Skip to main content

159, August 2000

1. acehnese activist sadistically murdered
2. a visit to banda aceh
3. demand for international intervention growing [text unavailable]
4. east timor, one year on [text unavailable]
03 August 2000

Bulletin no. 159



1. Acehnese activist sadistically murdered

2. A visit to Banda Aceh

3. Demand for international intervention growing [text unavailable]

4. East Timor, one year on [text unavailable]

5. TNI-backed militias murder UNHCR workers

6. Renewed violence threatens West Papua

7. Carmel's visit to Indonesia [text unavailable]

8. Suharto and TNI win immunity from MPR

9. Jakarta's refugee problem unmanageable [text unavailable]

10. Tanjung Priok revisited [text unavailable]

11. Peasants arrested for demanding land [text unavailable]


1. Acehnese activist sadistically murdered

One of Aceh's foremost human rights activists, Jafar Sidiq Hamzah was abducted and brutally murdered while on a visit to Medan, North Sumatra. This tradegy has once again focused on the dangerous conditions in which human rights defenders function in Aceh. Security forces in Medan refused to conduct investigations into his abduction despite international pressure and protest.

Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, 34, was chair of the New York-based International Forum on Aceh which he founded in 1998. The IFA took the initiative to convene a number of international meetings to help set up an international network of solidarity for Aceh, and draw the attention of the international community to the grave human rights situation that has existed in Aceh since the late 1980s.

Jafar had only recently returned to Aceh after deciding to take time off from his studies in the US for a few months to devote his efforts to building an effective link between the human rights network in Aceh and international human rights organisations.

A month after his disappearance, his body was discovered down a ravine, some 80 kms from Medan, together with four other bodies which have not yet been identified. His hands and feet were bound and his body was covered with wounds. The body could only be identified after an autopsy revealed internal evidence of a past operation and positive dental evidence.

After a brief stay in Banda Aceh where he hosted Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL and Sinapan Samydurai, secretary-general of the Support Committee for Human Rights in Aceh on their three-day visit to Aceh, Jafar left Banda Aceh for Medan. On the way, he spent two days with his family in Lhokseumawe, his birthplace. Jafar was always conscious of the fact that he was a target of military intelligence and told friends shortly before his disappearance that he knew he was being followed. On several occasions, military intelligence claimed that he was the spokesperson of GAM, the Aceh Liberation Movement, in a clear attempt to damage his credibility as a human rights activist.

A carefully planned abduction

The circumstances of his abduction suggests that it was a carefully-planned operation and almost certainly carried out by a well-trained intelligence unit.

Jafar had arrived in Medan only a few days earlier and was staying with relatives. Because he realised he was being followed, he under took to phone home every two hours as a precaution. On the day of his disappearance, he left home in the morning to visit a lawyer friend, Alamsyah Hamdani, with whom he had formerly worked at the LBH-Medan, and had an appointment with a Japanese activist, Saeki Natsuko at 5pm. He kept the first appointment and left to meet a journalist whose name is not known. After making two phone-calls home, he visited a business acquaintance and left at 1pm. From then on, he made no further phone-calls home. When he failed to turn up for his 5pm appointment, the Japanese friend contacted his family. By midnight, they realised something serious had happened.

The following day, after visiting all the hospitals in Medan to see whether he had been injured in an accident, t

********** remaining text currently unavailable.

2. A visit to Banda Aceh

During a one month visit to Indonesia in July, Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL paid a visit to Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh. The visit coincided with the first anniversary of the massacre on 23 July 1999 of more than sixty people at a religious school led by Tengku Bantaqiah. Here is her report:

My visit to Banda Aceh has been darkly overshadowed by the disappearance and murder of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, one of Aceh's foremost human rights activists, who had invited me to come and escorted me for much of the time. (See headline article.) The visit took place halfway through the first three months of the Humanitarian Pause which came into force on 2 June following an agreement between the armed re-sistance, GAM, and the Indonesian Government. Two things preoccupied the many Acehnese NGOs devoted to human rights, the very disappointing results of the Humanitarian Pause and rejection of the koneksitas trial held in May in which two dozen lower-ranking soldiers were sentenced for their role in the killing of Tgk Bantaqiah and scores of his students. (See TAPOL Bulletin No 159, April 2000)

Victims describe their sufferings

I spent my first evening meeting victims of recent atrocities who were now living in the safety of a centre run by the PCC, the People's Crisis Centre. The Centre's home is sparse with nothing but mats to sit on. I met four men and two young boys who had recently arrived at the centre. A fifth man was lying in a back room, too traumatised by recent experiences to meet or speak to anyone.

