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

24th January 2004

United Evangelical Mission, Wuppertal Watch Indonesia!, Berlin Diakonisches Werk der EKD, Referat Menschenrechte, Stuttgart

Aide-Mémoire to the German delegation 60th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights 15th March to 23rd April 2004

by United Evangelical Mission Communion of Churches in three Continents Postfach 20 19 63, 42219 Wuppertal Fon.: +49(0)202 – 8 90 04-0, Fax: +49(0)202 – 8 90 04-79 Watch Indonesia! Planufer 92d, 10967 Berlin, Fon/Fax: +49(0)30-69817938 and Diakonisches Werk der EKD, Human Rights Desk P.O.B. 10 11 42, D-70010 Stuttgart, Germany, Fon.: +49(0)711 – 21 56 – 0 Fax: +49(0)711 – 21 59 – 68   During the last year, the human rights situation in Indonesia has deteriorated. With martial law in Aceh, the largest military operation since the occupation of East Timor is under way. Impunity largely persists. Processes of resolving past human rights violations by both judicial and non-judicial means are, where they had been initiated, stagnating. However, abstaining from military “solutions” and carrying through meaningful judicial as well as political and social processes of coming to terms with the past (political debate, transitional justice, opening archives, truth commission), are necessary preconditions for any reconciliation initiative to bear fruit. The excessive use of violence in East Timor 1999 has repeatedly been on the Commission’s agenda. Ad hoc trials, which eventually took place in Jakarta, have, however, by no means lived up to expectations. Pending appeals, the few defendants who have been convicted, remain free, and at least two of them must be regarded as potential perpetrators of new human rights violations: General Adam Damiri, sentenced to three years in prison, has been promoted in the meantime and is currently conducting military operations in Aceh; former militia leader Eurico Guterres, convicted to ten years in jail, has been promoted to head the Red-and-White Defenders Front in the conflict-ridden province of Papua. Only recently the case of the Tanjung Priok killings in 1984 has been brought before an Ad hoc Human Rights Court. This trial is bearing the risk that the same insufficiencies observed in the East Timor trials will be quietly repeated. Apparently, already now basic principles of due process of law, like e.g. the protection of witnesses, are being seriously violated. The East Timor trials had not succeeded in establishing the truth before a court of justice of what had happened in 1999. And as once more the Court will only deal with the actual perpetrators on the ground, it must be feared that yet again the underlying structures and the chains of command will remain in the dark. This pattern originates in the mass murders of 1965/66 during which General Suharto took power. Five years after Suharto was forced to step down, a comprehensive reappraisal of the bloodiest period in the history of independent Indonesia remains out of sight. Until today, many victims and their relatives are still subject to various forms of discrimination. Initially hopeful initiatives to end the conflict in Aceh by means of dialogue eventually failed, when negotiations between GoI and GAM (Aceh Independence Movement) were finally abrogated. Acehnese negotiators have since been convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 11 to 15 years. Since May 2003, Aceh is formally under martial law and a large military operation is conducted. Hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands forced into refugee camps. Exact and reliable figures are not available since the region has effectively been closed off – national and international humanitarian and human rights workers, the press and rights monitors have been denied access. Being aware of the fact that GAM, too, has committed serious human rights violations, it is nevertheless GoI who holds the key to any political solution of the conflict. In an appeal by the UN Secretary General, in a joint statement by the EU, USA and Japan and in resolutions by the European Parliament, GoI has been urged to return to the negotiating table. The European Parliament has furthermore asked that access to the province be granted to several Special Rapporteurs. While appeals to resume negotiations have so far not been successful, in mid-December 2003 GoI allowed several humanitarian organisations, amongst others the Red Cross, to return to Aceh. This shows that actions on the part of the international community can make a difference. A similar escalation of conflict is threatening to take place in the province of Papua. The Special Autonomy Law, enacted in 2001, had raised high hopes. However, rather than implementing this Law, GoI chose to force through the division of the province into three separate provinces – a step that is widely regarded as contradicting provisions in the Special Autonomy Law and which will increase tension in an already volatile situation. Recently in Parliament the possibility of imposing civil emergency in Papua has been discussed. For the time being, GoI has denied any such plans. The tendency to “solve” problems by force rather than to explore the underlying causes is not limited to remote regions like Aceh or Papua. In Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, forced evictions of squatters – often conducted by the security forces with brutal force – have multiplied. People whose basic social and economic rights have been gravely violated already as a consequence of, amongst others, the ongoing economic crisis, are made victims once again with their homes and sources of income being forcefully destroyed by the authorities. The danger exists that the “war on terrorism” is used by the military to strengthen its position. New anti-terrorism legislation has been enacted which contains a number of worrying provisions: the broad definition of the element of crime “terrorism”, which in fact resembles parts of the definition of the crime of subversion as had been included in the revoked notorious Anti-Subversion Law, makes it open for abuse; the law authorises the police to detain a suspect for up to six months without Court order and without formal charge; as sufficient preliminary evidence to arrest a suspect also intelligence reports can be used. Implementing legislation furthermore empowers the State Intelligence Agency BIN to coordinate intelligence activities. BIN has since lobbied to further increase its powers, seeking amongst others the authority to arrest, detain and interrogate suspects and to conduct investigations. With the Parliamentary and Presidential elections approaching, the political climate is likely to become increasingly tense, violent clashes between supporters of different parties are to be expected. Already in October 2003, there were clashes between supporters of the two big parties Golkar and PDI-P on Bali during which two people were killed. Almost all of the bigger political parties have their paramilitary units.  

On the basis of the situation outlined above, we recommend the following to the 60th UN Commission on Human Rights:

  • to urge GoI to immediately end all military operations in Aceh and return to the negotiating table;
  • to urge the GoI to implement the Special Autonomy Law for Papua, annul the division of the province and to solve the conflict by peaceful means and according to the law;
  • to adopt a Resolution condemning the serious violations of human rights in Indonesia, particular in Aceh and Papua, and to urge the GoI to bring perpetrators to justice;
  • to initiate the establishment of an Ad Hoc International Tribunal on gross violations of human rights in East Timor;
  • to call on the GoI to take effective steps for the establishment of an independent judicial system which is free of corruption and fear;
  • to urge the GoI to secure the safety of human rights defenders in accordance with the relevant UN Declaration, especially also in Aceh and Papua;
  • to request from the GoI to implement the time schedule for accession to international human rights instruments as laid down in its Human Rights Action Plan and, furthermore, to accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court;
  • to call on the GoI to amend anti-terrorism legislation to the effect that it is in accordance with international human rights principles and principles of due process of law, and to abstain from enacting new legislation that is contrary to these principles;
  • to request from the GoI to proceed with and intensify co-operation with the relevant UN human rights mechanisms.
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