Human Rights Watch World Report 1996 - Indonesia and East Timor

Human Rights Developments

As Indonesia celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its independence in 1995, widespread abuses of basic human rights continued, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, a renewed assault on freedom of expression, and restrictions on freedom of association. A long-standing pattern of abuses by members of the Indonesian military persisted with cases of arbitrary detention, the use of torture and summary killings of civilians in East Timor and Irian Jaya. Top army officials warned of communist-inspired "formless organizations" as a way of explaining criticism of the government and discrediting individual dissidents. The government-appointed National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas), operating within the limits of its mandate, continued to play a useful and active role, conducting investigations and issuing reports on sensitive, high-profile cases. The government renewed its crackdown on freedom of expression with the arrest of two journalists and an office assistant from the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) in March 1995. The journalists, Ahmad Taufik and Eko Maryadi, both officers of AJI, and staff member Danang Kukuh Wardoyo were charged with "spreading hatred against the government" and publishing the AJI newsletter, Independen, without a government license. Independen was cited by the prosecution for printing articles critical of President Soeharto and other government officials. In September 1995, Taufik and Maryadi were sentenced to two years and eight months each in prison; Danang Kukuh Wardoyo earlier received a sentence of twenty months. Also in September, Tri Agus Susanto, a journalist who edited a newsletter for the Pijar Foundation, a Jakarta-based nongovernmental activist organization, was sent to prison for two years after being convicted of insulting the president. The newsletter, Kabar dari Pijar, had published an article in 1994 quoting a human rights lawyer's criticisms of Soeharto. Freedom of expression was also curbed through the break-up of seminars and other public discussions. In June 1995, the police broke up a seminar on democracy and detained seven people, including the sole speaker, Robert Hefner, an American professor from Boston University; they were held overnight for questioning. Gag orders were issued in an attempt to silence controversial speakers, such as Abdurrahman Wahid, leader the largest Islamic organization, Nahdatul Ulama, who was banned twice from giving speeches in East Java. Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security Soesilo Soedarman stated in June 1995 that the government would pass new regulations on permits for public speaking, declaring that many of the bans imposed by security forces represented an effort to prevent actions that might jeopardize national stability. The government tried to prosecute some of its most outspoken critics. Sri Bintang Pamungkas, a parliamentarian from the United Development Party, was charged with "defaming the president" for a lecture he delivered in Berlin in April 1995. The lecture coincided with demonstrations against Soeharto, who was visiting Germany at the time. In October, it was announced that the case would come to trial in November. In May, the president issued an executive order terminating Bintang's term as a member of parliament, and he was banned from all foreign travel. Bintang filed a lawsuit challenging the international travel ban in July; in a separate suit, he demanded reinstatement in the parliament. As of November, neither case had yet been heard. Similar tactics were used against Permadi, a lawyer, NGO activist and mystic who was accused of blasphemy for remarks he made about the Prophet Mohammed during a 1994 seminar. He was arrested in May 1995, tried and convicted in September and released on a technicality immediately after the verdict. It was widely believed that his arrest and conviction stemmed more from critical remarks he made about government leaders than from his references to Islam. George Aditjondro, a lecturer at Satya Wacana University and frequent critic of government policy in East Timor was accused in April 1995 of insulting the government during a lecture he gave in 1994 at the Indonesian Islamic University in Yogyakarta. When the charges were announced, Aditjondro was in Australia as a guest lecturer and Canberra said it had no plans to return Aditjondro. In a positive development of at least symbolic value, the Jakarta Administrative Court ruled in May that the ban by Minister of Information Harmoko on the popular magazine Tempo in June 1994 was arbitrary and illegal. Harmoko, backed by Soeharto, said he would appeal the verdict at a higher court. The Semarang (Central Java) Administrative Court made a similarly courageous ruling that dissident Arief Budiman, sacked by Satya Wacan University for his outspokeness, had been fired illegally. In a move apparently aimed at quelling complaints about it's limits on openness, the government announced in August 1995 that it planned to abolish the practice of requiring permits for public gatherings, including political gatherings. It said that police notification would still be required, and a 1965 law on political activities still gave the government great discretion in defining and repressing "political gatherings." In an effort to dampen criticism of its worker rights record, the government implemented various labor reforms announced in 1994, including an increase in the minimum daily wage which took effect in April 1995. But these reforms failed to address the core issues of the denial of freedom of association and the