Ridwan, a 12-year old from a village in Idi, East Aceh, told me that soldiers came to his home in May this year and asked where his brother was, alleging that he had been supplying rice to GAM. They started beating him when he said he knew nothing, and threatened to shoot him. Then, they grabbed him by the feet, held him upside down, bashed his head against a coconut tree and banged it on the floor. A few days after they left, he met the soldiers again while on his way to market when they struck him in the mouth. He ran back home where he lives alone with his brother as their parents are dead. Eventually he left home and made his way to Banda Aceh and was taken in by the PCC.

Ramli, a 13-year old said his home had been destroyed by the army so he went to stay with friends. Two months ago soldiers of the much-feared Rajawali unit forced their way into the house at 3 am and started accusing the in-habitants of supplying cigarettes to GAM. Another boy in the house was taken to the back and beaten up, kicked and punched. Ramli was then dragged to a nearby market, con-fronted with a friend and their heads were knocked together. The soldiers then took him to their command post and threatened to use electric torture but an Acehnese soldier in the room asked them not to do that because Ramli was only a kid. The soldiers then stuffed his mouth with five cigarettes and order him to start smoking. When he refused, they beat him with bamboo until he began to inhale. After he was allowed home later that day, he decided to flee on 26 May. He told me he wouldn't go home till the troops leave his village.

Both boys have not been getting any education because schools no longer function and many have been burnt down. The PCC is trying to give them 'alternative schooling'.

Isa Rachmat, a man in his 20s, said soldiers came to his home at crack of dawn on 20 May and arrested him for allegedly being in contact with GAM. They dragged him to a space below the house and when a neighbour named Tarmidi bin Ismail turned up, he was shot dead on the spot. After being taken to a Rajawali command post, he was set upon by a dog. His big toenail was pulled out and he was subjected to other forms of torture for a whole day. He was beaten in the chest till he started spitting blood. When the troops came to the village a second time, after he had been allowed home, all the villagers were beaten. The events have been reported to the local LBH who are investigating the military unit.

An older man in the room explained that he was trying to track down his nephew who has disappeared. This man has reported his problem to many authorities, up to the UN, as well as to the LBH.

Sri Jono, 22, was forced by his local administration head to become a TBO (auxiliary personnel) attached to a military unit. His task was to show troops the way when out on patrol. The local administration chief had also set up a Front Penyelamat Aceh or Front to Save Aceh, in favour of keeping Aceh as part of the Republic.

The unit to which he was attached was the notorious Rajawali. Two months after he became a TBO he saw the soldiers torture two other men for three whole days and then shoot them dead. He named the victims as Trifan from a village called Lokibang and Muchtar from the village of Jambu Rehat. The killings upset him so much that he decided to flee and found his way to the PCC for protection.

Anger over the Bantaqiah trial

It had escaped my attention when fixing the date of my visit to Aceh that it would coincide with the first anniversary of the massacre of the religious teacher, Tgk Bantaqiah and scores of his pupils. On Saturday, I was told, student groups would be holding a protest in a tent just outside the Grand Mosque. It was not till I arrived there that I realised this was a protest against the Bantaqiah Massacre and against the koneksitas trial which recently ended. While in Jakarta, I had met two members of the Wahid government to express TAPOL's strong criticism of the trial in which military investigators were involved and before a joint military/civilian panel of judges. While low-ranking soldiers had been given harsh sentences for having opened fire on the victims, senior-ranking officers who ordered the operation and took part in it were not indicted. One lieutenant-colonel had even 'gone missing' while un-der investigation for the crime.

I was surprised to hear Attorney General Marzuki Darusman call it a 'very good trial', though he admitted that further trials would be needed before the case could be regarded as 'closed'. By contrast, Asmara Nababan, secretary-general of the National Human Rights Commission, told me he had opposed the holding of such a trial and tried unsuccessfully to persuade Human Rights Minister, Hasballah M Saad not to insist on such a trial being held.

My ten-minute meeting with Minister Hasballah (he arrived an hour late) turned into an argument about the trial. He started off by insisting that the trial 'had to go ahead' because people in Aceh had demanded it. To my insistence that the wrong people had been put on trial, that there had been no attempt to treat the Bantaqiah Massacre as part of a state/army-sponsored campaign of terror and the massacre had been treated as if it was an ordinary crime, not a crime against humanity, he said that haste was essential and he could not wait for a human rights court to be set up because people in Aceh were calling for speedy justice. I said that as minister for human rights, he could better have exerted his efforts to pressing for a human rights court law to be enacted speedily than promoting such a trial. In the end, he admitted that his motivation was to ensure that 'Aceh tidak akan lepas' 'Aceh will not leave (the Republic)'. These were his last words as I left for another appointment.

I related these encounters to the three hundred or so students gathered in the tent, among whom the word koneksitas has become a term of derision. Their banners told the same story. From everything I heard in Aceh, there was little interest in trials being held because, as at present conducted, they are remote from the need for true justice.

