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Manoa 12.1 (2000) 193-198

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I, the Accused

Abdul Latief

Your Honor, the Presiding Judge, and Members of the Tribunal

Experience is the master teacher, for each new experience becomes an exemplary model to be used ever after. It is through personal experience that we learn to distinguish between what is right and wrong, and to take what is wrong and make it right. For that reason, Your Honor, I wish here to relate all that I have experienced, seen, and heard during the thirteen years of my detention. It is my hope that through this judicial process my experiences might come to be fruitfully considered, and perhaps even contribute to the development of new policies.

As I reveal the kinds of suffering I have endured, please don't assume that my intention is solely to discredit the authorities and enforcement officials involved. It is my feeling, rather, that law enforcement needs to consider my personal experiences of illegal treatment and the infringement of basic human rights. I know that my tale is not the first of its kind; many others have already borne similar testimony. But my testimony is a singular opportunity for me to offer additional material, and thus further contribute to law enforcement's body of knowledge.

Your Honor, the Presiding Judge, and Members of the Tribunal

I, the accused, have been in detention from 11 October 1965 until this moment--a period approaching thirteen years. I was captured at the home of my cousin in the Bendungan Hilir neighborhood of Jakarta. I had gone there intending to send a letter requesting protection from Major Pranoto Reksosamodro, then acting Minister of the Army, while awaiting news from President and High Commander Soekarno. But before I could mail the letter, the house was set upon by troops from the Second Tomahawk Regiment, Siliwangi Brigade. Upon ascertaining that I was present in the home, my attackers entered the house and, without asking any questions or ordering me to surrender, immediately set upon me, first stabbing me in the right thigh with a bayonet and then shooting me in the left knee. When it looked like they were going to shoot me again, I ordered them to go ahead and fire. But just then, the unit commander arrived and ordered the troops to stand down. [End Page 193]

My body was covered in the blood that was spurting from the wounds in my legs. Nevertheless, the soldiers dragged me from the house to a side street fifteen or twenty meters away, where a Gaz jeep was waiting. Without dressing my wounds, which were still spurting blood at a tremendous rate, they loaded me into the vehicle on a makeshift stretcher made from a door.

I remember that I took off my wristwatch--which had been broken as I was being dragged out by the soldiers--and gave it to the commander. "You're good soldiers," I said to him. "I know that arresting me was your duty."

Having lost a large amount of blood, I was at the limits of my endurance when I said that, and I must have blacked out because the next thing I remember is waking up in the operating room of the Army General Hospital.

At the hospital I sensed how desperate my physical condition was, and as I drifted in and out of consciousness, I was plagued by a terrible, all-consuming thirst; the only thing I could think of was getting a drink of water. When I finally woke up, I found that my whole body was encased in a plaster cast. I couldn't move anything but my head, and there was a transfusion line running into one leg and an intravenous into the other. In this state I was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Fifth Regional Command Headquarters in Jakarta, where I was tended to by a doctor and a nurse. In other words, I received no follow-up care at the Army General Hospital but was taken away in a gravely ill state to a place of confinement.

Several days later, while...


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