widespread intervention of the military in peaceful labor disputes. In May, Mochtar Pakpahan, chairman of the banned Serikat Buruh Sejahtera Indonesia (SBSI, or Prosperous Workers Union), an independent labor union, was released from prison while an appeal was pending with the Supreme Court. Pakpahan was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to four years in prison in January 1995. He was charged under Article 160 of the Penal Code with inciting a riot in conjunction with a huge rally in Medan, Sumatra, in April 1994, although he was not even in the area at the time. The Supreme Court overturned Pakpahan's conviction in October 1995. Other SBSI leaders sentenced for their alleged involvement in the Medan riot were also released. Throughout the year, SBSI and other independent labor organizations were harassed, unable to organize meetings without military interference, and detained and interrogated. There was no perceptible change in the widespread involvement by the security forces in labor negotiations or peaceful demonstrations by workers. For example, a strike and demonstration by workers at the Great River Garment Company took place in Bogor, West Java, in July 1995. Security forces used sticks to beat demonstrators and prevent workers from reaching the nearby provincial parliamentary compound where they planned to meet with representatives after attempts at negotiation had failed. Police later charged seven students—members of a nongovernmental labor rights organization, Pusat Perjuangan Buruh Indonesia (PPBI or Center for Worker's Struggle)—with instigating and organizing the protests. As of November, their trials had not yet taken place. In a surprise move in May 1995, the Supreme Court ordered the release of eight individuals convicted and sentenced for the torture and murder of Marsinah, a young labor organizer. The defendants were all company staff at the watch factory where Marsinah worked before her abduction and murder in 1993. Indonesian human rights groups had long suspected military involvement in the murder. The Supreme Court's decision prompted a reopening of the investigation into the case. The police finally named five new suspects, but did not reveal whether any of them were members of the military. In October, the chief of staff of the armed forces, Lt. Gen. Soeyono, began warning of the "latent threat" of communism, saying that the communist-inspired "formless organizations" were gaining in influence, using the struggle for human rights and democracy as their cover. Others in the government and military picked up the theme, and by the year's end, it seemed as though a witch hunt of known dissidents might be underway. Human rights conditions in East Timor deteriorated significantly following the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Indonesia in November 1994. There were several riots and demonstrations early in 1995, all of which were broken up violently by the Indonesian military. The most egregious case occurred in Liquica, outside of Dili, on January 12, when six East Timorese civilians were shot and killed by Indonesian troops. Initially the army reported that six guerrillas had been killed in cross fire during an army clash with a Fretilin rebel group. This report was contradicted by local clergy, who said that the victims were innocent civilians. International attention to the killings spurred President Soeharto to order a military investigation, and the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas) announced it would conduct its own investigation. Both the military's report and the Komnas inquiry, announced in March 1995, concluded that the six men had been summarily executed. But the military was adamant in insisting that the six men were guerrillas, while Komnas maintained that the victims were all civilians who had been tortured prior to being killed. A lieutenant and a private under his command were tried by a military court; in June 1995, they received sentences of four years and six months and four years in prison respectively. However, the soldiers were punished not for the killings, but for violating an order from a superior and for failing to report the incident. In September, riots broke out in Maliana and in Dili, sparked by religious and ethnic tensions. Dili's Roman Catholic bishop, Carlos Belo, said an underlying cause was the government's failure to address the underlying problems in East Timor, a view echoed by Komnas. In the Timika area of Irian Jaya, a remote province dominated by copper and gold mining interests, a series of incidents took place between October 1994 and May 1995, involving the detention, torture, killing and "disappearance" of indigenous people by Indonesian security forces. Some of the incidents reportedly took place on property and using facilities and equipment owned by a U.S. mining company, Freeport McMoran. A highly credible report by the Catholic church of Jayapura, based on eyewitness testimony, was released in August, documenting the abuses. After two missions to Timika, Komnas issued a report in late September, confirming that sixteen people had been killed, including women and children, in conjunction with military operations against a separatist group, the Free Papua Movement (OPM). It called on the government and armed forces to investigate and punish those responsible, to identify the whereabouts of four missing people, and to "clarify" the respective roles of the military, local government and Freeport management in maintaining security and protecting the human rights of the region's residents. Freeport flatly denied any involvement in the abuses. The army said that four soldiers would be prosecuted in January 1996 for "violations of military procedures."