A Tgk Bantaqiah's widow

A large group of the families of victims of the Bantaqiah Massacre was also in town for the anniversary, giving me the opportunity to meet the teacher's widow and others related to the 63 dead men. (Their figure of the number of casualties is higher than the figure of 56 given at the trial.)

Bantaqiah's widow, Nurliah, lost five close relatives, her husband, two sons and two sons-in-law. Altogether 55 families lost relatives in the slaughter. She had nothing but scorn for the recently-held koneksitas trial of low-ranking soldiers who actually shot her husband and the others. 'It's like trying people for stealing chickens,' were her opening remarks as we began our conversation. She and a relative who himself lost a nephew and a cousin in the massacre, described what happened:

On the day of the Massacre, troops first appeared in force in a neighbouring kampung at eight in the morning while two army helicopters circled overhead. After the number of troops increased, they approached the school and surrounded it. The pupils and their teacher were taking part in prayers at the time. Two men were asked where their teacher was. 'Upstairs,' they were told. 'Well, call him down.'

As he descended, the troops opened fire and killed him and many of the pupils on the spot. Nurliah and some other women who were upstairs, watched the slaughter from the upstairs windows. The wounded men were driven away and later killed.

After it was all over, the women were ordered to come down and strip down to their underwear. After being searched, they were taken to a nearby kampung and told to stay there until the following day. When they returned to the school premises, all the bodies had been buried and the wounded had been taken away. Twenty-four of the dead men were buried behind the school and still remain buried there. As far as the relatives know, the other victims are buried in seven graves.

The head of the PCC, Juanda, said that he had heard that something was about to happen at the school but when he tried to enter the complex, he was unable to gain access as it was encircled by troops.

Another of the relatives, Zainuddin, who met me said that Tgk Bantaqiah had been warned that something might happen two weeks before when a soldier from the local military command arrived to warn him to be 'ready to die'. When he told local officials of the warning, they refused to believe it, saying that the government is now 'behaving decently'.

When I told them that Minister Hasballah said many Acehnese people had pressed him to make sure that the koneksitas trial would go ahead, they said that the minister had never asked their opinion on the matter. In fact, he has never once visited them since the tragedy, they said. Nor has anyone from the military. There has been some talk of the families receiving compensation but nothing has happened.

Asked what they wanted to happen now, they said: 'We need help. The real culprits must be brought to trial, the men who gave the orders for the operation.' This would mean indicting not only the officers in command of the resort commands but the Bukit Barisan regional commander which oversees operations in Aceh. They said they had never been approached directly to give testimony at the trial. Their legal representative, Kontras-Aceh, received a letter but after consulting with the relatives, they decided not to testify as they feared for their security if they testified in court. When they requested safeguards from the court, they were told that their security in court could be guaranteed, but not afterwards.

More trials in Aceh?

Both Darusman and Hasballah assured me when I met them in Jakarta that the Bantaqiah case was not closed and another trial could follow. However, there have been no signs of this nor anything about the 'missing' suspect, Lieutenant-Colonel Sudjono who disappeared eight months ago.

In any case, the Coalition of Human Rights NGOs in Aceh has stated its strong opposition to any further trials along the lines of the Bantaqiah trial. In a statement in July, the Coalition's Team to Resolve Cases in Aceh called on the government to postpone further trials until such time as the trials can be held in accordance with international humanitarian law. They were disappointed with the announced intention of human rights minister, Hasballah M Saad, to hold a trial regarding the Rumoh Geudong case (this was the torture centre run by Kopassus, the army's elite command during DOM) some time in August this year. Abdul Rachim Yacob, who chairs the Team, said the government should give priority to setting up a human rights court where proper human rights instruments would be used and not hold any more trials based on the Criminal Code. [Waspada, 21 July 2000]

Demands are also being made for a Commission of Inquiry or KPP-HAM to be set up by Komnas-HAM for all the crimes against humanity in Aceh, along the lines of commissions set up for other crimes against humanity, especially the commission that investigated the crimes in East Timor. This could, if properly conducted, pave the way for formal investigations to be undertaken, leading to trials that would conform with international humanitarian law.

Meeting Flower

I had heard so much about the women's organisation, Flower whose founder, Soraiya Kamaruzamman I first met in Amsterdam last year, that I was very keen to spend an evening at their office. It was a very rewarding occasion.

Being a women's organisation with a strong feminist culture, it has a different perspective on some issues confronting the people of Aceh. The women I met told me first of all about the recent founding of an all-Aceh women's organisation, Serikat Inang Aceh which has branches in all the seven districts of the province. They explained that in Aceh's long history, women held a position of equality with men at the very highest levels of social and political activity, including becoming state leaders or commanding war operations. But an Islamic decree - fatwa - adopted some while ago had established the principle that women may not become rulers. This was the first step towards the domestication of women. Their role as decision-makers had been undercut and they were now less likely to speak out.

