Indonesia: Australia and other Western powers complicit in 1965 massacres, tribunal finds

Suspected leftists held by the military during the mass killings that followed the Western-backed 1965 Indonesian military coup.

East Timor’s decision to take Australia to the Hague over Australia’s refusal to obey international law — and grant East Timor its legitimate share of oil and gas resources — comes just weeks after a tribunal at the Hague found Australia was complicit in the murders in Indonesia in 1965.

ABC News said on July 20 that a non-binding international tribunal at The Hague had found Australia, Britain and the United States were “complicit in facilitating the 1965 mass killings in Indonesia”.

In 1965, a Western-backed military coup led by General Suharto overthrew the nationalist government of President Sukarno, which was supported by the Indonesian Community Party (PKI). The world’s third largest communist party at the time, the PKI had about 3 million members.

After Suharto seized power, the military and military-backed militias carried out a mass slaughter in which anywhere between 500,000 to 3 million leftists and suspected leftists were killed. The PKI was physically exterminated, with thousands of suspected members also jailed and the party outlawed.

ABC News said the International People's Tribunal at The Hague ruled that Indonesia committed crimes against humanity.

The tribunal's report found Australia, the US and Britain were complicit in the crimes by using propaganda to manipulate international opinion in favour of the Indonesian army. The report said Australia and Britain “shared the US aim of seeking to bring about the overthrow of President Sukarno”.

“They continued with this policy even after it had become abundantly clear that killings were taking place on a mass and indiscriminate basis. On balance, this appears to justify the charge of complicity.”

Australia’s support for Suharto’s coup and mass killings had already been made clear by then-prime minister Harold Holt, who infamously told a meeting at the Australian-American Association in New York that “with 500,000 to one million Communist sympathisers knocked off, I think it is safe to assume a reorientation has taken place”.

Backed by Western powers, the Suharto dictatorship then opened the country to Western corporations, joining the International Monetary Fund in 1967. Suharto ruled with an iron fist, repressing opposition until a mass pro-democracy uprising in 1998 forced his resignation.

However, Indonesia remains ruled by a corrupt elite. TeleSUR English said on August 20 that the government had decided to retain its 51-year-old ban on “communist ideology”.

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