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Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Indonesia

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 20 May 2008
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Indonesia, 20 May 2008, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 222.8 million (75.6 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 302,000
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 18
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18
Voting Age: 17, or married at time of registration
Optional Protocol: signed 24 September 2001
Other Treaties: CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182

There were no reports of the use of under-18s by either government forces or armed groups.


With the signing of a peace agreement in August 2005, armed conflict came to an end in Nangroe Aceh Darussalam (Aceh). The province was devastated by the December 2004 tsunami, which killed almost 170,000 people in Aceh, displaced 513,000 others and destroyed much of the infrastructure in the west of the province. In mid-2007 some 70,000 people were still internally displaced.1

In December 2006 Irwandi Yusuf, a senior member of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM), the Aceh armed separatist group, was elected as governor of Aceh. After the signing of the 2005 agreement security had improved considerably, although bomb and grenade attacks and other violent incidents, some allegedly due to conflicts over resources and aid allocation, were reported during the first eight months of 2007.2

In March 2007 the police arrested seven members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a radical armed Islamist group, and seized a large stockpile of weapons and explosives.3 In June two senior leaders were arrested.

Support for independence was reportedly widespread in the two provinces of Papua and West Papua, although the armed Papuan separatist Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, OPM) controlled no territory and reportedly did not pose a large security threat to the Indonesian armed forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI). There were some 12,000 TNI troops there,4 and TNI and police abuses were reported, including the rape by TNI troops of a 16-year-old Papuan girl in May 2005.5 Competition over resources, inter-tribal tensions, and tensions between Papuans and Indonesian settlers were also reported.6


National recruitment legislation and practice

In July 2003 Indonesia reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that "Indonesia has set the minimum age for recruitment or enlistment into the armed forces at 18 years, as set forth in Act No. 2/1988."7

Article 15 of the Republic of Indonesia Law Number 23 Year 2002 on Child Protection provided for the protection of every child from involvement in armed conflict, social unrest or an "event that involves violence" and "misuse for political activities". Article 63 stated that "All persons shall be prohibited from recruiting or equipping children for military or similar purposes, and from putting the lives of children in danger." Article 87 provided for imprisonment of no more than five years and/or a maximum fine of 100 million rupiah (approximately US$11,000) for recruiting and equipping children for military purposes, or misusing children by "involving them in political activities, or in an armed conflict, social disturbance ... or in a violent event". It was not known whether anyone had been prosecuted under this provision. Article 1(1) defined a child as someone under 18 years of age.

Article 17(1) of the Child Protection Law provided that "Every child whose liberty has been taken away shall be entitled to: a. Receive humane treatment and be housed separately from adults", and also provided for entitlement to legal assistance. During the conflict in Aceh, under-18s were among those the authorities arrested and brought to trial. In many cases they were tortured for their alleged involvement in or support for GAM. In 2003-4 under-18s allegedly involved in GAM were arrested by TNI and were not granted legal representation.8 In August 2005 a 16-year-old Muslim boy, arrested in Ambon for allegedly planting a bomb which injured a pedicab driver, was sentenced to approximately seven years' imprisonment; he began serving his sentence at Ambon prison, where he was held with adults.9

Armed Groups:

Jemaah Islamiyah

JI, an Islamist armed group whose long-term goal was the establishment of an Islamic state in Indonesia, was thought to comprise over 900 members across Indonesia.10 According to the International Crisis Group, JI had a "systematic indoctrination program", starting with playgroups for children under five and continuing on to religious boarding schools across Java which whole families attended; however, enrolment in some JI schools seemed to be declining.11 Most JI men arrested for violent crimes were reportedly in their 20s and 30s. They would not normally be accepted as members until after graduating from JI schools, usually at about the age of 18. Members were also recruited who were outside the JI school network.12


After the tsunami armed conflict continued between GAM and TNI. Following talks facilitated by the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI, an international mediation organization), the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between GAM and the government was signed on 15 August 2005,13 ending an almost 30-year conflict. Previously under-18s had been used by both GAM and TNI, including as informants or guards, for logistical support and, less frequently, as combatants.14 The total number of children involved in the conflict was not known.

