Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2003 - Indonesia

Obstacles to the work of the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia (KOMNAS HAM)31

On 20th May 2003, 1 000 civilian militias arrived at the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia (KOMNAS HAM) and threatened its members with violence if the organisation continued to investigate into the 1965 massacre. Indeed, during the 1965 massacre, the Suharto Government is thought to have been responsible for the extermination of an estimated 1 million unarmed civilians, the political imprisonment and torture of 200,000 political opponents and the life-long exclusion and discrimination of anyone with suspected links to Communism. Nothing has as yet been done by the authorities concerning this massacre. The investigation team of KOMNAS HAM was to present its first report on 15th May 2003, which had been rescheduled for 6th June 2003.

On 20th October 2003 at 3 p.m., around 20 troops and 20 police officers came to the Seulawah pavilion where the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia (KOMNAS HAM) was holding a training session.32 They turned off the lights in order to sabotage the training programme. The members of the military and the police tried to come in, but Mr. Billah, the head of KOMNAS HAM's Aceh team, prevented them from doing so. They asked for the lists of participants, but Mr. Billah refused to give the lists and also refused to stop the meeting, leading to an exchange of words and negotiations with the police who wanted to take him to headquarters for questioning. In the morning session, two military representatives from the regional martial law authority (PDMD) had been included in the training programme, based on their request to be included as "participants". Both of them had left the training session by 3 p.m.

On 21st October, PDMD troops still occupied the Seulawah pavilion. The police members denied that they had been informed about the training course and members of the military said that permission was needed to hold the training.

Before this training course, KOMNAS HAM had informed the PDMD and also Polresta, the Police authority in Banda Aceh, that they would be holding this course. Furthermore, as part of the government, KOMNAS HAM clearly does not require permission to hold such a session. The training session could eventually proceed but under miserable conditions.

KONTRAS and the Association of Law and Human Rights Advocates attacked33

On 26th May 2003, during the commemoration of the International Week of the Disappeared, about 30 people from the Pemuda Panca Marga (PPM, The Youth of the Veterans) with paramilitary uniforms, demonstrated in front of the office of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KONTRAS). They attacked KONTRAS, and in particular its founder Mr. Munir, for their criticism against the Indonesian government's policy in handling the Aceh problem.

On 27th May 2003, 150 PPM members again attacked the office of KONTRAS while a press conference was conducted in relation to the International Week of the Disappeared. They insulted employees by forcing them to sing the national anthem and mocking them as pseudo-nationalists when they refused to sing it. Worse still, they physically assaulted them resulting in physical injuries and eventual hospitalisation. Furthermore, these people entered into the office premises and violently destroyed office equipment and paraphernalia. The PPM members left and then went to the office of the Association of Law and Human Rights Advocates (PBHI). They wounded one of the PBHI's staff members, who succeeded in forcing the assailants to leave.

During these attacks, the police were present, but did not intervene. Later the police said that the group of persons was too large to control. Three members of KONTRAS were wounded in the attack. KONTRAS filed a case concerning this attack. The police launched an investigation but as far as December 2003, no progress was made.

The office of KONTRASs had already been raided in March 2002 by over 100 civilians, members of the "Families of the victims of Cawang 1998". During that raid, Mr. Munir had been attacked, two other members of the organisation beaten up, many computers destroyed and documents on human rights violations in Indonesia were stolen. The attack on KONTRAS had certainly aimed at putting pressure on the organisation to stop its investigation into the deaths of students during the 1998 clashes in Cawang (department of East Jakarta) and during the 1998 and 1999 events of Trisakti and Semanggi.34

Assassination and disappearance of two Human Rights volunteers35

Mr. Abdussalam Muhamad Deli, a 23 year old volunteer of the Human Rights and Legal Aid Post (PB-HAM) East Aceh, an NGO that carries out advocacy through data collection, campaigning and legal assistance, has been missing since 11th May 2003. He was travelling from Central Langsa on a small public bus to visit his family's village. The bus was stopped by unknown men in civilian clothing on the main road between Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh, and Medan. They forced him out of the bus into a "Kijang" car with dark windows and drove away in the direction of the city of Langsa. Volunteers from PB-HAM East Aceh have asked about Abdussalam's whereabouts to the police and authorities of East Aceh.

On the same day, Mr. Raja Ismail, a 50-year-old volunteer of PBHAM East Aceh, was reportedly abducted outside Langsa. According to the information received, Mr. Raja Ismail left his house in Kuala Simpang, Aceh Tamiang district, to bring some data on victims of violence to the office of PB-HAM in Langsa. On the night of 11th May 2003, he had still not returned to his house. On 13th May, his body was found in the Titi Kembar River in Langsa Lama village, East Aceh district. The corpse showed signs of strangling and there were knife wounds and bruises.

Attack on the Legal Aid Institution36

On 28th June 2003, in Banda Aceh, at 1.05 p.m., seven plain clothed members of the security forces turned up at the office of the Legal Aid Institution (LBH). The men, who drove up in a Panther vehicle, are thought to be members of the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob). They entered the LBH office where they met Mr. Afridal Darmi SH, the director of the LBH and asked him where Asiah, the coordinator of the investigation division of KONTRAS Aceh, was. They left after Mr. Afridal Darmi had informed them that KONTRAS, which had previously shared an office with LBH-Aceh, had recently moved to another office. It is believed that the police was looking for Asiah because of her role in gathering information on human rights violations collected by KONTRAS volunteers in the field.

At 2.00 p.m., the same group of men came to the LBH office again and asked to speak to Mr. Afridal Darmi and to Mrs. Syarifah Murlina, a lawyer from LBH's litigation staff, but they were not in the office. Having failed to locate the two lawyers, they then entered the LBH office and carried out a search. They kicked down the door of the litigation room and threw books off of the shelves. They tried in vain to open the filing cabinet in the database room. They threatened to return later. As of December 2003, LBH and its members have not faced any new attacks. However, they are working under very difficult conditions, as LBH can not travel to another area in Aceh under martial law. Their activity is only focused in the capital town of Aceh (Banda Aceh). Moreover, Mrs. Syarifah Murlina feels that she is under military surveillance. Regarding Asiah, she has been evacuated to another province as the situation was becoming too dangerous for KONTRAS Aceh volunteers in the field.


[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

31. See Urgent Appeal IDN 001/0503/OBS 026.

32. See Press Release 21st October 2003.

33. See Urgent Appeal IDN 001/0503/OBS 026.

34. See Urgent Appeal IDN 001/0302/OBS 020.

35. See Urgent Appeal IDN 001/0503/OBS 026.

36. See Urgent Appeal IDN 001/ 0503/OBS 026.1.

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