Indonesia: Impunity must be brought to an end – conflicts must be resolved by peaceful means

January 18th, 2005

United Evangelical Mission Diakonie – Social Service Agency of the Protestant Church in Germany Watch Indonesia!

Aide-Mémoire to the German delegation 61st Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights 14th March to 22nd April 2005

  United Evangelical Mission Communion of Churches in three Continents Postfach 20 19 63, 42219 Wuppertal Rudolfstraße 137, 42285 Wuppertal Tel.: 0202 / 8 90 04-168 Fax: 0202 / 8 90 04-79 Diakonie – Social Service Agency of the Protestant Church in Germany Human Rights Desk Stafflenbergstr. 76, 70184 Stuttgart Tel: +49(0)711- 21 59 – 496 Fax:+49(0)711- 21 59 – 368 Watch Indonesia! Planufer 92d, 10967 Berlin, Fon/Fax: +49(0)30-69817938  


Beyond the terrible disaster that struck Indonesia in December 2004, the last year in the world’s fourth most populous country was dominated by an election marathon: All in all, Indonesians were called to the polls three times, with a novelty being direct Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections. If this was already a positive sign concerning the state of democratisation in Indonesia, there were also some encouraging developments regarding the enhancement of rechtsstaat, the constitutional state under the rule of law: Here, especially, the work of the new Constitutional Court needs mentioning, as do the steps taken towards improved separation of the Executive and the Judiciary. Nevertheless, the human rights situation in Indonesia is still cause for great concern, especially with regard to the conflict regions of Aceh and Papua and the continuing pattern of impunity for serious human rights violations. As the current Chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), the Government of Indonesia (GoI) has a special responsibility this year to come up with decisive steps to end and prevent human rights violations and to bring perpetrators of both past and present crimes and injustices to justice. In view of its role, Indonesia should also be encouraged by Germany and the European Union to ratify the Covenants on Civil and Political (ICCPR) as well on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Human Rights Defenders

On September 7th, 2004, the human rights lawyer Munir died on board a plane from Singapore to Amsterdam. That his death had been caused by arsenic poisoning only became known when on November 11th, 2004, the results of the Dutch authorities’ autopsy report became public. Munir was probably Indonesia’s best known and most outspoken human rights defender whose work has been honoured by prestigious Indonesian and international awards. Considering the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Commission should urge the GoI to ensure a thorough investigation of Munir’s death. Human rights defenders in Indonesia still live in danger, especially – but not only – in Aceh and Papua. According to one local human rights organisation, at least 165 human rights activists have suffered from abuses, which range from murder, detention, assault, torture and sexual harassment to threats and intimidation. Numerous Acehnese and Papuan human rights defenders have left the country. Considering the aforementioned Declaration, the Commission should urge the GoI to take all necessary steps to ensure the protection of everyone from threats, retaliation, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her work in the field of human rights promotion and protection. The Commission should furthermore urge the GoI that the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SG) on Human Rights Defenders who wishes to visit Indonesia be granted an invitation which includes access to Aceh and Papua.


The gross violations of human rights perpetrated in East Timor in 1999 by pro-Indonesian militias supervised and supported by the Indonesian military have been on the agenda of the UNCHR more than once. The outcome of the trials before the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta and after appeal procedures is a blatant example of the continuation of impunity in Indonesia. For details and recommendations please refer to the Aide Mémoire: „Prosecuting International Crimes. The UN should rethink justice initiative and bring impunity in East Timor to an end”. Impunity is not limited to the violence perpetrated in East Timor. Another process pending before the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court – which has not received much international attention so far – is dealing with the massacre committed in Tanjung Priok in the North of Jakarta in 1984, in which dozens of Muslims were killed. Expectations as to the outcome of these trials need to be lowered even further as compared to those of the East Timor cases. Numerous other serious violations of human rights, from the massacres in the wake of Suharto seizing power in 1965/66 until the only recently committed terrible crimes in Aceh, have so far neither been prosecuted nor tried. The Commission should call on the GoI to initiate steps for a visit of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, this time also to all conflict regions.


The situation in Aceh (Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam) had been cause for concern already long before the province was ravaged by the tsunami disaster. From May 2003 until May 2004, Aceh was under martial law. The following downgrading to civil emergency did not bring any tangible improvements for the population. The military operation continued unabated. Almost on a daily basis we received news of attacks and fighting with up to ten casualties. For most human rights violations – including extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and rape – the Indonesian security forces are made responsible, but for numerous – especially abduction, forced recruitment and extortion – also the independence movement GAM. Only few of these reports are verifiable, as independent observers have been denied access to the province – a fact that in itself is reason enough to assume the worst. Despite these restrictions, amnesty international has recently managed to document – and partly also to verify – a larger number of human rights violations (cf. amnesty international: Indonesia – New military operations, old patterns of human rights abuses in Aceh (Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam), AI Index: ASA 21/033/2004, October 7th 2004). But even the official figures provided by the armed forces can serve as an indicator of the immensity of human rights violations in the province: Between May 2003 and September 2004, the military claims to have killed 2,879 alleged GAM members and detained more than 2,000. The military also acknowled that 662 civilians were killed in that period. Comparing this to data provided in May 2003 by the military on the strength of GAM, namely 5,251 fighters, would lead to the conclusion that GAM has been defeated. As this is obviously not the case it must be assumed that the portion of civilian casualties among the more than 3,500 deaths acknowledged by the security forces is much higher than the stated 662. Transparency of what happened during the time when Aceh was closed off and addressing the human rights violations are preconditions for any sustainable settlement of the conflict. The UNCHR should urge the GoI to invite the Special Rapporteurs on Torture, on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences and on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, especially to Aceh. The province was still sealed off when the tsunami disaster struck. Thus, it took some days until the immensity of the devastation became known and the international relief operations got under way. Although foreign troops and aid workers were eventually allowed access to the province, the state of civil emergency was not revoked, leaving the Indonesian military in Aceh great leeway of operation. Both GAM and the Indonesian military declared a ceasefire, which, however, did not materialize. The operation against GAM continued. The freedom of movement and operation of relief workers was restricted by mandatory military escorts for the largest part of Aceh. Relief efforts have been hampered in several ways by the military abusing its control function in the relief operation. The UNCHR should urge the GoI to ensure full and unimpeded access of relief workers to all areas of Aceh. The Commission should furthermore call on the GoI to ensure that the treatment of IDPs is in full compliance with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and other corresponding international standards. The latest development is that the GoI and the rebel movement GAM are meeting for talks in Helsinki. The UNCHR should support this initiative and encourage the GoI to carry it through. However, in order to reach a peaceful solution for the long-lasting conflict, negotiations with the rebel movement can only be a first step. The conflict resolution process needs to be intimately linked with the reconstruction process and in both processes the participation of civil society must be ensured. This would be a means for the Acehnese to pave the way for a realization of their economic and social rights. Apart from the conflict resolution process in the political realm, ensuring economic, social and cultural rights is an essential precondition for a sustainable peace. The international community should provide political and financial support for such an integrated conflict resolution process. The UNCHR should urge the GoI to ensure the halt of the military operation and to bring perpetrators of past and present human rights abuses to justice.


