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161, April 2001

1. deadly conflict in central kalimantan
2. human rights defenders slain in cold blood
3. all out war in aceh as us oil company halts operations [text unavailable]
4. suharto-style trials back in fashion
03 April 2001

Bulletin no. 161



1. Deadly conflict in Central Kalimantan

2. Human rights defenders slain in cold blood

3. All out war in Aceh as US oil company halts operations [text unavailable]

4. Suharto-style trials back in fashion

5. The birth of a new organisation [text unavailable]

6. PRD takes Suharto to court [text unavailable]

7. West Papuan refugees at risk in PNG [text unavailable]

8. Wamena tragedy a provocation

9. A visit to new East Timor [text unavailable]

10. UNTAET slow to investigate crimes against humanity [text unavailable]

11. Give peace a chance [text unavailable]

12. Autonomy an essential part of democratisation [text unavailable]  

1. Deadly conflict in Central Kalimantan

An explosion of violence in Kalimantan in late February shook the entire province of Central Kalimantan. Thousands of Dayaks, armed with machetes and home-made spears, hunted down migrants from the island of Madura, killing at random and destroying entire villages. The violence, prompted by years of unresolved social conflicts, destroyed hundreds of homes and decapitated bodies were strewn along the roadside. Two years earlier, a similar eruption shook West Kalimantan.

This time the violence erupted in Sampit, the largest timber port in Indonesia. Sampit is a typical, red-necked frontier town where relations between the local population and newcomers have long been tense. As with conflicts elsewhere in Indonesia, it started with a rather trivial dispute about the dismissal of two government officials. On the night of 17 February, a Dayak house was reportedly burned down. As word spread that Madurese were responsible, a gang of Dayak youths attacked a Madurese neigbourhood. In less than two weeks, the Dayaks had killed 469 people though observers believe that at least 1,000 Madurese lives were lost and 30,000 were forced to leave Central Kalimantan.

Jakarta's tardy response

When the violence erupted, President Wahid was just about to leave for the Middle East on a tour that would take him to several Arab countries and to Mecca for the haj. He ignored pleas to cancel the trip. As for Vice-President Megawati, it was nearly two weeks before she made a visit to the stricken region, heavily protected by 15 companies of special police and 4,000 troops. By then, the violence had subsided sufficiently for her to make a 30-minute visit to a refugee camp in Sampit. By then, calm had been restored because most of the Madurese had sought sanctuary in camps or left for Java. Other districts in the province refused to receive the Madurese, fearing that violence would follow. The local authorities in Barito Utara, the location of Suharto's disastrous one-million hectare swamp rice project, started recording the ethnic origin of settlers and transmigrants; all Madurese were instructed to leave by 2 March. The Madurese had become victims of ethnic cleansing.

When he did return home, President Wahid made a brief visit to Central Kalimantan which led to another trail of violence. The moment he left Sampit, an incident happened in which riot police and Dayak protestors were killed and a protest gathering in Palangkaraya was fired on by troops killing at least five people

Recent experience has shown that the government takes great pride in organising ceremonies or visits of ministers, but when it comes to resolving conflicts or even maintaining law and order, the security forces have a record of utter failure, combined with deliberate neglect.

C. Kalimantan, a place of extremes

Central Kalimantan is in every sense a place of extremes, where poverty, hardship and the struggle for survival is harsh. The latest bout of violence exemplifies these problems. The local economy depends on timber and plantations. The district of Kotawaringin Timur, of which Sampit is the capital, covers about 5 million hectares, nearly all of which was forest thirty years ago. Now only 2.7 million hectares is designated 'forest land'. The rest has been turned into agricultural land, plantations, settlements or unproductive scrub and grassland. Only 0.5 million hectares is classified as 'protected forest' and local people are prohibited by law from using this to make a living. Over 1 million hectares of the remaining forest is due to be converted to estate crops. Illegal logging is rife and the forests will be commercially logged out within ten years. The Dayaks have little to show for the forests they have lost and most now live below the official poverty line.

A thriving port town, Sampit is the centre of the legal and illegal timber industry and the trading and administrative centre of the province. Almost all these activities are dominated by outsiders. Sampit has the air of a booming frontier town but for all its apparent wealth, its infrastructure is poor; electricity supply is intermittent and there is a lack of clean drinking water. The only asphalt road, running from Palangkaraya to Pangkalanbun, is in a state of disrepair, due to the heavy traffic of logging trucks. Sampit's 'get rich quick' atmosphere attracts migrants. Corruption is widespread. The local police who used to levy a 10% tax on tourists are now said to be soliciting levies from refugees desperate to leave Kalimantan.

Ongoing conflict

Violent confrontations between the indigenous Dayak and Madurese settlers in Kalimantan have erupted for decades. They occurred under Sukarno and intensified during the Suharto era, reaching a new level of horror under Wahid's government. Kotawaringin Timur suffered a bout of violence last December, in the village of Kareng Pangi, subdistrict Katingan Hilir, some 200 km from Sampit. A minor dispute about a gambling centre led to a full-scale attack on the Madurese. Many homes and vehicles were destroyed or torched.

In late 1996/early 1997, violence between these two communities caused at least 600 deaths. The conflict, now referred to as the Sanggau Ledo (a Madurese settlement) Tragedy, was widely reported in the national and international press. The Economist of 15 February 1997 reported that"driving inland from the west coast of Kalimantan is like entering a war zone' Three years later, 40,000 Madurese refugees were still living in wretched conditions in 'temporary' camps in West Kalimantan's provincial capital, Pontianak [see also TAPOL Bulletin No. 139 & 140, February and April 1997].

In March 1999, while waves of violence were rippling across Maluku and West Java, West Kalimantan also had its share of trouble in Sambas. On that occasion, Malays joined forces with the Dayaks to target the Madurese. The district of Sambas has a population of 800,000, of which about eight per cent were Madurese. The official death toll was 200 but observers believe that many more people died. [See also Killings in many parts of Indonesia, TAPOL Bulletin No. 152, May 1999].

