JAKARTA May 15 Ten years after riots that preceded the fall of former Indonesian President Suharto in 1998, victims of sexual violence are still too traumatised to speak out, a rights group said on Thursday.
About 1,000 people were killed in the capital Jakarta, mostly those trapped in burning buildings, as mobs rampaged through the streets and attacked shops and malls at the height of the Asian financial crisis in May 1998.
The riots followed daily student protests as discontent against Suharto's rule grew after he was re-elected for a fifth consecutive term by a rubber-stamp parliament.
An independent team set up to investigate the riots found that 85 mostly ethnic Chinese women were sexually assaulted, but authorities dropped the inquiry, citing a lack of evidence.
Ten years later the victims remain silent because they fear for their safety and have no faith in the country's justice system, according to a new report issued by the National Commission on Violence Against Women.
The general public's refusal to acknowledge that rapes took place means that there is little hope the victims will see justice, the report said.
"Women who were victims of the May 1998 violence remain silent due to the limitation of the justice system and the continuing culture of impunity that has created a condition of insecurity," the report said.
"Some officials still regard sexual violence during the May 1998 riots as a hearsay," it said.
The report cited accounts from religious leaders and activists who have accompanied the victims. It said the victims were targeted because they were ethnic Chinese.
"The May riot was a planned political event that took place amid a crisis of confidence in the New Order government led by President Suharto," it said.
Some of the victims decided to move overseas while some others changed their identities in their efforts recover from the trauma.
The report urged the attorney general's office to reopen the probe into the riots, including allegations of rape. (Reporting by Telly Nathalia; Writing by Ahmad Pathoni; Editing by Sugita Katyal and Alex Richardson)