The situation in Papua also remains a cause for concern. Attacks by the security forces are continuing, with real or alleged independence supporters being detained, abducted, injured or even killed. According to credible reports, a military operation is currently being conducted in the region of Puncak Jaya in the highlands of Papua. The operation has caused thousands of people to flee their homes. There have been reports of several extrajudicial killings and arrests of alleged independence fighters. As for a visit to most regions of Papua a special permit is necessary, and documentation and verification of events is difficult. Furthermore, violations of the social, economic and cultural rights of indigenous Papuans continue to take place in a number ways in the course of the exploitation of Papua’s natural resources by Indonesian and foreign or transnational companies. This receives less attention than in other parts of Indonesia, as Papuans, not least due to the continued disadvantaged state of the province, find themselves in a weak position when it comes to defending their rights. Apart from the „Abepura case” which is currently being tried before the first permanent Human Rights Court outside Jakarta, numerous serious cases of past human rights violations still await prosecution and trial. The UNCHR should urge the GoI to invite several Special Rapporteurs to Papua, especially those on Torture, on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions and on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, as well as the Special Representative of the SG on Human Rights Defenders. Political developments with regard to the status of the province enhance grievances of the population and the longing for independence. The President’s visit to Papua and his issuing of a long awaited decree was not enough to change this overall policy direction. To prevent further escalation of the conflict the Commission should urge the GoI to take all necessary steps to solve the problem. A discontinuation of the policies of dividing the province and the strict implementation of the Special Autonomy Law for the Province of Papua might be steps towards de-escalation.

The Moluccas and Central Sulawesi

During their tenure as Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security and Coordinating Minister for Social Affairs and Welfare, both President and Vice President were instrumental in bringing about the peace accords Malino I and II, which ended the fighting in Central Sulawesi (Poso) and the Moluccas. New incidents of violence in Central Sulawesi are, however, cause for concern. In the region Poso/Palu as well as on the Moluccas, only a very fragile peace has so far been achieved, which is characterised by a segregation of the conflicting parties. Countless people still live as refugees in camps or with friends or family far from home. Although currently no longer subject to threats on their lives, these people are denied basic human rights such as, for example, the right to housing. Many of them are dependent on aid. Human Rights Action Plan During their last days in office, the Megawati administration released a new comprehensive Human Rights Action Plan. This five-year Plan includes a schedule for the preparation of ratification of international human rights instruments. It furthermore comprises provisions on the harmonisation of domestic legislation, on human rights education, on the application of human rights standards and on monitoring, evaluation and reporting. The new Government is now in charge of implementing this, in parts, ambitious human rights agenda. Especially in its capacity as Chair of the UNCHR, the GoI should act in an exemplary manner. Comprehensive implementation of adopted international standards, especially also those that are already constitutionally or legally codified, should be part of such a commitment, as should a speedy ratification of key human rights instruments, especially of the ICCPR, the ICESCR and the Rome Statute.


On the basis of the situation outlined above, we recommend the following to the 61st UN Commission on Human Rights:

  • to encourage the GoI to immediately ratify the ICCPR and the ICESCR and to implement its recently released Human Rights Action Plan;
  • to urge the GoI to secure the safety of human rights defenders in accordance with the relevant UN Declaration, especially in Aceh and Papua, to ensure a thorough investigation of the murder of Munir and to invite the Special Representative of the SG on Human Rights Defenders to Indonesia with access especially also to Aceh and Papua;
  • to call on the GoI to invite the Special Rapporteurs on Torture, on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions and on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to Indonesia with access to Aceh and Papua;
  • to urge the GoI to ensure the cessation of the military operation in Aceh and to carry through a conflict resolution process with the participation of civil society until a sustainable peace is reached for the province, to guarantee full and unimpeded access for relief workers and human rights defenders in the relief and reconstruction process, to ensure that the treatment of IDPs is in full compliance with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and other corresponding international standards;
  • to call on the GoI to halt the military operation in Papua, to bring perpetrators of past and present human rights violations to justice, to ensure strict implementation of the Special Autonomy Law and to take all necessary steps for a peaceful resolution of the conflict;
  • to urge the GoI to end impunity and to undertake further and sustainable steps on the way to establishing an independent judiciary, which is free of corruption and fear.


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