In all the conflicts up until 1999, Madurese vigilante groups fought fierce battles against the locals but in the latest bloodbath, the Madurese were defenceless victims and entire families were butchered by rampaging indigenous Dayaks.

The worst incident occurred when several hundred Madurese who had taken refuge in the forest were persuaded by local officials to be trucked down to the harbour, under police protection. A Dayak mob got wind of the evacuation, diverted the trucks to a field and persuaded the police and officials to hand over the human cargo. The police fled, and in less than an hour, 118 Madurese had been slain.

Resolving conflicts, military style

The social, political, cultural and economic roots of the conflict have remained unresolved. Typically, the killings stop once the newcomers have been driven out A well-publicised peace ceremony of government officials and prominent leaders of the two communities is held. Military chiefs recruit a few elders to sign a peace accord, accompanied by some photogenic rituals and everyone goes home, satisfied with a good day's work. A peace monument erected after the 1979 conflict was symbolically demolished in the 1997 violence. Impunity has been total, and none of the killers have been brought to justice.

One new factor that has become very evident in the post-Suharto period is the shameful inability of the security forces to deal with unrest. During the New Order, the military relied on the prevailing fear among the population to keep the lid on discontent. But nowadays the discredited image of both TNI (the armed forces) and POLRI (the police force) and the absence of the rule of law has meant that there are no law enforcement agencies capable of protecting citizens.

The ineptitude of the security apparatus in dealing with the unrest in Central Kalimantan is a measure of the sheer scale of the problems Indonesia is facing. Thirty thousand troops are now stationed in Aceh, about fourteen battalions are tied up controlling the security situation in Maluku, an unknown number of troops are stationed in West Papua and tens of thousands of troops are being kept ready to cope with street demonstrations across Java.

Moreover, the decision to shift responsibility for law and order from the army to POLRI has created its own problems. The police lack the capacity to deal with emergency situations like the violence in Central Kalimantan. Harrowing stories from Madurese survivors confirmed the ineffectiveness of the police. The Madurese were told to discard their weapons but when a huge force of Dayak vigilantes arrived, the police stood by and did nothing to halt the atrocities. Corruption is rife within the army and the police and is often a source of conflict between the two forces. Police officers profiteered from the fleeing Madurese by buying up their household goods cheaply. Another racket, demanding transport money from fleeing Madurese as they boarded marine ships created a conflict between TNI and POLRI.

The failure of policing during the Central Kalimantan tragedy has been used by army top brass to press for the army to resume responsibility for internal security; they have even asked parliament to introduce 'transitional' legislation to formalise this shift.

Dayaks and Madurese, both marginalised

Central Kalimantan is the poorest of the three provinces into which Indonesia's part of Borneo is divided. In all parts of Kalimantan, the Dayaks and Madurese are competing for scarce economic resources, so much of which has been plundered by Jakarta.

Dayak is the generic name for at least 50 linguistically-related groups all over the island of Borneo, including the northern part which belongs to Malaysia. The Dayaks have widely divergent social structures and value systems and are the most marginalised group on the island. Exploitation of Kalimantan's rich natural resources, its forests and minerals, has sidelined the Dayaks. Mining companies, logging companies, state and private plantations, have all joined the scramble. The labour force has been brought in from elsewhere, often Madurese, while the informal business sector, including public transport companies, are all in the hands of non-Dayaks. The Dayaks are not able to make a living from agro-forestry or small-scale logging once the logging companies have stripped all the valuable timber, especially once plantation companies move in to clear up the mess. The commercial loggers and oil palm estates which replace them prefer to use migrant labour rather than employ Dayaks.

The Madurese migrants originate from the small island of Madura off the north-east coast of Java. A shortage of arable land has forced Madurese to migrate and many have gone to Kalimantan. This has been going on since the sixties so they are now into the third generation. They were born in Kalimantan and have never lived, or perhaps even visited, their island of origin. Strictly speaking, the Madurese are not the mercantile class because most of the lucrative business enterprises are in the hands of Chinese or Malay traders. Some Madurese have emerged as small traders in the cities but their role is marginal.

As is often the case elsewhere in the world, marginalised communities have a lot in common with each other but their conflicting positions on the lowest rung of the ladder all too often set them on a collision course. The Dayaks have an animist tradition but many have been converted to Christianity while Madurese cling to their Muslim beliefs. The transmigration programmes and subsequent waves of migrants which brought many Madurese to Kalimantan have created pockets of Madurese settlements, making it virtually impossible to create a multi-ethnic community enjoying social interaction.

Development Suharto-style

The Dayaks, the customary landowners, became the victim of pembangunan, Suharto-style development schemes. Powerful business interests in Jakarta and the West were showered with lucrative concessions. The Dayaks were systematically robbed of their land and resource rights and had no recourse to legal action to defend their rights since, under Indonesian law, forests belong to the state.

Tropical rainforest was turned into plywood, veneers and sawn timber for export in the name of development. Large timber companies made substantial profits and moved on to invest in plantations, banking and real estate, becoming giant conglomerates. The natural wealth of Kalimantan flowed through the hands of Suharto's family and their business cronies and helped to fuel Indonesia's economic boom which lasted until the mid 1990s.

Much has changed in Indonesia since the Asian economic collapse, the fall of Suharto and a new democratically elected government, but the model of economic wealth driven by the ruthless exploitation of natural resources remains intact. Under new regional autonomy legislation, districts must raise sufficient income from their natural resources to finance public services, support the bureaucracy, cream off some profit for the local elite and send revenues to Jakarta.

The international community has supported this. The IMF's 'economic rescue package' promotes exports of timber, minerals and plantation crops such as palm oil to balance Indonesia's financial books. This includes paying off international creditors who were so keen to lend during the Suharto years. The World Bank funded Indonesia's transmigration programme for years and, with the Asian Development Bank, supported an estate crop system which depends on transmigrant labour.

Headhunters or a culture of violence

The mobs of angry local youths who can be seen in widely distributed photographs bearing severed heads on spears are being portrayed as Dayak warriors, head hunters or savages. While they are the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing, they are themselves victims of the destruction of their ethnic identity.