The women's conference held last year had led to the emergence of women's groups in many parts of Aceh, and Serikat Inang Aceh had come into being as a result.

They told me also of the key role Acehnese women play in economic and productive activity, although security op-erations frequently made it difficult for such activities to proceed. Decisions by local communities to evacuate in the face of security threats also undermines agricultural production. Observations by their network of contacts indicate that evacuations often happened at the prompting of unclear sources. The first phase of mass evacuations started in June 1999 when tens of thousands left their villages. Subsequently, most of the refugees returned home, but in re-cent weeks, evacuations are again on the increase because civilian communities feel unsafe when armed clashes occur or when the security forces conduct sweepings, searching for GAM members.

They were unimpressed by the Humanitarian Pause (see below) and felt that this is being used by GAM forces to regroup and consolidate. Their activities among the grass-roots has made them critical of GAM activities which they believe is losing its popularity.

They also feel that people who strongly promote the referendum idea need to be more specific about what they mean and what kind of an independent state they visualise. They strongly reject the koneksitas system of justice but feel that not enough has been done to coordinate oppo-sition to the trials.

How much of a Humanitarian Pause?

The people I met on my first day in Aceh all confirmed that whereas the level of violence had declined during the first month of the humanitarian pause, the trend had since reversed and was giving cause for alarm.

The humanitarian pause came into force on 2 June following a joint understanding between GAM, the Aceh Liberation Movement, and the Indonesian government, brokered by the Henry Dunant Centre based in Switzerland. Although it is often referred to as a ceasefire in press reports, the Joint Understanding is much less than that. As one HDC official described it, the agreement is 'minimalist'. As stipulated in the official document, the aim is 'to reduce tension'. The objectives are: 'delivery of humanitarian assistance to the population', 'provision of security modalities with a view to supporting the delivery of humanitarian assistance and to reducing tension and violence which may cause further suffering', and 'the promotion of confidence-building measures towards a peaceful solution to the conflict situation in Aceh'. [See Joint Understanding on Humanitarian Pause for Aceh, signed in Bavois, Switzerland on 12 May 2000.]

Under the agreement, two Joint Committees have been set up, the Joint Committee on Security Modalities and the Joint Committee on Humanitarian Aid, the former obviously being the key one. Both joint committees are composed of ten members, five from GAM and five from the Indonesian side. The five Indonesian members are all from the armed forces. Each of the committees is shadowed by a Joint Monitoring Committee whose task it is to investigate violations of the 'ground rules' which are set out in a separate document. However, the agreement makes no provision for sanctions against violators and neither is there any form of mediation. So when disputes arise about a violation, it's just a matter of one side's word against the other's. In other words, the Joint Understanding lacks teeth and relies on nothing more that the goodwill of both sides.

On the day I arrived in Banda Aceh, I attended a press conference which was held to announce the establishment of an NGO monitoring group called Simpul. This was in response to widespread dissatisfaction about the effective-ness of the officially sponsored monitoring committees. The NGOs have extensive networks of independent observers right across Aceh, with strong roots in the community and very well placed to investigate incidents which breach the security ground rules. It seemed to me that the role of civil society in Aceh may have been marginalised by the GAM-Indonesia accord, which is very strange considering that the whole point of the accord is to facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid to the population. The NGO network in Aceh includes some extremely well organised groups working at different levels and broadly complementing each other and their determination to become much more directly involved was clearly a step forward.

I heard from several well placed people that the Joint Committee on Humanitarian Aid had hardly got going, already halfway through the first three months of the accord. Moreover, NGOs were confronting harassment from the security forces when they attempted to supply humanitarian aid to people in refugee camps.

There have been many instances of the security forces exerting strong pressure on thousands of people in camps to return home. A case in point is the 2,815 families who fled their homes in Tanah Luas and Matangkuli, North Aceh to find sanctuary in a location near the Exxon-Oil airport. Refugees were terrified at the sound of shots fired by troops who had come to persuade them to return home. 'Never in my life have I felt so scared, being driven away like some kind of animal,' said one refugee. [Jakarta Post, 20 July 2000]

Security conditions during the Pause

There have been numerous incidents since the Pause began in which people have disappeared (some subsequently being found dead), sweepings in localities, armed clashes between the two armed sides in the conflict and the destruction of buildings. According to Kontras, in a press release issued on 17 July, in the six weeks since the Pause began, sixty people had been killed (including members of the security forces and GAM), which included ten extra-judicial killings, and forty people had been tortured.

