The National Commission on Human Rights has declared that the mysterious execution-style killings between 1982-1985 constituted a gross human rights violation.
Trimurjo, alias Kenthus, remembers clearly the exact order of execution, nearly 30 years ago, of his friends: Wahyo, Tetuko, Kojur, Iren, Slamet Gajah, Gaplek, Polimron, Peno and Bandi Ponyol. They were all shot dead, one by one. Their gunned-down lifeless bodies were left out on the side of roads. One November evening in 1982, Kenthus explained, his friend Wahyu was shot dead within the complex of the Sanggrahan, today known as Yogyakarta's Giwangan terminal. The day after, he intended to visit his friend's family to mourn. But his other friends forbade him to go anywhere.
"If I had gone there, that night, it could have been my turn to die, a target of Operation Gali," said the 57-year-old man at his home in Yogyakarta last week. Operation Gali was short for Gabungan Anak Liar (Gangs of Young Hoodlums). The mysterious shootings, nicknamed Petrus, ordered out by then President Suharto to curb the soaring crime rate then, targeted young men who were suspected of having criminal records, a criminal reputation or simply looked criminal because of their tattoos.
A day later, Tetuko and Kojur were found dead with bullet holes in their head. "I presumed it was my turn next," said Kenthus. He got even more frightened after another friend, Iren, was executed toward the end of that year, gunned down in a pigsty in front of his wife and children.
Kenthus was no criminal. He had been a member of Golkar's security detail during the 1982 general elections. Everyday, he worked as a security guard at the Bhineka Tunggal Ika Senior High School in Yogyakarta. His friends Wahyo, Tetuko and Kojur, would often "hang out" at the old terminal, now a tourist amusement park on Jalan Kol. Soegiono. "My friends would sell bus tickets," Kenthus said, suggesting they were scalpers.
After three of his friends were murdered, Kenthus seemed to be the next targets. Three officers turned up at the Bhineka school to pick him up. But the school principal saved him. "The principal said I had left the building. I was actually on the second floor," he recalled.
After the officers left, Kenthus sought his two friends, Monyol and Mantri, who were also wanted. "I wasn't brave enough to go home," he said. The three of them traveled to Jakarta by train to ask for assistance from the Legal Aid Foundation of Indonesia, or YLBHI. This foundation at the time consisted of human rights activists like Yap Thiam Hien, Adnan Buyung Nasution, Abdul Rahman Saleh and Maqdir Ismail.
After a week of hiding at YLBHI, their defections reached the ears of a Yogyakarta military officer, Lieutenant Colonel M. Hasbi, leader of the operation to eradicate gangs. According to Kenthus, Hasbi called Adnan Buyung Nasution demanding the return of Kenthus and his friends to Yogyakarta. Buyung refused, unless Hasbi issued a letter guaranteeing the three men would be safe and alive.
Hasbi caved in. He issued a letter, stating Kenthus and his friends would be spared from being killed when they returned. According to Kenthus, Maqdir Ismail escorted them to Yogyakarta. "At Yogyakarta's train station, four soldiers with big rifles were waiting for us," he said. Also with them was Artidjo Alkautsar, an activist for the Legal Aid Foundation in Yogyakarta at the time. Artidjo is a Supreme Court Judge today.
According to Kenthus, the four soliders demanded to take him and his two friends away but their efforts were stopped by Maqdir and Artidjo. "If you want to shoot them, shoot me first," said Kenthus, quoting Maqdir and Artidjo. The four soldiers eventually stood down.
Kenthus and his comrades were then taken to Marni Basyaruddin's house, another activist of LBH Yogyakarta, where they stayed for three days. But the intimidation did not stop. "There was a call to the house threatening to throw a grenade," said Kenthus. On the fourth day, Maqdir escorted them to the Indonesian Military District Command. To Tempo, Maqdir verified Kenthus' account. But he said he does not remember details of the dialog at that time.
For seven days, the three men occupied a cell at the military base. While they did not undergo any physical torture, Kenthus was mentally terrorized. "There was a soldier there who said, your friends are dead, and I will kill you too!" There were blood smears on the cell's walls which added to the horror.