'Development' has eroded traditional lifestyles and undermined the authority of community leaders and offered young indigenous people little in return. The majority have had only a few years of primary education, due to the lack of schools and inability to pay school fees. They are ill-equipped to compete with migrants and can only expect poorly-paid manual work and casual employment.

Barbaric methods like severing heads on a mass scale are alien to Dayak traditions. These are methods frequently used in war situations as a tool to spread fear and terror among the population. The mass raping of women falls under the same category. Severing heads became part of the political scene in Indonesia in 1965, with the birth of the New Order. The severed heads of alleged communists in East Java in 1965 were often impaled as a warning to others. The Indonesian military employed this headhunting method frequently in East Timor. In 1999 an attack against alleged sorcerers in East Java, a Middle Age witch hunt, also engaged in headhunting. Decapitation is part of the culture of violence, nothing else.

2. Human rights defenders slain in cold blood

Peace agreements come and go but on the ground nothing ever changes in Aceh. The death toll has continued to rise, even following a mid-January accord for a one-month moratorium on violence. Volunteers working for a group to assist victims of torture were murdered in cold blood, in a deliberate move to curb the activities of human rights defenders.

On average these days, there are at least three killings a day in Aceh, but it was the murder in cold blood of three volunteers working for RATA (Rehabilitation Action for Torture Victims in Aceh) that deeply shocked public opinion and resulted in a condemnation by the European Union and the UN.

RATA was inaugurated in Banda Aceh in September 1998 by the governor of Aceh and the Danish ambassador, and is led by a former political prisoner, Drs Nurdin Abdulrahman. It is sponsored and largely financed by the Danish Government and is a member of the Copenhagen-based International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims. Its volunteers work away from the spotlight, sending teams to provide counselling to victims and escorting victims to hospital when medical treatment is required.

As this cold-blooded murder shows, the Indonesian security forces regard the work of humanitarian workers and human rights defenders as dangerous because they are witnesses to what is happening on the ground.

A well-planned attack

The team that set out from Lhokseumawe in a vehicle clearly marked with the RATA insignia on 6 December to take patients in Tanah Pasir, North Aceh to a local medical centre consisted of three men and a woman, Idris bin Yusuf (27), Bachtiar bin Usman Daud (23), Nazaruddin bin Abdul Gani (22) and Ernita binti Wahab (23). The sole survivor, Nazaruddin, was able to tell the world what happened to his colleagues. He gave his testimony four days later, after going into hiding.

Soon after the RATA team had escorted some patients to a medical centre in North Aceh, their vehicle was halted by three cars. A well-known cuak - army informer - named Ampson Thayeb who seemed to be in charge, ordered the volunteers out of their car. All the men in the three cars were heavily armed; some were cuak and the others were almost certainly soldiers not in uniform. The volunteers were questioned at gunpoint and stripped of their wallets and ID cards. They were asked about their RATA activities and accused of being pro-GAM, because they were operating in a GAM area.

Nazaruddin and Bachtiar were ordered into one car, while Ernita and Idris were forced into the other cars. When the convoy stopped again, the volunteers were ordered out, told to take off their shoes and beaten. When they fell to the ground, shots were fired close to their feet. One of the abductors who was apparently a soldier was filming everything with a video camera.

A family in a house nearby who had watched the team being maltreated was ordered into one of the cars. The convoy then drove off again, and stopped several times at local koramil (military command posts) to chat with the soldiers. When Thayeb asked an officer, 'Should we finish them off here?' he was told to go and do it somewhere else.

The convoy then approached a village where a bomb had just exploded; plenty of people were still milling around. The men in the convoy opened fire. As the people scattered, the kidnappers seized a man named Rusli and order him into one of the cars. The convoy drove off again and later stopped in front of a school in Kandang. The volunteers together with Rusli were ordered out and told to 'confess if you want to survive'. Their hands were bound behind their backs. As one of the men thrust a gun into Ernita's mouth, she pleaded with them not to kill her. After driving off again, they were ordered out. Ernita and Idris were stood in front of a house. As the camera continue to whirr, the two were kicked to the ground and shot dead in the head, each with a single bullet.

Meanwhile Nazaruddin had managed to loosen the cord binding his hands and tried to do the same for Bachtiar. But as the men turned on them, he fled, escaping a volley of shots as he plunged through a nearby field, dressed only in his underpants. As he fled, he heard another two shots which killed Bachtiar and Rusli. Later that evening, he was taken in by a family in a village.

The following day, the bullet-riddled bodies of Ernita, Idris, Bachtiar and Rusli were discovered near an empty house in Alue Liem, Bland Mangat sub-district, North Aceh by the Red Cross and taken away for identification and burial. Following the atrocity, RATA teams stopped their activities for two weeks but then resumed their work, except the team in Lhokseumawe which now has no vehicle.

Koneksitas court could be convened

A month after the atrocity, the National Human Rights Commission, Komnas HAM, announced that it would set up a special investigation commission known as a KPP HAM, under the terms of the law on Ad Hoc Human Rights Courts enacted by Parliament in November 2000. This should lead to the establishment of an ad hoc human rights court which would deal with the atrocity as a crime against humanity. If this actually happens, it will set an important precedent in Indonesian legal history, as the first case heard under the Human Rights Court Law.

However, efforts are afoot to prevent this from happening. The details of the atrocity, which were made public within days by Nazaruddin, the sole survivor of the atrocity, also named some of the perpetrators, making it incumbent on the police in Aceh to make arrests and start investigating the case. Among those who are now under arrest are Ampon Thayib and three others, all civilians. Leading the investigations is Chief Commissioner of Police, Drs Manahan Daulay who told human rights activists that there were eight suspects. He refused to identify the other four apart from saying that they were from the security forces, 'though not from the police'. He said that the investigation team was a joint koneksitas team including military investigators which means that the suspects will be indicted before a koneksitas court.