In one incident, a rubber planter in Julok who was being harassed by two members of Rajawali to hand over part of the proceeds from his sales turned on his tormentors and struck them with a knife. The soldiers were making demands in addition to the percentage which the tappers are required to hand over to the unit. One of the soldiers died while the other who was injured opened fire with his automatic weapon and killed three rubber tappers standing nearby.

The Pause is up for renewal at the beginning of September and both sides have indicated that they intend to extend the agreement for another three months. While agreeing that the accord should be extended, Acehnese NGOs have called for the Joint Committees, particularly the one on humanitarian aid, to be re-structured so as to include representatives of civil society, or still better to be composed wholly of civilians. It is their contention that humanitarian aid is being used for political purposes by both sides, each seeking to take the credit for the provision of aid, whereas the beneficiaries themselves are not represented on the committee.

Special award

I was deeply touched by a special award given to me on my last evening in Banda Aceh by eight Acehnese NGOs. I was given the title 'Cut' (pronounced 'chut') which is a title of honour for Acehnese women. The ceremony was opened Jafar Siddiq and the plaque bearing my new name was handed to me by Ibu Nurliah, the widow of Tgk Bantaqiah. It quotes the words of Winston Churchill, 'Never in history have so many owed so much to so few', and says: 'In the internationalisation of the Acheh conflict, Carmel Budiardjo is definitely an ace among the few.' In my words of acceptance, I said that I did not stand alone but was part of a team in TAPOL which has been committed for years to reporting the situation in Aceh.

5. TNI-backed militias murder UNHCR workers

TNI-backed militias in West Timor murdered three foreign UNHCR workers in Atambua, forcing the agency and all other foreign agencies to evacuate, leaving tens of thousands of East Timorese refugees in West Timor at the mercy of the militias. Despite promises by Jakarta to end the refugee crisis in West Timor, the militias still reign supreme with evident support from the army.

The three UN High Commission for Refugees officials were killed in a savage attack on the agency’s office in Atambua, near the border with East Timor, on 6 September. Other foreign and local staff made a hazardous escape by scaling surrounding walls. The three murdered men were dragged from the office, hacked and burned to death. The tragedy was condemned by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata as ‘the worst security incident ever to face the UNHCR’.

The killing in Atambua coincided with the opening of the UN Millennium Summit in New York. A one-minute silence and angry denunciations of the killings by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, President Clinton and other world leaders came as a huge humiliation for President Abdurrahman Wahid who was attending the Summit. However, he barely mentioned the tragedy in his own statement the following day. In her statement to the Summit, Ogata complained bitterly that there had been more than one hundred attacks on her staff in West Timor over the past year.

Two weeks before the murders, the UNHCR suspended its operations in West Timor after three of its personnel were attacked and badly wounded, but decided to resume operations, after getting renewed assurances of security from the Indonesians, just days before the Atambua killings. In the event, Indonesian police did nothing to halt the attack on the agency’s office, but stood by watching.

The agency plays a crucial role in supplying the refugees with food and medical supplies and speeding up the repatriation of the tens of thousands of East Timorese refugees still stranded in dozens of camps throughout West Timor. However, the sequence of attacks on their personnel reveals that the militias and their backers are bent on driving all non-Indonesian personnel out of West Timor, giving themselves free rein and using the refugee camps as a base from which to threaten the security of East Timor. The remaining refugees are in effect hostages to a strategy to destabilise East Timor devised by hard-liners in the Indonesian army.

Although more than 100,000 refugees have been repatriated since late last year, repatriation has recently fallen to a trickle. There have been numerous reports of threats and intimidation by militias in the camps, hampering the activities of the aid agencies in West Timor. [See article in TAPOL Bulletin, No 158, June 2000]

While it is not possible to identify the TNI officers who are backing the militias, the regional commander in Denpasar, Major-General Kiki Syahnakri, whose command covers West Timor, must at the very least be held responsible for doing nothing to disarm and disband the militia gangs. In a letter to the Foreign Office on 7 September, TAPOL called for his dismissal. There are reports of Kopassus soldiers being present and their former commander, Prabowo Subianto is known to have visited West Timor.

The murderous attack on the UNHCR happened the day after a notorious militia leader, Olivio Mendoza Moruk, recently named as a suspect in forthcoming trials on East Timor, was killed. His body was paraded in the streets of Atambua by machete-wielding men calling for the UNHCR to get out of West Timor. It was in this frenzied atmosphere that the UN office was attacked.

Olivio was leader of the Laksaur militia gang which attacked a church in Suai, East Timor last September, killing three priests and scores of villagers. On the day of Olivio’s murder, thousands of people were gathered across the border in Suai to commemorate the first anniversary of the Suai massacre.