From the cell at the military base, they were moved to a police detention facility. There, they were also interrogated. "Vendors from Malioboro were gathered, and asked if I ever extorted money off them," said Kenthus. "If one of them had said yes, I would have definitely been instantly shot." Luckily, Kenthus was never pointed out by them.
After five days at the police office, Kenthus and his two friends were released. But their suffering did not end there. For years after, every Monday morning, he had to report to the military headquarters in Yogyakarta. Almost every day, said Kenthus, his house was also visited by police intelligence officers.
Today, he recalls the letter sparing his life from Leutenant Colonel Hasbi. "That man was like God. My life was in his hands," Kenthus said.
Having begun in Yogyakarta, the operation to get rid of suspected criminals later spread across the country. Between 1982 and 1985, thousands of people classified as criminals for various reasons, expected to be shot dead by police or military officers. On Tuesday last week, the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas Ham) announced that the execution-style shootings, known as operation 'petrus' were a gross human rights violation.
M. Hasbi, who now manages the Army Veterans and Widows TNI Union in Central Java, blantantly admits to being involved in those shootings. "The petrus operation was a form of shock therapy," he said in Semarang, last week. In 1982, said Hasbi, Yogyakarta's citizens felt threatened because they were frequently assaulted by thugs and hoodlums.
According to Hasbi, as the Military Commander for the District of Yogyakarta, he would report his cases to the Commander of the Diponegoro Military Division, Major General Muhammad Ismail. "I see. Yes, do it. Just eliminate them," said Hasbi, quoting Ismail who at one time was governor of Central Java. Hasbi proceeded to gather his men and coodinate with the police. He remembers that the operation began in November 1982.
Hasbi then compiled a list of the names of the suspected gang members. The reports, he said, came from the community, which were then filtered by intelligence from the military, the police and the prosecutors' office. "I've forgotten the number of thugs on the list," he said. Then, the people listed were summoned and given an identity card, known as the KTL. "If there was an operation, the crooks who held this KTL were safe."
According to the former regent of Boyolali and Central Java legislature deputy speaker, during such an operation the thugs that didn't have their identity cards would flee. When that happened, Hasbi claimed, the officers had licence to shoot them. "They aimed at the foot, but they could have shot anywhere," he said.
Hasbi does not remember the number of people they killed. "It happened a long time ago," he said, still insisting that the petrus operation did not violate any laws. He does not regret leading the operation in Yogyakarta. "Because it was a direct order from my superior."
Komnas Ham's head of the Ad Hoc Inquiry Team into this mysterious shootings, Yosep Adi Prasetyo, said the operation in Yogyakarta was later emulated by the military in many other regions. Yosep further said that they acted on orders from the Restoration of Security and Order Operations Command, which was ledby Admiral Soedomo and General L.B. Moerdani. And above them, was President Suharto.
Working from July 2008 to August 2011, the Inquiry Team examined 115 people, including witnesses, victims and perpetrators. It was not easy questioning the witnesses. Many of the family members did not directly witness the executions of their fathers or their husbands. "The witnesses only knew their husbands had been summoned by the military district chief and never returned home again," he said.
In a number of areas, said Yosep, many of the victim's widows had been married off to the executioner. "They found it difficult to speak up because they would have to retell the crimes of their new husbands," said Yosep.
The files of this case have already been submitted by Komnas Ham to the Attorney General's Office (AGO). However an adhoc human rights tribunal has yet to be established. Deputy Attorney General Dharmono has given up on the matter. "Human rights laws are not retroactive," he said. Bathi Mulyono, a victim spared from the killings in Semarang, claims he always knew the AGO would respond in this way. "It seems like we will die waiting for justice," Bathi said.
By Anton Septian (Jakarta), Muh. Syaifullah (Yogyakarta), Rofiuddin (Semarang)
No. 49/12, July 31, 2012
Victim of petrus in Pondok Kelapa, East Jakarta, 1984.