“How Did the Generals Die?”
Excerpts from: Dr. Ben Anderson (Cornell University), “How Did the Generals Die?,” Originally published in the journal ” Indonesia,” April 1987 issue.
Surprises often come to light when one rummages through dusty, crowded attics. In the course of casually rummaging through the hundreds of photocopies pages of the stenographic record of Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Heru Atmodjo’s trial before the judges of the Extraordinary Military Tribunal (Mahmilub), I came across the documents translated below [not reproduced here], which in their original form were included as appendices to the trial record. They consist of the reports composed by the team of five experts in forensic medicine who examined the bodies of the six generals (Yani, Suprapto, Parman, Sutojo, Harjono, and Pandjaitan) and lone, young lieutenant (Tendean) killed on the early morning of October 1, 1965. Their sober accounts offer the most exact, objective description of how these seven died that we will ever have. In view of the longstanding controversy on the matter, and the widely differing reports offered to the public in newspapers and magazines, it seemed to me worth translating them in full for the scholarly community.
The heading to each visum et repertum (autopsy) shows that the team was assembled on Monday, October 4, as a result of written order from the then Major General Suharto, as KOSTRAD Commander, to the head of the Central Army Hospital (RSPAD). The team was composed of two army doctors (including the well-known Brig. Gen. Dr. Roebiono Kertopati), and three civilian specialists in forensic medicine at the Medical Faculty of theUniversity of Indonesia. The most senior of these civilians. Dr. Sutomo Tjokronegoro, was then the foremost expert in forensic medicine in the country. The team worked for 8 hours, i.e., from 4:30 p.m., October 4, to 12:30 a.m., October 5, in the Dissection Room of the Central Army Hospital. They clearly had to work fast, since we know from many press accounts that the bodies were only removed from the well at Lubang Buaja (into which they had been thrown by the killers) in the late morning of October 4, over 75 hours after the murders. By then, as was to be expected in a tropical climate, the corpses were already in an advanced state of putrefaction. And after daylight on Tuesday, October 5, the remains were ceremonially interred in the Garden of Heroes (Taman Pahlawan) at Kalibata. One final point is worth noting. Given the fact that the autopsies were ordered personally by Maj. Gen. Suharto, it is unlikely that the doctors’ reports were not immediately communicated to him upon their completion.Each of the seven reports follows the same format:
- a statement of Maj. Gen. Suharto’s instruction to the five experts;
- identification of the corpse;
- description of the body, including any clothing or body-ornaments;
- a detailing of the wounds detected;
- a conclusion with regard to time and cause of death; and
- a statement by all five experts, on oath, that the examination had been fully and properly performed.
For public accounts of the seven deaths, we today, like Indonesian readers in 1965, must rely largely on the reporting of two military newspapers, Angkatan Bersendjata (The Armed Forces) and Berita Yudha (War News), and the ABRI information service that supplied them. Although several civilian newspapers continued to publish, the left-wing press had been suppressed by the evening of October 1, and the state-run radio and television were fully in military hands before October 1 was out. It is therefore instructive to compare the accounts provided by the military newspapers with the contents of the army-appointed medical experts’ reports, completed, we may infer from the appended documents, some time on Tuesday, October 5.
Given the fact that the two newspapers were morning newspapers, and thus their October 5 edition were probably “put to bed” while the doctors were still completing their examinations, it is not surprising that their reporting that day was perhaps hasty, without the benefit of detailed information. Angkatan Bersendjata, which featured some blurred photos of the decomposing bodies, described the deaths as “barbarous deeds in the form of tortures executed beyond the bounds of human feeling.” Berita Yudha, always more vivid, noted that the corpses were “covered with indications of torture. Traces of wounds all over the bodies, the results of tortures inflicted before they were shot, still covered our heroes’ remains.” Maj. Gen. Suharto himself was quoted as saying that “it was obvious for those of us who saw [the bodies] with our own eyes what savage tortures had been inflicted by the barbarous adventurers calling themselves ‘The September 30th Movement.'” The newspaper went on to describe the last moments of General Yani’s life, saying that after being gunned down in his own home, he had been thrown still alive into a truck, and was tortured from that moment until the “final torture at Lubang Buaja.” Proof of this torture was provided by wounds on his neck and face, and the fact that “his members were no longer complete.” What this somewhat obscure phrase meant became clearer in the following days. On Thursday, October 7, Angkatan Bersendjata observed that Yani’s “eyes had been gouged out,” a finding confirmed two days later by Berita Yudha, which added that the face of the corpse had been found wrapped in a piece of black cloth.