This move has been roundly condemned by local human rights activists because such a court, in effect a military court, would not treat the atrocity as a crime against humanity and would deal only with the direct perpetrators, while those who ordered the kidnap and assassination operation would remain untouched. In a joint statement, the head of RATA, Drs Nurdin AR, and Iqbal Farabi, head of the Komnas HAM office in Banda Aceh, said: 'This case must not be taken to a koneksitas court. The RATA killing was clearly a crime against humanity, a grave, systematic and comprehensive crime, not just an incident. There are strong indications that this was a state-instigated crime with the deliberate aim of obstructing the work of humanitarian workers.' Investigations must expose the more senior military officers who were in overall command of those who perpetrated the crime. 'This can only be done in a human rights court,' Iqbal said.

By moving fast to set up koneksitas procedures, no doubt acting under pressure from the military, the police clearly want to pre-empt Komnas HAM intentions. A koneksitas trial would make it impossible to set up a human rights court subsequently because the principle of double jeopardy would foreclose the chances of holding a re-trial.

The toll rises steadily

The RATA killings occurred in a month when, according to one of Aceh's leading human rights' monitors, the number of victims has continued to rise. Kontras-Aceh, the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence, announced in early January that they had been able to verify 184 cases of killings, disappearances, torture and arrests in December. They stressed that this was not the complete story by any means, only cases where they had been able identify the victims, the perpetrators and the locations. Their local monitors were frequently obstructed in their work by the authorities.

Their records included 88 deaths of which 35 were clearly the work of the security forces while 53 persons had been killed by unknown assailants. The killings were scattered right across Aceh. In North Aceh, there were 23 deaths, in Bireuen 21, in South Aceh 16 and in East Aceh 13. Altogether, according to Kontras-Aceh records, twenty people were still missing.

Kontras-Aceh coordinator, Aguswandi, told the press that it was imperative for the Indonesian authorities to reverse their present policy of violence; he insisted that they should accept responsibility for the escalating number of victims. [Serambi Aceh, 4 January 2001]

Petrus killings abound

One of striking features of the current spate of killings is that in many cases, corpses are left lying on the road. On one occasion in mid December, local people discovered five bodies lying side by side.

The director of Cordova, an NGO that focuses on social analysis and human rights, told a Jakarta daily: 'Today, we see a new type of violence in the style of mysterious murders (petrus) such as those committed during the Suharto years which were (on that occasion) applied on suspected criminals. Suddenly now in Aceh we have bodies placed deliberately in public places.' This made it difficult to believe the government when it says the violation of rights here can be stopped.

Interviewed by The Jakarta Post, Otto Syamsuddin Ishak said, '...since June, we've been seeing more petrus cases in which the victims are mostly civilians.'

Ishak is a member of the joint monitoring team for security modalities that works within the framework of the Joint Understanding for a Humanitarian Pause to monitor violations of the accord between the Indonesian government and the armed movement, GAM. Asked which of the two sides were responsible for most of the violations, he said: 'Maybe both parties are guilty of violating the Pause ... but both parties must be open to a transparent and comprehensive examination of rights violations.' This could be undertaken, he said, by an international NGO like Amnesty International or by the UN. [Jakarta Post, 18 December 2000]

4. Suharto-style trials back in fashion

Less than three years after the fall of Suharto amid calls for 'reformasi', there are serious signs that the democratically-elected government of Abdurrahman Wahid is slipping back into the bad, repressive ways of the Suharto dictatorship. In West Papua and Aceh, people who exercised their right to peaceful protest are facing charges that criminalise legitimate political protest. TAPOL has again called for these repressive laws to be repealed.

Already under the transitional government of B.J Habibie, in power from May 1998 till October 1999, the authorities responded to strong pressure to release all political prisoners throughout Indonesia, including the many dozens held in Aceh and West Papua. The releases were completed soon after Abdurrahman Wahid took office on 20 October 1999 and it was hoped that forthwith, no one would fall victim to charges under the anti-subversion law or the politically motivated articles in the Criminal Code known as the 'hate-sowing' articles.

However, these articles were not repealed and still worse, when the Habibie government decided in April 1999 to repeal the much-hated and widely-criticised draconian Anti-Subversion Law, far from expunging from the statute books the most damaging, politically-motivated articles of that law, it incorporated them into the Criminal Code. So we now have an additional six articles, Articles 107a - 107f which were lifted from the anti-subversion law. These articles codify 'crimes' of a purely political nature such as 'endangering the Pancasila' and 'promoting the spread of Marxism-Leninism'.

In a letter to the new Minister of Justice and Human rights, Dr Baharuddin Lopa, on 1 March 2001, TAPOL called for the repeal of all these articles on the grounds that they 'should have no place in a state based on democratic principles'.

Article 154 of the Criminal Code states that anyone who expresses 'feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt for the Indonesian Government', shall face a penalty of up to seven years. Article 154a states that 'anyone who besmirches the national flag and symbols of the state of the Republic of Indonesia' shall face a maximum penalty of up to four years'.

Article 155 states that 'anyone who makes public, displays or hangs out writings or pictures in public places that contain feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt for the Indonesian Government for the purposes to making them known to the public' shall be liable to a maximum penalty of four and a half years.

Article 160 states that anyone who 'in a public place, verbally or in writing, incites others to commit a crime, to use violence towards public officials or incites persons not to comply with laws or official instructions issued on the basis of the law' shall be liable to a penalty of up to six years.

'Hate-sowing' in Aceh

Muhammad Nazar has chaired SIRA, the Centre of Information for a Referendum in Aceh, since its establishment in 1999. The organisation is dedicated to a peaceful struggle for a referendum on the status of Aceh and its future relationship with Indonesia. SIRA's first major action was to organise a mass rally in Banda Aceh calling for a referendum in November 1999 attended by around a million people who had travelled from all parts of Aceh. The security forces made no attempt to prevent the rally and security was left to members of SIRA. The event passed off peacefully.

In August 2000, SIRA called on people not to raise the Indonesian national flag to mark the national day on 17 August but asked them instead to raise the flag of the United Nations. The SIRA office was raided in the run-up to that event and UN flags were confiscated. In November, SIRA called on people to come to Banda Aceh to attend another pro-referendum rally on the first anniversary of the pro-referendum rally in 1999. However, this time round, security forces were out in force in all parts of Aceh, setting up road blocks and using armed violence to prevent hundreds of thousands of people from reaching Banda Aceh. Dozens of people were killed; Kontras-Aceh (Commission for the Disappeared and the Victims of Violence) was able to identify more than three dozen deaths but acknowledges that the death toll was probably far higher. The rally went ahead as planned but hundreds of thousands of people were prevented from attending. [See Tens of thousands rally for peace in Aceh, TAPOL Bulletin, No 160, November-December 2000].

