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Forensic experts urged to join Indonesian grave exhumations

May 24, 2016 - 12:14 AM

JAKARTA, Indonesia - A human rights group urged Indonesia to involve forensic experts in exhuming mass graves linked to massacres a half-century ago to ensure the preservation of crucial evidence and allow for the identification of bodies.

The statement from New York-based Human Rights Watch comes a month after President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo ordered officials to start documenting mass grave locations for the estimated 500,000-plus victims of the 1965-1966 "anti-communist" massacres.

Without forensic experts, exhumations can destroy critical evidence and greatly complicate the identification of bodies, it said in a release Monday.

"Exhumation of mass graves of victims of 1965-66 is an important step toward accountability that deserves the support of the Indonesian public and foreign donors," said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Earlier this month, the government announced it would form a team to investigate a list of 122 alleged mass grave compiled by victims' advocacy groups.

The killings began in October 1965, shortly after an apparent abortive coup in which six right-wing generals were killed. Suharto, an unknown major general at the time, filled the power vacuum and blamed the assassinations on Indonesia's Communist Party, which was then the largest outside the Soviet Union and China, with 3 million members.

In a May 16 letter to the government, Human Rights Watch also called on the government to arrange for security at these sites to prevent unauthorized exhumations.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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