That same October 7 Angkatan Bersendjata went on to describe how Generals Harjono and Pandjaitan had died in hails of gunfire in their homes, with the corpses tossed onto a truck which vanished into the night with “its engine roaring like a tiger thirsting for blood.” Berita Yudha, however, noted torture scars on Harjono’s hands.
On October 9, Berita Yudha reported that, although General Suprapto’s face and skull had been smashed by savage terrorists (perterror2 biadah), his features were still recognizable. Lieutenant Tendean had knife wounds on his left chest and stomach, his neck had been mutilated, and both eyes had been gouged out (ditjungkil). The following day it quoted eyewitnesses of the October disinterment as saying that some of the victims had had their eyes torn out, while others had “had their genitals cut off as well as many other inhuman horrors.” On October 11, Angkatan Bersendjata elaborated on Tendean’s death by saying that he had undergone severe tortures at Lubang Buaja where he was handed over to members of Gerwani (Gerakan Wanita Indonesia–the Communist Party’s women’s affiliate). He was made a “vile plaything [permainan djahat]” by these women, who used him for target practice.
Where the army newspapers led, others quickly followed. On October 20, for example, Api Pantjasila, organ of the army- affiliated IPKI party, announced that the eye-gouges (alat pentjungkil) used on the generals had been discovered by anticommunist youths ransacking Communist Party buildings in the village of Harupanggang, outside Garut, without suggesting, however, why the Party had thought fit to preserve them there. On October 25, the same paper carried the confession of one Djamin, a member of the Communist Party’s youth organization Pemuda Rakjat, who said he had witnessed General Suprapto being tortured “obscenely [diluar batas kesusilaan]” by Gerwani members. Similar confessions followed, culminating in the remarkable story of Mrs. Djamilah, issued on November 6 to the whole press by the ABRI information service. Mrs. Djamilah, described as a three-month pregnant, fifteen-year-old Gerwani leaders from Patjitan, revealed that she and her associates at Lubang Buaja had been issued penknives and razors by armed members of the September 30th Movement. They then, all one hundred of them, following orders from the same men, proceeded to slash and slice the genitals of the captured generals. Evidently this was not all. For the Army- controlled Antara of November 30 described how Gerwani women had given themselves indiscriminately to Air Force personnel involved in the September 30th Movement; while Angkatan Bersendjata, on December 13, described them as dancing “The Dance of the Fragrant Flowers” naked under the direction of Communist Party leader D. N. Aidit, before plunging into mass orgies with members of Pemuda Rakjat.
In these accounts, which filled the newspapers during October, November, and December, while the massacres of those associated with the Communist Party were going on, two features are of particular interest here. The first is the insistence that the seven men were subjected to horrifying tortures–notably eye- gouging and castration; the second is an emphasis on civilians in organizations of Communist affiliation as the perpetrators.
What do the forensic experts’ reports of October 5 tell us? First, and most important, that none of the victims’ eyes had been gouged out, and that all of their penises were intact: we are even told that four of the latter were circumcized, and three uncircumcized. Beyond that, it may be useful to divide the victims into two groups: those whom most of the nonforensic evidence indicates were killed by being shot dead in their own homes by the kidnappers, namely Generals Yani, Pandjaitan, and Harjono; and those who were killed after being taken to Lubang Buaja, namely Generals Parman, Soeprapto, and Sutojo, as well as Lieutenant Tendean.Group I.
