Open letter to President SBY re: Col. Cav. Burhanuddin Siagian

28 Jun 2007
Joint NGO letter

Dear President Yudhoyono,

We are writing to express our grave concern about the tenure of Col. Burhanuddin Siagian as commander of the Jayapura sub-regional military command (Korem 172/ PWY/Jayapura) in Papua. Col. Siagian has been indicted twice for crimes against humanity in East Timor (now Timor-Leste).

Indonesia has not complied with its obligations under international law and Indonesian domestic law to prosecute Col. Siagian for his alleged crimes, and it has furthermore failed to extradite him to East Timor for trial. Instead he has been promoted and appointed to command a large military unit within a highly sensitive area.

We are concerned that Col. Siagian represents a serious threat to Papuans and that the lives of Papuan human rights defenders and peaceful political activists may be endangered by his continued presence as commander of Korem 172.

According to a report in the Cenderawasih Pos on 12 May 2007, Col Siagian threatened to destroy anyone who betrays Indonesia: “If I meet anyone who has enjoyed the facilities that belong to the state, but who still betrays the nation, I honestly will destroy him”. The statement was reportedly made in response to demands by students and youths for a review of Papua’s history.

We are disturbed that this threat to Papuan activists echoes similar statements allegedly made by Col. Siagian when he was commander of the Bobonaro District Military Command (Kodim 1636), Maliana in East Timor. Those statements appear to have led directly to the deaths of a number of Timorese civilians. According to the indictments issued by the Special Panel for Serious Crimes of Dili District Court on 3 February 2003 (‘the Cailaco indictment) and 10 July 2003 (‘the Maliana indictment’), Col Siagian made public speeches threatening to kill supporters of Timor-Leste’s independence and was responsible for the death of seven men in April 1999[1]. He is charged with individual responsibility and command responsibility for the following crimes against humanity: torture; murder; persecution; and deportation or forcible transfer of a civilian population. He is also thought to have been responsible for the creation of the Bobonaro militia system that became one of the most repressive in the whole of East Timor.

Col. Siagian is named as a suspect in the report of Indonesia’s own Commission of Investigation into Human Rights Violations in East Timor (Komisi Penyelidik Pelanggaran HAM di Timor Timur, KPP-HAM), which investigated human rights abuses in Timor-Leste during the period from 1 January to 25 October 1999.

We are dismayed that Indonesia’s failure to hold Col. Siagian and others to account encourages military personnel to believe they will continue to escape justice for serious crimes and seriously undermines Indonesia’s progress towards becoming a country that fully respects human rights and the rule of law.

This failure of accountability, and the continued active service in positions of command responsibility of senior officers accused of serious crimes, are indicative of a structural problem of impunity within the Indonesian army (TNI, Tentara Nasional Indonesia) and a lack of political will to address the problem that have not been addressed since the TNI withdrew from East Timor. Meaningful military reform will not be possible until serious efforts are made to end this cycle of impunity.

Irrespective of his record in East Timor, we believe that Col. Siagian is entirely unsuited to the sensitive position of commander of Korem 172. Your government has stated that it is committed to the peaceful resolution of the Papua conflict. This policy is clearly undermined by belligerent statements by local military commanders. Papuans who campaign peacefully are not ‘betraying’ Indonesia as alleged in Col. Siagian’s statement of May 2007; they are simply asserting their right to express their political views. We strongly hope that you, as a democrat, would support their right to do this.

We believe this is a crucial test case of the Indonesian Government’s ability to exert civilian control over the TNI and we urge you to:

  • Immediately withdraw Col. Siagian from Papua and suspend him from active duty; all military or police officers who have been indicted for crimes against humanity by the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in Timor-Leste should be suspended from active duty pending the outcome of criminal proceedings to determine whether or not they are guilty of the charges against them.
  • Review all available evidence, particularly in relation to high-level suspects like Col, Siagian not previously indicted in Indonesia, including evidence collected by the KPP-HAM report and by the Serious Crimes Unit, to determine whether proceedings should be commenced against suspects named therein;
  • Extend full cooperation with judicial proceedings being conducted in Timor-Leste, including entering into extradition and mutual legal assistance agreements. Such cooperation should include extraditing suspects against whom there are indictments.

We are grateful to you for your attention to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Barber

And on behalf of the following signatories:

Paula Makabory,
Spokesperson for the Institute for Human Rights Study & Advocacy, ELSHAM, West Papua

Budi Hernawan
Director, Office of Justice and Peace, Catholic Diocese of Jayapura, West Papua

Benny Wenda
Chairman of DeMMaK (The Koteka Tribal Assembly), West Papua

Victor C. Mambor
Coordinator of Information and Communication Networking, Foker LSM Papua

Usman Hamid
Coordinator, KONTRAS (the Commission for the disappeared and victims of violence), Indonesia

Peongky Indarti,
Director of External Relations, IMPARSIAL (the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor), Indonesia.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos
Chairman, National Solidarity With Papua (SNUP) & Solidarity Without Borders (SOLIDAMOR), Indonesia

Donatus Klaudius Marut
Executive Director, International NGO Forum for Indonesian Development (INFID), Indonesia

Garda Sembiring
Co-ordinator, Peoples' Empowerment Consortium, Indonesia

Ines Martins,
Coordinator, La'o Hamutuk (Timor-Leste Institute or Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis).

Brad Adams
Director for Asia, Human Rights Watch

Matthew Jamieson
Secretary, Institute for Papuan Advocacy & Human Rights, Australia

John M. Miller
National Coordinator, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, USA

Eko Waluyo
Program coordinator, Indonesian Solidarity, Sydney

Professor Peter King
Convener. West Papua Project, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney

Dr Clinton Fernandes,
Australian Coalition for Transitional Justice in East Timor

Paul O'Callaghan,
Director, Australian Council for International Development(ACFID)

Joe Collins
Secretary, Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)

Dr Anne Noonan,
NSW Coordinator Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) Australia

Ed McWilliams
West Papua Advocacy Team, US

Melinda Janki
International Lawyers for West Papua, UK

Richard Samuelson
Co-Director, Free West Papua Campaign, Oxford, UK.

Maire Leadbeater,
Spokesperson, Indonesia Human Rights Committee, Auckland, New Zealand

Gus Miclat
Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)

Monika Schlicher
Watch Indonesia!, Germany

Gabriel Jonsson
Chairman Swedish East Timor Committee and Board Member Swedish Free Papua Association

Chuck Warpehoski,
Director, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, US

William Ramsey,
Coordinator, Human Rights Action Service, St. Louis, US

Mary Whittlinger
Treasurer, America Ecumenical Moluccan Church, US

Rev. John Chamberlin,
National Coordinator, East Timor Religious Outreach, US

Rev. James Kofski
Asia/Pacific and Middle East Issues Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Washington, D.C.

Tom Ricker,
Co-director, Haiti Reborn/Quixote Center, US

Sharon Silber and Eileen Weiss,
Co-founders, Jews Against Genocide, US

Elaine Donovan
Co-Founder, Concerned Citizens for Peace, Honeoy, NY

Roland Watson,
Founder, Dictator Watch, US

Vicky Steinitz
Community Outreach Coordinator, United for Justice with Peace, US

Paul Shannon
Representative of the New England Regional Office of the American Friends Service Committee on the Coordinating Committee of United for Justice with Peace

1. Joao Evangelita Lima Vidal (m), Carlito Mau Leto (m), Domingos Resi Mau (m), Paulino Soares Antonio Soares (m), Jose Pau Lelo (m), Antonio Soares (m), and Manuel Maulelo Araujo (m)