Within hours of the Atambua killings, there were reports that eleven people were massacred in a nearby village, confirming fears that a militia reign of terror may now sweep across West Timor.

The security and already dire living conditions of the refugees can only get worse. However, the UNHCR have made it absolutely clear that they will not contemplate returning to West Timor until Indonesia takes positive action to disarm, disband and remove the militias; verbal guarantees from Jakarta will no longer be acceptable.

Suspects named for East Timor trials

Olivio was one of three militia leaders named as suspects by a team of the attorney-general’s office in forthcoming trials in Indonesia about grave human rights violations in East Timor. Altogether 19 suspects were listed, considerably fewer than the 33 persons named by Indonesia’s Special Investigation Commission (KPP HAM) in January. The name of General Wiranto who was identified by the Commission as being responsible for the failure of the Indonesian armed forces to safeguard security during the plebiscite, was the most conspicuous absentee. The other missing name is Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim, the high-ranking intelligence officer who played a crucial role master-minding the militia mayhem during the months leading up to the UN-conducted referendum on 30 August.

Other names left out from the 33 names recommended by the Commission are two top-ranking militia leaders. One is Eurico Guterres who led the Aitarak militia gang responsible for many atrocities in and around Dili. Eurico is now living in style in Kupang, West Timor, and acting as conduit for much of the financial support going to the militias. Astonishing as it may seem, Eurico is a trusted member of Megawati’s PDI-P party and was responsible for security at the party’s congress earlier this year. The other militia leader absent from the list is Joao Tavares, the notorious commander of the Halilintar militia gang.

The most senior officer named is Major-General Adam Damiri who was the military commander based in Bali with overall command of East Timor and who is known to have been responsible for arming and financial the militia units.

However, his chief of staff, Mahidin Simbolon, whose role in promoting the militias is widely acknowledged, is not on the list.

The list also includes the last two military commanders of East Timor: Tono Suratman and Nur Muis, and the last chief of police, Timbul Silaen, all of whom have been given promotions and new posts since Indonesia withdrew from East Timor, leaving a trail of devastation and death. The most senior-ranking civilian suspect is Abilio Osorio Soares, the governor of East Timor. The other suspects are TNI officers who were in charge of three of the most bloodthirsty operations in East Timor in the months preceding the referendum, the massacre in Suai, the massacre at the home of Manuel Carrascalao in Dili on 17 April, and the killings at the home of Bishop Belo on 5 September.

Although the suspects have been named, it is far from clear how or in which court they will be formally charged. Plans to set up ad hoc courts with powers to try past crimes against humanity have been undermined by the constitutional amendment adopted in August by the MPR, disallowing retroactive charges. This unexpected development almost certainly persuaded the attorney-general’s team to exclude Wiranto from the list as it would not be possible for him to be charged under Indonesia’s Criminal Code.

According to Munir, a member of the KPP HAM, the death of Olivio Mendoza is a serious setback for the trials as he was expected to spill the beans about TNI officers in overall charge of the murderous campaign for which he would have been tried. He condemned the attorney-general’s office for failing to give protection to suspects and witnesses, arguing that all the civilian suspects should be placed under protective custody for their own safety and to ensure the successful conduct of the trials.

The wheels of justice are moving forward painfully slowly in Indonesia, leading many to believe that the only way is for the UN to set up an international tribunal. Scores of international NGOs have written twice to the UN secretary-general since early July calling for a tribunal; following the events in Atambua, calls are growing, among others from the East Timorese leader, Xanana Gusmao, for the creation of an international war crimes tribunal.

6. Renewed violence threatens West Papua

In early August, the Indonesian armed forces dispatched thousands of additional troops to West Papua amid signs that the policy of the central government towards the territory has gone into re-verse. The arrival of these troops created an atmosphere of tension and fear after months of hoping that the people's aspirations for a change in West Papua's status might be resolved by dialogue. Within weeks, three people had been shot dead for raising the Papuan flag.

Since December 1999, President Abdurrachman Wahid has been trying to placate West Papuan aspirations. He announced a decision during a visit to Jayapura on New Year's Eve that the territory would now be known as Papua, not Irian Jaya. He also gave tacit support for a congress on West Papua's future by donating money. Although his concessions fell far short of acknowledging that the status of West Papua might change, it gave heart to people that dialogue and understanding would now be the path pursued by Jakarta.

When the top military and police chiefs were replaced in November, a new hearts-and-minds policy called a 'policy of affection' was announced and the flying of the Papuan 'Morning Star' flag was allowed as an expression of people's aspirations, as long as it was flown side by side with, and a little lower than, the Indonesian flag. However, while flag-raising was allowed in some places, elsewhere it provoked violent crackdowns as in Timika at the beginning of December when troops opened fire and killed one person, and in Nabire earlier this year when several people were killed. The conflicting policies were so confusing that a judge presiding over the trial in Sorong of a group of flag-raisers decided to acquit the accused as he was not sure which of the policies was the official one.