By this time, Nazar had been summoned for questioning by the police regarding the raising of the UN flag in August and was arrested on 20 November after being interrogated for a whole day. It was later announced that he would face charges under the 'hate-sowing articles' and he was transferred from police custody to prison, to await trial. Although according to the procedural code, the trial should be held in the place where the alleged 'crime' was committed, a decision was issued by the then Justice Minister that the trial would take place in Medan, apparently on the grounds that there were not sufficient judges to hear the case in Banda Aceh. The decision was strongly condemned by his team of lawyers, his family and his associates in SIRA who warned against transferring him to Medan where Acehnese activists have been kidnapped and assassinated, most recently Jafar Siddiq Hamzah who disappeared in Medan last August and whose body was found three weeks later.

The Nazar trial formally opened in Medan on 21 February but the defendant did not appear at the courthouse and the trial was adjourned. Shortly beforehand, Justice and Human Rights Minister Yusril Irzha Mahendra had been dismissed by President Wahid and was replaced by Baharuddin Lopa, who was secretary-general of Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission during its first years of existence. The new minister had made a last-minute intervention, rescinding his predecessor's decision and decided that the trial should be held in the district court in Banda Aceh.

In a letter to Justice Minister Baharuddin Lopa welcoming the switch in venue, TAPOL said:

'...we believe that there is no justification for the trial of Nazar Muhammad to proceed. The defendant is being indicted for the peaceful exercise of his right to express views about the situation in Aceh. It is deplorable that he will face charges under articles 154, 155 and 160, the notorious ''hate-spreading'' articles of Indonesia's Criminal Code. We would urge you to exercise your authority to press the Attorney General's office to drop the charges and order the unconditional release of the prisoner.'

The trial was resumed in Banda Aceh on 8 March with a heavy security presence to keep hundreds of supporters at bay.

'Hate-sowing' in West Papua

On 5 February this year, five local members in Wamena of the Papuan Presidium Council went on trial at the Wamena district court. They were arrested on 13 December last year, two months after the Wamena Tragedy (see Wamena tragedy a provocation in this issue) and have been accused of 'masterminding' the violence in Wamena on 6-7 October. The four men and one woman are: Rev. Obed Komba, Rev. Yudas Meage, Yafet Yelemaken, Murjono Murib, and Amelia Yigibalom. Although all the evidence suggests that they had tried to calm down the angry crowds and halt the violence, they have been charged under the three 'hate-sowing' articles, as well as under Article 106 which prescribes a maximum life sentence for attempting to commit 'separatism' and under Article 110 which prescribes a sentence of up to six years for 'conspiring to commit separatism'. On 10 March, they were sentenced to between four and four and a half years.

Seventeen men also went on trial in Wamena for their alleged part in the violence on 6 - 7 October. Sixteen of the men, who are alleged to be members of the Papua Taskforce (Satgas Papua), faced charges under Article 214 which makes it an offence to use 'violence or threats of violence towards a state official' in collusion with two or more persons, punishable by up to seven years. They also face charges for the illegal use or possession of firearms under an emergency law of 1951. The sixteen are: Yohakim Huby, Frans Huby, Heri Kosay, Hendrik Siep, Agus Sorabut, Jakson Itlay, Edi Marian, Timatus Kogoya, Pilius Wenda, Les Wenda, Atinus Wenda, Teri Wenda, Isak Wenda, Elius Wenda, Yoel Wenda and Yules Wenda.

The seventeenth man on trial is Sudirman Pagawak who is charged with 'inciting' others to disobey a government order or break the law under Article 160 of the Criminal Code.

On 10 March, the 17 men were found guilty and given sentences of between one year and nine months and three and a half years.

It goes without saying that the police authorities who ordered and/or took part in the operation to lower the West Papuan flag in violation of an agreement that had been reached three days earlier with the Papuan Presidum Council (see separate article) and caused the deaths of thirteen West Papuans are not facing any charges. Nor are the members of Brimob who violently attacked defenceless prisoners in their cells (see separate article), while they were awaiting trial.

International observers denied entry

A request by the Australian branch of the International Commission of Jurists to send an observer team to attend the trials in Wamena was turned down by the Indonesian authorities. The mission was to have been headed by Justice Elizabeth Evatt. The ICJ's Australian branch has frequently sent observer missions to attend political trials in Indonesia but this is the first time ever that an observer mission has been rejected.

Amnesty condemns the trials

Amnesty International has strongly condemned the use of the 'hate-sowing' articles in Aceh and West Papua. In a statement issued on 7 February 2001 in which it announced that the five Papua Presidium Council members in Wamena and Muhammad Nazar in Aceh had been granted recognition as prisoners of conscience, the organisation said:

'In Aceh and Papua, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between the current government and that of President Suharto. Agents of the state are resorting to the same tactics of intimidating, imprisoning, torturing and killing those suspected of opposing Jakarta's rule.'

Five Presidium leaders await trial

The crackdown on the pro-independence movement in West Papua took yet another turn with the arrest of five senior members of the Papuan Presidium Council. Four of the leaders, Theys Eluay (Presidium chairman), Taha Al Hamid (Presidium secretary-general), John Mambor and Don Flassy were taken into police custody the day before 1 December 2001, the day on which the Presidium planned to hold events to mark the anniversary of the day in 1961 when the Dutch colonial authorities agreed to recognise the West Papuan flag and anthem and said they would make preparations for West Papuan independence. Four days later a fifth Presidium Council leader, the Rev. Herman Awom, was also taken into custody. All five men still remain in custody but, as far as is known, no formal charges have been laid although it is believed that they will be charged under Article 106 for 'rebellion' or 'separatism'. In December, they were transferred from police custody to Abepura prison.