The Right to Monitor

Prior to the November 1994 APEC meeting, the Ministry of Interior drafted a presidential decree imposing tighter restrictions and monitoring requirements on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including human rights groups, provoking widespread domestic and international complaints; as of November 1995, it had not yet been issued. But a crackdown on NGOs continued nonetheless, with human rights groups, labor rights organizations and other NGOs facing routine harassment and surveillance. The Indonesian Legal Aid Institute reported that its offices and vehicles in Jakarta and Palembang were vandalized in January and February 1995. There was no attempt by the government to investigate or prosecute those responsible.

The Role of the International Community

The Indonesian government was only partially successful in blunting criticism by extolling the work of its own human rights commission and by enhancing its economic and military ties abroad. East Timor and Irian Jaya were potent lightning rods for international criticism, as was the government's clamp down on journalists. Soeharto's visit to Germany in April was disrupted by protest rallies focusing attention on Indonesia's poor human rights record, though a trade fair in Hanover and the signing of major business deals overseen by Chancellor Helmut Kohl were obvious successes for the government. Similarly, in September Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands visited Indonesia to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the country's independence and express regret over Holland's former colonial role. Human rights concerns in East Timor were clearly de-emphasized; Dutch business people traveling with her completed some $800 million worth of contracts. Also in September, Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating met with Soeharto in Bali and emphasized the two governments' common interests at the upcoming APEC meeting in Japan. East Timor was also on the agenda, fueled in part by the domestic controversy over the Australian government's initial acceptance of Indonesia's newly nominated ambassador, a general who had defended the military's actions in the Dili, East Timor, killings in 1991. The nomination was withdrawn in July. The incidents in Irian Jaya also sparked official concern, particularly since the abuses were first publicized by an Australian-based development organization. Australia's ambassador in Jakarta conducted an inquiry, and Gareth Evans, foreign minister, raised "serious" concerns with his Indonesian counterpart in August. At the World Bank-convened consultative group donor meeting in Paris in July, a number of governments, including the U.S. delegation, expressed concern, either publicly or privately, about East Timor and the Liquica killings in particular, as well as the issue of press freedom and free expression. However, the bank's public statement following the meeting did not reflect these concerns. When the World Bank's vice-president for the Asia-Pacific region met with Soeharto in March, there was no indication that "governance" issues were addressed. The bank pledged $1.2 billion to Indonesia in 1995. The Clinton administration dispatched Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor John Shattuck to Indonesia and East Timor in April. Shattuck criticized the government's muzzling of the press, urged the government to give the people of East Timor "more influence over their affairs," and pressed for greater freedom of association for workers. He made no comments publicly about the administration's efforts to restore International Military Education and Training (IMET) to Indonesia, cut off by Congress in 1992 in response to the massacre that took place in Dili in 1991, or about the worker rights case pending before the U.S. Trade Representative. Just prior to his trip, Shattuck testified before the House International Relations Committee and condemned the "deteriorating" human rights situation in East Timor at precisely the same time as a senior Pentagon official, Admiral William Owens, was in Jakarta calling for a renewal of IMET training because "appropriate action" had been taken to ease the situation in East Timor. In fact, the administration seemed determined to deepen its ties to the Indonesian military, despite its atrocious human rights record, arguing that greater engagement and training would produce a more professional armed forces. At a meeting with Indonesia's foreign minister in August, Secretary of State Warren Christopher offered to sell to Jakarta F-16 fighter planes originally ordered by Pakistan; by October, it was clear the deal was going through. Admiral Owens, on another visit to Jakarta in September, announced that the U.S. and Indonesian military would begin regular bilateral meetings in Honolulu in November. The administration made a deal with Congress in September, agreeing to continue its ban on the sale or licensing of small and light weapons and crowd control equipment in Indonesia in exchange for congressional approval of expanded-IMET (military education and training, which is said to include a human rights component) for the Indonesian military in the budget for fiscal year 1996. The administration requested $600,000 for IMET. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) planned to send a delegation to Indonesia in early November, but had not yet ruled on a petition by Human Rights Watch/Asia submitted in June 1995 urging the USTR to reinstate the formal review of Indonesia's access to Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade benefits in light of the government's failure to make meaningful progress on labor rights. The review had been suspended in February 1994 after Jakarta promised to make certain reforms. The administration supported adoption of a compromise "chairman's statement" on East Timor at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva in March. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine Albright, meeting with Soeharto in Jakarta in early September, expressed concern about the unrest in East Timor and expressed support for a continuing dialogue under U.N. auspices. U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights José Ayala Lasso was expected to visit East Timor late in the year. The European Parliament, responding to reports of further killings and arrests in East Timor in September, decided to send a fact-finding delegation to East Timor. It passed a joint resolution condemning abuses and calling on governments to cease arms sales and military assistance to Indonesia. On October 27, President Clinton welcomed President Soeharto to the White House for their first summit meeting in the United States. Clinton privately raised concerns about human rights, particularly in East Timor. The U.S. embassy in Jakarta was supportive of Indonesian NGOs and outspoken on human rights. The embassy publicly protested the arrests of the AJI members in March and sent observers to their trial.

The Work of Human Rights Watch/Asia

Human Rights Watch/Asia continued to place a high priority on Indonesia and East Timor, publishing a short report, Press Closures in Indonesia One Year Later, plus a report on the government's attack on freedom of association, Soeharto Retaliates against Critics, as well as an analysis of worker rights based on our GSP petition. We used various advocacy strategies to press for specific improvements: briefing U.S. Assistant Secretary Shattuck before his trip to East Timor; testifying on East Timor before the U.N. Decolonization Committee in July and on human rights in Indonesia before Congress in March; filing a petition with the U.S. Trade Representative on worker rights in June; participating in a briefing for the newly appointed ambassador to Jakarta in August. In advance of Soeharto's visit to the U.S., our Washington office worked with members of Congress to circulate a letter urging President Clinton to stress human rights and worker rights and making specific recommendations. Recognizing the growing importance of the private sector, Human Rights Watch/Asia expanded an ongoing dialogue with U.S. companies involved in Indonesia. We also hosted a meeting between NGOs and a delegation of Indonesian corporate officials visiting the United States in September.
This report covers events of 1995

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