Para-military forces have also emerged on both sides of the political divide. Since the holding of the Second Papuan Congress (see TAPOL Bulletin, No 158, June 2000), thousands have joined Satgas Papua, the security force that successfully guarded the congress without official interference. Local groups, mostly armed with traditional weapons, have sprung up in many places and were criticised in early August for their attempts to prevent Malukan refugees from entering West Papua [see separate article]. At the same time, a pro-Indonesian para-military group known as Satgas Merah-Putih, or Red-and-White militia (named after the colours of the Indonesian flag), has also emerged. People on the ground fear that the policy of using militias which caused such devastation in East Timor last year is now being applied in West Papua, an order to provoke horizontal conflicts.

TNI victory at the MPR changed things

The most significant result of the Annual Session of Indonesia's supreme legislative assembly, the MPR, which was held in August was the change in the balance of forces between civil society and the military, with the latter coming out the stronger. Amid widespread public condemnation, the MPR agreed to allow the TNI, the Indonesian armed forces, to retain seats in the body until 2009 and granted amnesty to senior military officers and Suharto for past crimes against humanity committed during the New Order, including those committed in West Papua. But these decisions are only part of the reversal signalled by the MPR session. At its core is the fact that hardliners within the TNI are again in the ascendant, with grave implications for the situation in places like West Papua and Aceh where Wahid's softly-softly approach towards 'separatism' had taken hold.

An MPR decision to grant special autonomy to Irian Jaya has angered West Papuans who had been led to believe that such an issue would first be discussed in West Papua as one of two options, the other being independence. Wahid's proposal to call Irian Jaya Papua was also ignored, and the prospects for more dialogue now appear to have been shelved.

The news that thousands of additional troops were pouring in to West Papua, happening as it did while the MPR session was still underway, was the most telling sign that a policy change was underway. According to sources in West Papua as well as Indonesia's TNI Watch!, three battalions from Kostrad, the army's strategic command, have been sent to West Papua. A battalion consists of between seven and eight hundred men, so this is the equivalent of around two thousand men. In addition, 1,700 Brimob troops have also arrived; this is the mobile brigade police force that has become widely feared for its brutality in many places. This adds up to at least 3,700 extra troops, besides the territorial troops.

These non-organic troops are concentrated mainly in Jayapura, Merauke and Timika, with smaller detachments spread in most other districts. According to human rights activists, the troop arrivals caused consternation everywhere. 'Our phones have never been so busy,' a human rights activist told TAPOL on 15 August. A large force has been sent to Timika for the express purpose of protecting the Freeport/Rio Tinto gold and copper mine.

Three shot dead in Sorong

The policy of allowing the Papuan flag to be unfurled has also been reversed. The first major crackdown came in Sorong on the western tip of West Papua, on 22 August. About sixty people from a nearby island arrived in Sorong the day before and unfurled the Papuan flag early next morning at the Imanuel Church. Two companies of Brimob troops arrived on the scene at 8.30am and ordered the flag to be pulled down. When the flag raisers refused, the police opened fire without any warning shots. Although the Papuans tried to fight back, they were quickly forced to retreat as the firing continued. A number of people escaped by jumping into the sea. Three men were shot dead and twelve people were taken to hospital, all but one with bullet wounds.

For months now, people have responded to the more relaxed policy by flying the Morning Star everywhere. In some districts, the flag is flying on every home. Flag-flying has a deep significance for West Papuans, an expression of their identity and carrying the conviction that this symbolic act will bring independence. With flag-raising now such a widely practised phenomenon, such peaceful actions are likely to become the flash-points for a crackdown.

On 15 August, several human rights organisations and church leaders, including the Bishop of Jayapura, Leo Laba Ladjar and the heads of the two Protestant churches in West Papua, issued a wide-ranging statement warning of the danger of conflict re-emerging, following the arrival of extra troops. It referred to plans by the security forces to initiate a Rajawali operation (no doubt, along the lines of Rajawali operations in Aceh) to persuade Papuans to turn away from thoughts about independence.

It made a number of recommendations: (1) That the right of people to call themselves Papuans and the tradition of flag-raising should be acknowledged as their right to freedom of expression. (2) That the central and local governments should respect the principle of dialogue and do everything to prevent the re-emergence of militarism. For West Papua this means withdrawing all non-organic troops, as the use of violence can only create new problems. (3) That plans for regional autonomy should be shelved and the issue discussed with the Papuan people. (4) It also called upon all sections of society, in particular the Papuan Presidium Council (set up by the Second Papuan Congress in June this year), religious leaders, traditional leaders, Satgas Papua and Satgas Merah-Putih to focus on dialogue as the way to resolve conflict and to exercise the utmost restraint so as to avoid being trapped in a cycle of violence which can only lead to yet more bloodshed.