The fullest accounts of their deaths appeared long after they occurred: in the case of Yani in Berita Yudha Minggu, December 5; of Pandjaitan, in Kompas, October 25, Berita Yudha Minggu, November 21, and Berita Yudha, December 13; and of Harjono in Berita Yudha Minggu, November 28. All indicate that the generals were abruptly and immediately killed at home by heavy gunfire delivered by members of the Tjakrabirawa Presidential Guard Regiment under the operational command of First Lieutenant Doel Arief. The forensic reports confirm this picture only in part. The experts observed that the only wounds on Yani’s body were ten entering and three existing gunshot wounds. Pandjaitan suffered three gunshot wounds to the head, as well as a small slit-wound in the hand. On the other hand, the wounds suffered by Harjono are puzzling, since no mention is made of gunshots. The cause of death was apparently a long deep incision in the abdomen, of a type much more likely to be caused by a bayonet than a penknife or a razor. A similar, nonfatal wound appeared on the victim’s back. The only other damage was described as “on the left hand and wrist, wounds caused by a dull trauma.” There is no obvious way to interpret these wounds except to say that they seem unlikely to be the result of torture–torturers rarely pick left wrists to do their work–and may have been the result of the dead body being thrown down the 36- foot well at Lubang Buaja. Group II.
The fullest accounts of the deaths of these victims appeared in the following newspaper reports: Parman, Berita Yudha, October 17, and both Berita Yudha and Angkatan Bersendjata, December 12; Soeprapto, Berita Yudha Minggu, December 5; Sutojo, Berita Yudha Minggu, November 21; and Tendean, Berita Yudha Minggu, October 25. It was these four men that most reports of savage and sexual torture concerned. What the forensic reports reveal is as follows:
- S. Parman suffered five gunshot wounds, including two fatal ones to the head; and, in addition, “lacerations and bone- fractures to the head, the jaw, and the lower left leg, each the result of a heavy dull trauma.” We have no way of knowing what caused these dull traumas–rifle butts or the walls and floor of the well–but they are clearly not “torture” wounds, nor could they have been inflicted by razors or penknives.
- Soeprapto died of eleven gunshot wounds in various parts of his body. Other wounds consisted of six lacerations and fractured bones caused by dull traumas around the head and face; one caused by a dull trauma on the right calf; wounds and fractured bones “resulting from a very severe, dull trauma in the lumbar region and on the upper right thigh”; and three cuts, which, to judge from their size and depth, may have been caused by bayonets. Again “dull trauma” indicates collision with large, irregularly shaped hard objects (rifle butts or well stones) rather than razors or knives.
- Sutojo suffered three gunshot wounds (including a fatal one to the head), while “the right hand and the cranium were crushed as a result of a heavy dull trauma.” Once again, the odd combination of right hand, cranium, and heavy dull trauma suggests rifle butts or well stones.
- Tendean died of four gunshot wounds. In addition, the experts found graze wound on the forehead and left hand, as well as “three gaping wounds resulting from dull traumas to the head.”
Nowhere in these reports is there any unmistakable sign of torture, and any trace of razors and penknives is absent. Not only are almost all the nongunshot wounds described as the result of heavy, dull traumas, but their physical distribution–ankles, shins, wrists, thighs, temples, and so on–seem generally random. It is particularly striking that the usual targets of torturers, i.e., the testicles, the anus, the eyes, the fingernails, the ears, and the tongue, are not mentioned. It can thus be said with reasonable certainty that six of the victims died by gunfire (the case of Harjono, who died in his own home, remains puzzling), and that if their bodies suffered other violence, it was the result of clubbing with the butts of the guns that fired the fatal bullets, or of the damage likely to occur from a 36-foot–i.e., roughly three-story–fall down a stone-lined well.
It only remains to be said that in his speech of December 12, 1965, to the Indonesian News Agency, Antara, President Sukarno chastised journalists for their exaggerations, insisting that the doctors who had inspected the bodies of the victims had stated there were no ghastly mutilations of eyes and genitals as had been reported in the press.