Following their arrest, Gus Dur, as President Wahid is popularly known, several times called for their release but he was ignored. The deep disagreement between the president and his senior officers was aired very publicly with Gus Dur even lamenting the fact that top ministers and the national police chief had held a meeting and turned down his call for the men's release. [Jakarta Post, 9 December 2000]

This is not the first time these men have been arrested to 'await trial' but the cases against them fizzled out and no charges were laid. Sources close to the Presidium Council told TAPOL last year that this was because Gus Dur had ordered their release. It is a sign of the weakening position of Gus Dur and the major switch in Jakarta's policy towards West Papua that such orders from the president no longer hold sway.

Peaceful demo is now 'treasonable'

Meanwhile in Jakarta, hundreds of West Papuan students held a demonstration on 1 December in support of calls for independence. The demonstration was organised by the National Front of West Papuan Student (in Exile), and students came from universities throughout Java. They made their way to the Dutch and US embassies and to the UNDP office in Jakarta to present petitions about their demands. They expressed full support for the Second Papuan Congress in Jayapura last June and called for the withdrawal of extra troops which were sent to West Papua in the months leading up to 1 December.

Towards midday they were assaulted by Brimob forces who laid into them with batons, tear gas and firearms. The students were forced to scatter when tear gas was fired. Two demonstrators were hit by rubber bullets fired by the police, one in the head, the other in the shoulder. Seven of the demonstrators were taken into custody. Three were released on the following day after being forced to reverse their support for the demands contained in the petitions.

The other four who refused to make any concessions about their views, went on trial in Jakarta on 15 March after having been subjected to constant racist abuse and humiliation by their captors, combined with a failure to treat serious medical conditions. The four students are: Laun Wenda, Yosep Wenda, Hans Gobay, and Mathius Rumbrapuk. They have all been adopted by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience. After being held in police custody for two months, they were transferred to Salemba Prison, Jakarta on 31 January.

Mathius Rumbrapuk is suffering from a serious injury to his right leg as the result of being trampled on by one of the police officers during the demonstration. Yosep Wenda suffered a blow in the head from the police which has impaired the hearing in his right ear. In late February, Rubrapuk was taken to St Carolus Hospital for a check-up where doctors diagnosed him as suffering from severe depression, needing psychiatric treatment in addition to treatment for his leg wound.

The charges they are facing are very grave: 'rebellion' and 'separatism' under article 106 of the Criminal Code for which the maximum penalty is life, and charges under the 'hate-sowing' articles. Why should people who took part in a peaceful demonstration be treated with such severity? For the answer, we should recall how effective East Timorese students studying in Indonesia were in alerting the diplomatic community in Jakarta and the wider international community about the situation in their country. West Papuan students in Indonesia are now being warned against indulging in such activities on behalf of their people.

8. Wamena tragedy a provocation

The Wamena tragedy of 6 October 2000 which led to the deaths of 37 people, with scores injured and eighty people taken into custody had a profound impact on life in the Baliem Valley and West Papua, bringing about fundamental changes of lasting significance, accor-ding to an investigation. Actions by the security forces triggered a cycle of violence and the emergence of inter-group conflict. Thousands fled the area, paralysing the economy and inflicting lasting damage on education.

These are the conclusions drawn by an investigation team composed of the main human rights NGOs in Jayapura, Kontras-Papua (Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence), ELSHAM-Papua (the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy), the Jayapura Legal Aid Institute, and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Jayapura Diocese.

The tragedy began with a series of operations by army and police forces, forcibly pulling down the Papuan flag at a number of command posts being manned by Satgas-Papua (Papuan special unit) members. In each case, the flag-poles were cut down with mechanical saws, the flags torn up and the command posts torched or destroyed.

Flag-lowering agreement breached

On 3 October, three days before the operation, a meeting was held in Jayapura between the Papuan Presidium Council on the one hand and the acting governor, the military commander, the chief of police and the rector of Cendrawasih University, at which agreement was reached for Papuan flags to be lowered in orderly fashion by 19 October after the Presidium Council had been able to discuss the flag-raising issue with President Abdurrahman Wahid and a senior member of his cabinet. The decision by the security forces to launch the Wamena operation was in flagrant breach of this agreement and sent shock-waves through the Baliem Valley where local communities fully believed the flag-raising was in keeping with guidelines agreed by the authorities in Jayapura.

A couple of weeks before the onslaught, feelings had been running high in Wamena after low-flying aircraft buzzed the town, calling in people's minds the aerial operations over the Baliem Valley in 1977. The aircraft used on that occasion were British-made Hawks which had been stationed in Biak. In response to pressure from TAPOL, the Hawk aircraft were withdrawn in early October. [See TAPOL Bulletin No 160, November-December 2000.]

The forcible removal of Papuan flags occurred in a series of actions in the town of Wamena, capital of Jayawijaya district. Well-armed teams of Brimob (police commandos) and Kostrad (army strategic command) troops, moved from command post to command post. Papuans at the posts offered no resistance and in most cases fled. On each occasion, a number of people were rounded up, beaten with great brutality, forced into police vans and placed in police custody. Altogether two Papuans were shot dead during the flag-lowering incidents and eleven Papuans were shot dead during later operations that day.

News of the operations spread like wildfire through the town and beyond, bringing large crowds into the area from surrounding villages. Attempts were made to block the movement of the troops by placing obstacles in the roads. However, community elders and local members of the Presidium Council intervened to calm rising passions, and tried to persuade the crowds to desist from engaging in armed resistance.

After the flag-poles and command posts had been destroyed, the troops carried out 'sweepings' in parts of the town. In one incident, they forced their way into a hostel for school-pupils and ordered the youngsters out with their teacher. They were kicked and beaten and shots were fired. Twenty-seven pupils and the teacher were taken to a nearby police post; on the way they were forced to crawl on their knees while being hit with rifle butts.

Setting Papuans against non-Papuans

In the afternoon, troops fanned out to a nearby village, Wouma, where they were confronted by an angry crowd, some of whom responded by shooting arrows at the soldiers. The troops opened fire in the air and at the ground, then withdrew in the direction of the town, followed by the Papuans in hot pursuit. At a market-place, shots were fired at the crowd from inside one of the houses. Seeing that the troops were now using the houses of non-Papuans from which to attack, the crowd attacked the homes, triggering a murderous attack on the non-Papuan inhabitants and the destruction of many homes.

