Indonesia: Cycle of Violence

February 4th , 2002

Aide-Mémoire 58th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights 18th March to 26th April 2002

Diakonisches Werk der EKD, Human Rights Desk, P.O.B. 10 11 42, D-70010 Stuttgart, Germany, *49-711-2159-500


United Evangelical Mission, Rudolfstraße 137, D-42285 Wuppertal, Germany, *49-202-89004-168

in cooperation with:

Watch Indonesia! Planufer 92d, 10967 Berlin, Germany, *49 30 698 17 938


High expectations that the human rights situation in Indonesia would improve and the process of democratisation would be extended in 2001, motivated the Commission on Human Rights to grant Indonesia wide room for manoeuvre in reducing human rights violations and bringing the perpetrators to justice. However, these hopes have not been realised. The Diakonisches Werk and the United Evangelical Mission have been monitoring the widespread violation of human rights in Indonesia with constant and great concern. Since president Megawati came to power in July 2001, the human rights situation has suffered severe setbacks. Few steps have been taken to improve the institutional and legal system and to fight corruption. Despite initial positive moves to settle the violent conflicts in Maluku and Central Sulawesi, the Indonesian government has allowed the conflicts in Aceh and West Papua to escalate, responding to them with military strength and no appropriate civil initiatives. It has made no serious attempt to set up an ad hoc court for human right violations and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor in 1999. It has also ignored the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the government and the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) in April 2000. In this respect, Indonesia has failed to comply with the recommendations made by the 57th Commission on Human Rights in April 2001. In 2001, the Indonesian government submitted its first periodic report to the Committee against Torture. After examining the report in November 2001, the Committee expressed concern about the large number of torture allegations. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was compelled to suspend its technical assistance program to the Attorney General’s office because of the limited jurisdiction of the ad hoc human rights court on East Timor. Despite the cooperation that Indonesia has extended to UN officials in this area, we have taken note of the failure to implement the recommendations made by the UN and the reluctance to again invite special rapporteurs. Political analysis shows that the power of the military is the main obstacle to further democratisation. There is no parliamentarian and judicial control of the military and its budget. On the contrary, the new Megawati government has granted full powers to the military and police forces in conflict zones. Both the Commission and the international community should monitor dissolution of the dual-function of the military’s power (Dwi Fungsi) and the concrete revision of the military budget within set time limits. Violent conflicts in Indonesia can be brought to an end only through the reduction and limitation of military influence, with additional and substantial support being provided to the democ-ratic forces within civil society by the international community.


In Aceh, both sides – the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) – are increasingly guilty of committing human rights violations, including murder and rape. In 2001, more than 2000 people, primarily civilians, were killed in acts of political violence. Hundreds of alleged GAM suspects have been arbitrarily detained, tortured, “disappeared” or physically attacked. Human rights and humanitarian workers have also been victimized. GAM has also reportedly been responsible for acts of intimidation, forced displacement of villagers and the frequent assassinations of police and military personnel, and of alleged informers. In the aftermath of failed ceasefires and dialogues, there has been an increase in the numbers of victims of the “sweeping operations” and in the harassment of human rights workers. Under these extremely adverse conditions, humanitarian agencies were forced to cease activities or reduce them to a minimum. The security forces were granted legal permission to “restore law and order” with the result that, since April 2001, a war-like situation has per-sisted in Aceh. Human rights observers warn that people in the conflict areas are becoming isolated and that their security is being very seriously jeopardized. The Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) set up an ad hoc commission to investigate the extra-judicial killing of three humanitarian workers in December 2000. This encouraging first step led neither to further investigations nor to prosecutions. The new special autonomy status may fail to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the conflict as the people of Aceh have largely rejected the legislation. There is deep concern that the conflict has been aggravated to a level where Indonesia and Aceh may be unable to find a solution without interna tional assistance.