Not all people associated with GAM's armed wing, Tenara Negara Aceh (TNA), including under-18s, were on active duty all of the time.15 In an interview with the Child Soldiers Coalition, former child soldiers stated that in 2003-4, when they were aged about 14-17, they were pressured by TNA to run errands, look out for police and purchase supplies. They lived in a village in a GAM stronghold where they were able to continue their education, although they reported frequent skirmishes and a general lack of security during that time.16

The MOU (Article 5) provided for the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM), comprising Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and European Union nationals, whose function was to assist with monitoring the implementation of the MOU, and whose mission ended in December 2006.17 The MOU (Articles 2.2 and 2.3) also provided for a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC).18 In May 2007 community consultation on the TRC began in Aceh.19 In June 2007 a written proposal for a TRC was issued by the Coalition for Truth Recovery (KPK), a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from Aceh and Jakarta. This document called for "protection and special measures for ... children".20 However, the TRC's future was not clear, following a December 2006 ruling by the Constitutional Court which declared the national truth and reconciliation commission unconstitutional; this could affect the legal status of the Aceh TRC.21

Central Sulawesi

Intercommunal violence on the whole declined after the signing of the Malino I Agreement in December 2001, but in October 2005 three Christian schoolgirls were beheaded near Poso, central Sulawesi.22 In May 2006, police arrested three men for the killings and in March 2007 the alleged leader was given a 20-year prison sentence and the others 14-year sentences.23

In January 2007 police conducted two major raids in Poso, central Sulawesi, the scene of previous widespread intercommunal violence and of subsequent attacks since 2004 by armed Muslim groups. The stated purpose of the raids was the arrest of a group of men, reportedly mostly local JI members, who were suspected of responsibility for bombings, beheadings and drive-by shootings against local Christians and police.24 A police raid on 22 January 2007 faced heavy armed resistance; 15 people, including one police officer, were killed. During the operations a 16-year-old Muslim boy was killed; police reportedly said they found a weapon in his possession.25 Since January 2007 no serious violence had occurred in Poso.26

Maluku province

Intercommunal violence declined in Maluku after the signing of the Malino II agreement in February 2002. Although a bomb exploded in Ambon in April 2007, injuring six people,27 and an estimated 50,000 people remained displaced by the violence there,28 the security situation improved.29

Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR):

The Aceh MOU provided for the demobilization of 3,000 adult GAM combatants and the decommissioning of weapons, and the unconditional release of some 2,000 political prisoners (Articles 4.2, 4.3 and 3.1 respectively). In the MOU, GAM set the number of their combatants at 3,000 (Article 4.2), although observers believed the true number to be higher, and stated that many former GAM combatants were not receiving any assistance. There were no provisions in the MOU for the DDR of children who had been involved in the conflict. Among the 2,000 political prisoners released were 19 boys between 14 and 17 years of age who had been arrested for alleged association with GAM. There were reportedly several 17-year-old female prisoners who were treated as adults because they were married.30 UNICEF and the International Office for Migration (IOM) provided assistance to 21 individuals who were under 18 at the time of their arrest. IOM also helped to provide adult former political prisoners and former GAM combatants with vocational training and business advice.31

Former TNA soldiers were not formally discharged, officially counted or registered. At the end of 2005 GAM established the Aceh Transition Committee (Komite Peralihan Aceh, KPA), comprising former GAM commanders.32 Part of the role of the KPA leaders was to oversee the reintegration of GAM combatants through aid projects. In February 2006 the government established the National Reintegration Agency (Badan Reintegrasi Aceh, BRA), to offer reintegration assistance to both combatants and civilians affected by the conflict.33 Many observers noted the lack of transparency and uneven levels of assistance in the reintegration process.34

Some observers expressed concern about the high level of unemployment of young men, including former child soldiers.35 Although children in former conflict areas received some assistance from UNICEF, some international aid agencies and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), most of the aid programs focused on the tsunami victims. Local NGOs highlighted the disruption of education during the conflict and the continuing lack of education for children.36 Moreover, the deaths and the destruction of an already crippled local economy caused by the tsunami compounded the effects of the long-term armed conflict on children, many of whom lost one or both parents in the tsunami.37

In Central Sulawesi and Maluku province, which had been affected by previous widespread intercommunal violence, UNICEF and local and international NGOs conducted programs for children on peace building, conflict resolution and cultural diversity.38


In its Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Indonesia, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that it ratify the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.39

At a February 2007 ministerial meeting in Paris, Indonesia and 58 other states endorsed the Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups and the Paris Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups. The documents reaffirmed international standards and operational principles for protecting and assisting child soldiers and followed a wide-ranging global consultation jointly sponsored by the French government and UNICEF.

At the February 2007 ministerial meeting, the government said in its public statement that "Indonesia believes that first and foremost, [what] governments should do is to adopt and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.... To prevent impunity, governments should adopt and implement law to punish severely those involved in recruiting children in armed conflicts."40 However, Indonesia has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol.