For the first time in the history of the Papuan struggle, several dozen non-Papuan inhabitants were killed, injecting a new and ugly element into the situation - inter-ethnic strife. This appears to have been a deliberate move to fan the flame of inter-communal conflict, in order to undermine and discredit the Papuan struggle. Altogether twenty-four non-Papuans were killed, including several children. In the next few days, thousands of non-Papuans fled the area, believing that their lives were now in danger. Until that time, the two communities had lived peacefully, side by side.

During the course of the operations, around eighty Papuans were arrested, including the group of school-children; they were all treated with great brutality. On the following day, all but sixteen of the detainees were released. The sixteen were joined by another man, Josep Udin, who was already severely battered. He was rushed to hospital where he later died.

More sweepings took place on the next day when troops broke their way into many people's home.

Three weeks after the Wamena tragedy, on 30 October, the Minister-Coordinator for Political, Social and Security Affairs, General (ret'd) Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono, visited the troops in Wamena and praised them for their handling of the unrest which, he said, was 'extremely well done, appropriate and relatively speedy'. [See BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 1 November 2000]

Presidium scapegoated

Two days later, senior military, police and civilian officials held talks with the Jayawijaya representatives (Panel) of the Papuan Presidium Council. At first the talks, appeared to be aimed at calming things down and agreeing on guidelines for lowering Papuan flags in other parts of the district. But suddenly, after agreement had been reached, five Panel members including the Rev. Obeth Komba, were 'invited' to the police command. When the police started to interrogate them, they protested vigorously. The interrogations went on into the night and for most of the following two days. In the end, they were ordered to identify and hand over the men who had taken part in the attack on non-Papuan homes near Wouma. Failure to do so would result in their being held responsible for the tragedy and facing charges of rebellion. Not surprisingly, local people later refused to identify anyone when approached by the Panel members. Placing the Panel members in such an invidious position had the effect of discrediting the PPC whose legitimacy had been so well established after its successful congress in May-June 2000.

When the Panel members, escorted by local officials, later travelled to other parts of the district to try to persuade local people to lower the Papuan flag, they were greeted with howls of abuse.

Just prior to the Wamena tragedy, chief of police S.Y. Wenas told the press about the agreement reached with the Papuan Presidium Council, to lower the flags after a meeting between the PPC and the president, by 19 October. [Cendrawasih Pos, 6 October] Yet on the very day this appeared in print, the police, acting on his orders, took action in Wamena in breach of this agreement.

Three days later, Wenas told the local press: 'The Papuan Presidium Council, in particular the Wamena Panel, must be held responsible for the bloody Wamena incident. There were dozens of victims including a pregnant woman, people were tortured and property was torched.' [Cendrawasih Pos, 9 October 2000]


Altogether thirty-seven people were killed during the Wamena Tragedy, and 89 were seriously injured. 13,565 non-Papuans left Wamena for elsewhere in the Baliem Valley. The 37 deaths included two Papuans shot dead when their flags were forcibly lowered, eleven Papuans shot dead during subsequent operations on 6 October, and 24 non-Papuans killed on the following day.

Twenty-two people remain in custody and have since been formally indicted. They include sixteen Satgas-Papua members, five PPC/Panel members and one government employee.

Another casualty has been severe disruption in the education system in Jayawijaya. Many teachers, the majority of whom are non-Papuans, have fled the area, with no intention of returning. In the three months since the tragedy, nothing has been done to repair the damage to the system, to help teachers and pupils who were traumatised. Although many people were wounded, almost all the medical personnel fled the area.

The investigation team said that the tragedy had created deep divisions within society: Baliem Valley people against non-Baliem Valley people, Papuans against non-Papuans, coastal Papuans against highland Papuans.

The truth turned on its head

'In essence, the Wamena incident consisted of violence by the security forces against the community,' the team concluded. 'There is no evidence that the violence was triggered by ethnic differences, differences of skin colour or differences of religion. All sections of the community were victimised by the incident. Nevertheless, these facts were gradually blotted out because the events were never properly investigated. Gradually, a different perception emerged as a result of the way things were reported in the press and the biased statements by the police, pitting one group against the other. Out of all this emerged the perception that in essence, the Wamena incident was an act of violence by Papuans against non-Papuans.'

Stigmatising the Papuans for the Wamena incident became the order of the day, not only by the local police chief but also by senior members of the government in Jakarta. These distortions triggered a attack a few days later on a hostel in Yogyakarta, Central Java. It was also used by the police in Jayapura as the pretext to launch an attack on students' hostels in Abepura in the wake of an attack on a police command post there on 7 December.

Moreover, following the Wamena tragedy, there was a substantial increase in the number of troops throughout the district of Jayawijaya. According to an announcement by district chief, Drs David Hubi, there are now between ten and twenty TNI and Brimob troops stationed in every sub-district. Furthermore, now that non-Papuan teachers have fled the area, soldiers are taking over as teachers in the schools. (This is reminiscent of what happened for many years in East Timor.)

Notorious Timor veteran takes command

At the end of January, the TNI central command announced the appointment of Major-General Mahidin Simbolon as the commander of the Trikora military command in Jayapura. His appointment followed the death in an air crash of the previous commander.

Simbolon, a member of Kopassus, the army's elite commandos, has had no fewer than six tours of duty in East Timor, starting with Operasi Seroja, the invasion of the territory in December 1975. Like all Kopassus officers serving in East Timor, Simbolon played an active role in SGI, the special Kopassus unit designed for counter-insurgency, whose local command posts were used to torture captured East Timorese. He graduated from the military academy in 1974. He and many of his class-mates have distinguished themselves as 'East Timor veterans' who whose military careers have been advanced by their many operational duties in East Timor.

