on 7th May entitled Popular Representations of Development, which brought together the FLJS programmes in international development and law, film, and literature to reassess the breadth and popularity of development studies through analysis of literature, films, and other non-conventional forms of representation.
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