Discussion by the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia, known as Komnas HAM), the Indonesian Commission for Child Protection (Komisi Perlindungan Anak Indonesia, established by Article 74 of the 2002 Child Protection Law), parliament and civil society about ratification of the Optional Protocol continued. At the same time proposals for parliament to enact a law which would upgrade the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child from a presidential decree to parliamentary legislation were also put forward.41

1 Oxfam, "Over 25,000 landless families in Aceh still waiting for new land and homes", press release, 7 December 2006; UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives: Earthquake and Tsunami OCHA Situation Report No. 37,

2 Aceh Conflict Monitoring Update, 1-31 August 2007, World Bank, Conflict and Development Program,

3 International Crisis Group (ICG), "Indonesia, Jemaah Islamiyah's current status", Asia Briefing No. 63, 3 May 2007.

4 ICG, "Papua: answers to frequently asked questions", Asia Briefing No. 53, 5 September 2006.

5 Human Rights Watch (HRW), "Out of sight, endemic abuse and impunity in Papua's Central Highlands", Human Rights Watch, Vol. 19, No. 10(C), July 2007.

6 ICG, "Indonesian Papua: a local perspective on the conflict", Asia Briefing No. 66, 19 July 2007.

7 Second periodic report of Indonesia to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/65/Add.23, 7 July 2003.

8 HRW, "Aceh at war: torture, ill-treatment and unfair trials", Human Rights Watch, Vol. 16, No. 11(C), September 2004; Amnesty International (AI), "Indonesia: New military operations, old patterns of human rights abuses in Aceh (Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, NAD)", October 2004, AI Index ASA 21/033/2004.

9 Confidential source, Jakarta, May 2007.

10 ICG, "Indonesia: Jemaah Islamiyah's current status", press release, 3 May 2007.

11 Sidney Jones, "Inherited Jihadism: Like Father, Like Son", Australian Financial Review, 6 July 2004.

12 Confidential source, Jakarta, May 2007.

13 Keynotes, DDR Programme in Aceh Indonesia 2005-2006, Cranfield Centre for Security Sector Management Case Study Series,

14 Armed Conflict in Aceh: Involvement of Children in Armed Forces, Kelompok Kerja Studi Perkotaan (KKSP), Yayasan Anak Bangsa (YAB), People's Crisis Centre (PCC), Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), 2004, copy with Child Soldiers Coalition (Coalition).

15 7 May 2007, Coalition meeting in Banda Aceh.

16 8 May 2007, Coalition interview of four young men formerly associated with GAM, Banda Aceh.

17 Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), "Re-paving the road to peace, Analysis of the implementation of DD & R, Brief 35", 2007,

18 Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement,

19 Confidential source, Banda Aceh, May 2007.

20 "A Proposal for Remedy for Victims of Gross Human Rights Violations in Aceh", Working Paper, 14 June 2007, English translation, Coalition copy.

21 Confidential source, October 2007.

22 "Three Indonesian girls beheaded", BBC News, 29 October 2005.

23 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, May 2007,

24 ICG, "Jihadism in Indonesia, Poso on the Edge", Asia Report No. 127, 24 January 2007.

25 Confidential source, Jakarta, May 2007.

26 ICG, "Indonesia: Tackling Radicalism in Poso", Asia Briefing No. 75, 22 January 2008.

27 Jakarta Post, April 2007, in Indonesia News Digest 16,

28 Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, "Tens of thousands of IDPs still waiting for assistance", June 2007,

29 Confidential source, Jakarta, May 2007.

30 Coalition meetings in Banda Aceh, 7 May 2007; BICC, above note 17.

31 7 May 2007, Coalition meetings in Banda Aceh.

32 ICG, "Aceh: Post-conflict Complications", Asia Report No. 139, 4 October 2007.

33 BICC, above note 17.

34 Coalition meeting in Banda Aceh, 7 May 2007.

35 Coalition meetings in Banda Aceh, May 2007.

36 Coalition meeting, above note 34.

37 Coalition discussions in Jakarta and Banda Aceh, May 2007.

38 Coalition discussions in Jakarta, May 2007.

39 Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Indonesia, 30 January 2004, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.223.

40 Remarks by the ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the Republic of France and the Principality of Andorra, H.E. Arizal Effendi, Head of Delegation, Paris, 6 February 2007, Coalition copy.

41 Coalition discussions, above note 38.

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