8. Suharto and TNI win immunity from MPR

Just as the world was congratulating the Chilean people for their success in getting Pinochet's immunity removed, paving the way for a trial in a domestic court, Indonesia's armed forces managed to 'persuade' the MPR to grant it immunity and impunity from any trials for grave human rights violations. This is a serious setback for justice and democracy.

The first Annual Session of the MPR, Indonesia's supreme legislative chamber met in August, amid a battle royal between the political parties for a share of power and an unseemly fight over cabinet posts. But while that battle was raging, scant attention was given to scores of amendments to the Indonesian Constitution under discussion, especially those relating to the role of the military. Halfway through the session, it became apparent that a decision would be taken to retain uncontested seats in the MPR for the armed forces (TNI) and the police till 2009 although leaders of the main parties had committed themselves to a cut-off date of 2004 (even that would have been a betrayal of the reform agenda so eagerly anticipated when Abdurrachman Wahid took over the reins of government in October 1999). The argument, the public was told, was that since members of the security forces had surrendered their right to vote in general elections, they could legitimately insist on uncontested seats. But worse was still to come.

Written into the Constitution

Next came the disclosure that the role of the TNI would be written into the Constitution as the state organ solely responsible for 'defending, protecting and safeguarding state integrity and sovereignty.' Not even under Suharto was this established as a constitutional right although, to be fair, it wasn't really necessary; he would never have survived had he not given ABRI, as the security forces were then called, a special role in security and political affairs. Nor did Suharto want the 'sacred' 1945 Constitution to be tampered with or amended.

As human rights advocates have argued, if no limit is placed on the role of the TNI, it could return the military to the national political stage, the very ones who committed so many human rights violations. Such a blanket endorsement of the TNI role could moreover shatter confidence in many parts of the country, leading to the disintegration which the present government is so set against. It also provides the judicial basis for the TNI to declare a state of emergency as it deems fit, in the interests of 'safeguarding (the state's) integrity and sovereignty'.

But then, two days before the session ended when all that remained was the final plenary session, it became clear that another amendment would establish the principle that 'the right not to be charged on the basis of retroactivity is a basic human right that may not be breached under any circumstances'. As Munir of Kontras, the Commission for the Disappeared and to Combat Violence, said on learning of this, non-retroactivity is indeed a universal principle. 'But this amendment will make it impossible to try perpetrators of human rights which occurred in the past, specifically by the military,' he said. It is widely acknowledged under international humanitarian law that exceptions can and should be made in cases of gross violations of human rights which were the hallmark of Suharto's 32-year New Order.

When Munir challenged Amien Rais, the speaker of the MPR to reconsider these amendments, he was told: 'Unfortunately, you came when the food has already been served.' Rais even admitted that leaders of the assembly's Commission A assigned to discuss the amendments were 'people with little knowledge on legal and human rights issues'. [Jakarta Post, 17 August 2000)

Call for an international tribunal

In June, the Wahid government submitted a draft human rights courts law to the DPR which would, if enacted, establish human rights instruments as a part of Indonesian law. It includes an article enabling the creation of ad hoc courts to apply these instruments for specific cases in the past. The constitutional amendment means that that paragraph becomes indefensible. It means that, insofar as human rights violators are brought to court, they will only be charged with ordinary crimes under the Criminal Code. The widely condemned koneksitas trial in Aceh earlier this year (see TAPOL Bulletin, No 158, June 2000) is now more than likely to become the norm.

A month later, more than a hundred organisations and individuals wrote to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, calling for the Security Council to set up an international tribunal for crimes against humanity in East Timor before and after last year's ballot. The letter said: '... we have concluded that progress (in creating a court in Indonesia) has not been satisfactory and that international standards of justice will not prevail in Indonesia for some considerable time... The main obstacles to the speedy completion of the Indonesian process are the lack of political will in certain quarters to ensure the process succeeds, the serious flaws in the human rights courts bill now before the Indonesian Parliament, and the poor calibre of judicial personnel.' As recent developments have shown, this was a gross understatement.

There has been deep disappointment and outrage in Indonesia at the MPR's decision which is bound to grow in the months to come. The issue is by no means over. If the UN does indeed set up an international tribunal, the powers that be in Indonesia will need to reconsider things. As events have shown, the Indonesian Constitution is now no longer regarded as sacrosanct. Calls are being made for a Constitutional Commission to draft a new constitution. It will be up to civil society to bring this about and force a revision of the dangerous concessions granted to the TNI during the MPR's inglorious 2000 Session.