2001 has also been a year of disappointment for the Papuan people, who had hoped to win their right to self-determination and see an improvement in the human rights situation in Papua. Since the arrival of additional military forces, as well as the special Kopassus unit in West Papua, the human rights situation has actually deteriorated. Peaceful demonstrations and attacks by the Papua Freedom Organisation (OPM/TPN) have been used as convenient grounds for military and police revenge operations, with unlawful detention, disappearances, torture and extra-legal executions. Numerous small control posts have been set up, intimidating the population and restricting their freedom of movement. Political leaders have been targeted; members of the Papuan presidium are accused of subversion and face trial. Houses and means of livelihood have been destroyed as a form of collective punishment. OPM/TPN is also responsible for serious human rights abuses, including unlawful killings and abductions. The head of the Papuan presidium, Theys Eluay, was killed. His driver is still missing. Since the murder of Theys Eluay, harassment of, and threats against, human rights organisations and churches have intensified. It is suspected that the military special unit, Kopassus, has been involved in both the murder and the threats. At the same time, human rights organisa-tions have been denied access to the Wasior area to investigate abuses and crimes committed during the military operation conducted between June and December 2001. Although, during several visits to West Papua, Komnas HAM has confirmed severe human rights violations in recent years, including those in Abepura (2000), none of these cases have been subject to judicial investigation and trial. Lack of credible investigations in these cases has eroded confidence in government initiativesto improve the human rights situation. Therefore, the law on special autonomy, passed by the Indonesian government in December 2001, is not acceptable to the majority of Papuans and may fail to make a contribution to the reso-lution of the conflict in West Papua.

Human Rights Defenders

In 2001, human rights defenders, principally in Aceh and West Papua, faced a situation as bad as that experienced during the Suharto era. They were subjected to illegal detention, torture and extra-judicial execution. Human Rights Defenders were denied the right to carry out their legitimate work, as well as being harassed and threatened. Several activists were accused and, in one case, formally charged, with defamation and other criminal offences and for publicising human rights violations committed by the security forces. As the situation becomes increasingly dangerous, several of these activists are being forced to seek safety outside the country. During 2001, and for the first time since 1998, the “hate sowing” articles contained in the criminal code of the Suharto era are being reactivated. Using these articles, Indonesian courts sentenced several pro-independence and labour activists to imprisonment. Others still face trial. The defendants are commonly denied access to legal representation, to medical attention and to visits from members of their families. In many cases detainees have been coerced, sometimes through torture, into making confessions. The Indonesian legislative, in showing no commitment to nullify these “hate sowing” articles, are failing to comply with international standards. This has resulted in severe restrictions to the freedom of expression and has opened up the possibility of suppressing political opponents.


Impunity remains the main cause for the continuing high level of human rights violations in all parts of Indonesia. In its November 2001 review of Indonesia’s initial report, the Committee against Torture attributed this situation to the lack of progress “in bringing to trial members of the military, the police or other state officials, particularly those holding senior positions, who are alleged to have planned, commanded and/or perpetrated acts of torture and illtreatment”. The new government, like its predecessors, has demonstrated a reluctance to hold perpetrators of crimes against humanity and other serious crimes to account, including those suspected of committing such crimes in East Timor in 1999. The government has not complied with the recommendation of the Commission to investigate these crimes fully and to establish an ad hoc human rights court without further delay. It has also failed to act on other recommendations in the Statement by the Chairperson of the 57th Session of the Commission in April 2001, including cooperating with UNTAET in investigating serious crimes. The establishment of ad hoc human rights courts suffers from a number of deficiencies. The legislation is inconsistent with international human rights law and does not conform to international standards of independence and impartiality. There is no victim and witness protection program, no adequate training for judges and other relevant officials in the practical implementation of international human rights law. The process of the recruitment of judges and prosecutors shows little willingness to create an independent judiciary. Between April 2001, when the Statement by the Chairperson of the 57th Session of the Commission was publicized, and its implementation in September 2001, alterations were made to the time of cases to be brought to court within the Law on Human Rights Courts. These alterations impose limits on the time, the location and the identity of those who might be accused. Hence, the vast majority of crimes committed in, and before, 1999 cannot be considered. At the same time, the law hampers identification of military apparatus participation and makes it difficult to prove the systematic design of the crimes against humanity.  

On the basis of the situation outlined above we recommend to the 58th UN Commission on Human Rights

  • To adopt a resolution condemning the gross human rights violations in Indonesia, in particular the extra-judicial executions, disappearances, torture and unlawful deten-tions, especially in Aceh and West Papua.
  • To urge the government of Indonesia to act effectively in order to end impunity and to establish human rights courts in accordance with Law 21/2001, and in correspondence with international standards of human rights.
  • To urge the government to disarm and disband militias and private, armed groups in any part of the country.
  • To call on the government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.
  • To request the government to cooperate fully with the UN’s human rights mechanisms and bodies, by, among other things, issuing standing invitations to all thematic mechanisms of the Commission to visit Indonesia, in particular the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Representative on human rights defenders and the Special Rappor-teur on the situation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the indigenous people of Papua.
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