He led the unit which arrested resistance leader, Xanana Gusmao, in 1992, for which he was given a special promotion from major to colonel. From 1995 to 1997, he was commander of the Wira Dharma Korem in charge of East Timor. Then, until 1999, he was chief of staff at the Udayana military command based in Bali, the command in overall control of East Timor. The Udayana commander at that time was the notorious Major-General Adam Damiri. It was during the tenure of these two generals in Bali that Operasi Sapu Jagad, was launched, the operation whose main purpose was to create, recruit and finance the many militia units that spearheaded the army's violence before, during and after the UN-supervised ballot. This operation must be held responsible for the widespread destruction and killings that climaxed in September, after the ballot result was announced on 4 September. One of the militia units, Mahidi, an acronym, meaning 'dead or alive with integration', was actually named after him.

His appointment to take command in West Papua can be expected to result in an intensification of the use of intelligence operations which he practised during his many years of service in East Timor. Militia gangs. Satgas Merah-Putih (red-and-white militias) are already known to be active in the territory. The new commander is likely to further refine this strategy.

Students killed and brutalised

Two months after the Wamena tragedy, police in Jayapura raided several students' and school-pupils hostels in the city, in retaliation for an attack by unidentified assailants on a police station during which two police officers and a security guard were killed. Although there was no evidence to suggest that students had anything to do with the attack, the police directed their retaliatory raids on several hostels where students and pupils from the central highlands are accommodated, apparently intending to draw a connection between these students and the people blamed for the attacks on non-Papuans during the Wamena incident. While the raids were underway, police officers yelled abusive remarks at 'Wamena inhabitants who killed our men'. [Report by ELS-HAM, 14 December 2000]

The totally unprovoked attack on the students took place early on 7 December. The first victim was Elkius Suhuniab, 18, who was shot and fatally wounded during the raid. He died the next day in hospital.

During the raid, more than one hundred students and pupils were taken into police custody where they were subjected to extreme acts of brutality, during the course of which two more students were killed: Johnny Karunggu, 18, and Orry Doronggi, 17.

Eyewitness account

It so happens that shortly before the police raid, a visiting Swiss journalist, Oswald Iten, was arrested by the police for taking 'political photographs' and was held in police custody for eleven days until he was deported following intervention on his behalf by the Swiss embassy in Jakarta. He wrote later about the 'unspeakably shocking' things he saw from his cell.

He describes how he heard detainees being brought in early in the morning of 7 December and was able to peer through the bars of the cell-block door leading to the guardroom where they were being held.

About half a dozen policemen were swinging their clubs at bodies that were lying on the floor and, oddly enough, did not cry out; at most, only soft groans issued from them.(When a policeman saw me, I went back to my usual place) from where I could still see the clubs, staffs and split bamboo whips at their work. Their ends were smeared with blood and blood sprayed the walls all the way up to the ceiling. Sometimes I saw the policemen hopping up on benches, continuing to strike blows from there or jumping back down on the bodies below.

Later that day, the Swiss journalist witnessed the death of Orry Doronggi in his cell:

The last one to enter (my cell) was a large man, who fell over the bodies on the floor and lay there groaning. He tried repeatedly to straighten himself up, only to fall back down again. Now and again the faces of guards appeared at the barred window, looking down impassively at the tangle of maltreated bodies. In the back of the big man's head, there appeared to be a coin-sized hole through which I believed to spot some brain tissue. After nearly an hour and a half of groaning and spasmodic movement, his suffering body neared its end. About two metres from me, his powerful body raised itself again and his head struck the wall. A final laboured breath issued from him, then his head dropped down onto the cement floor. At last his agony was over. After a while, three lackeys came and dragged the body out. Later I learned that the man who had been tortured to death was named Ori Doronggi. I saw a picture of his corpse in the newspaper, Cendrawasih Pos. The dispatch said three dead Papuans had been brought to the morgue and the police stated they had 'died in the fighting.' [Sydney Morning Herald, 9 January 2001.]

As far as is known, all the other students and pupils arrested at the time were later released. However, the director of ELS-HAM, the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy, Yohanis G. Bonay, was taken into police custody for 24 hours, questioned under Article 311 of the Criminal Code and accused of 'discrediting public officials' for publicising the deaths of the students at the hands of the police. An official of the local legal aid institute and a journalist who had printed information about the police behaviour were also questioned.

Killings in Merauke and Tiom

Security forces opened fire on flag-raisers in two other places. Both these atrocities occurred when West Papuans were hoping that they could mark the anniversary of 1 December 1961 by peacefully raising the flag. There was tension everywhere but some relief when 1 December proceeded in Jayapura without incident. But what happened in Merauke and Tiom shows that the troops were on orders to shoot at groups raising the flag.

In Merauke, in the south-east, about 500 people gathered together to raise the flag on 2 December, in spite of a government ban on flag-raising. When security forces arrived on the scene to force down the flag, a scuffle broke out and the troops opened fire, killing six people, all of whom were reportedly shot in the head.

The other atrocity occurred in Tiom, a small town in the Central Highlands. The incident occurred on 17 December when the police claimed that local tribesmen attacked a group of soldiers who were trying to tear down a flag. According to the police, one soldier was killed. But John Rumbiak of ELS-HAM, the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy: 'Sources at the Baptist Church in Tiom told us the locals were singing, dancing and going wild over the flag they'd just raised when the soldiers arrived and shot them without warning. [Jakarta Post, 21 December 2000]

Brimob attack prisoners in their cells

As if the prisoners in Wamena had not suffered enough at the hands of their tormentors, members of the notorious Brimob gained access to their cells on 4 February and subjected the prisoners to severe beatings and other forms of torture. In a statement issued shortly after this atrocity, ELS-HAM described the injuries suffered by seven of the men who were kicked with jackboots, and struck with iron rods and rifle butts. Murjono Murip, a school-teacher who is one of the Panel members, was struck in the lower back and warned that if he failed to confess in court that he had instigated the violence in Wouma, he would have his nails pulled out and his nose cut off. The other six wounded men were all members of the Papua Taskforce. As TAPOL stated in its letter to the British government, calling for pressure on Jakarta to investigate the incident and punish those responsible, the Brimob attack 'was clearly aimed at intimidating the defendants into acknowledging the charges against them, for fear of further brutalisation'.