Subject: CONG: HR Caucus on Human Rights in Indonesia & ET
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 21:39:55 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

[Earlier this month the Congressional Human Rights Caucus held a briefing on Current Human Rights Violations in Indonesia. The Feb. 9 hearing featured Dr. J.E. Sahetapy (Professor Emeritus, School of Law, Airlanga University); Mr. Mohammad Fajrul Faalakh (Pro-chairman of the Central Board of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU - the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia); Lecturer, School of Law, Gajah Mada University), Reverend Yatvantius Tulai (Pastor, Humanitarian aid worker; and Ms. Ester Jusef (Founder and Chair of National Solidarity, an Indonesian Human Rights Organization).]

The inviting letter said in part: "As you may know, serious violence and human rights abuses have taken place in Indonesia during the recent economic and political upheaval in that country. While much of the violence has been directed against advocates for democratic political and social reform, it is also clear that ethnic and religious minorities have been a particular target of abuse. Witnesses have reported what appear to be orchestrated burning of homes, brutal killings, and similar violence against ethnic and religious communities."

Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA) gave the opening statement:

Statement for Members Briefing on Current Human Rights Abuses in Indonesia

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. It is a privilege for me to welcome you to the Human Rights Caucus Briefing on Current Human Rights Abuses in Indonesia. The extreme nature of the recent human rights abuses in Indonesia has shocked the world. Reports show that churches and mosques have been burned, businesses of ethnic minorities have been looted and destroyed, students were arrested and killed, and women and girls have been brutally raped and sometimes murdered.

Today's hearing is sponsored by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. The Caucus, co-chaired by Congressman John Porter and Congressman Tom Lantos, is a bi-partisan group of members dedicated to advocating for the protection of human rights worldwide. The situation in Indonesia has long concerned Human Rights Caucus Members and many American people because of the long-standing human rights violations in East Timor. It was not until more recently, however, that the world watched as the horrors perpetrated in East Timor spread throughout Indonesia.

As you may know, early last year, riots broke out in major cities in Indonesia. As people stood and watched in horror, rioters looted and destroyed businesses, burned churches, and caused mass destruction. Then, last May, the world stood horrified as it learned of the perpetration of mass rapes. Well-documented reports suggest a systematic plan on the part of the rapists to terrorize the Chinese ethnic community. Groups of unknown assailants would descend on a community, enter businesses, demand money, rape women who were present (often while uttering anti-Chinese rhetoric), and loot and sometimes burn the businesses.

Despite the change in the leadership of Indonesia's government, human rights abuses continue. Unfortunately, the stories of situations similar to last year's tragedies have not ceased in Indonesia. Killing and rioting is still occurring. In January of this year, 40 people were killed in a village in Ambon. Attackers in other areas of the island of Ambon stopped individuals in the streets, asked them what their religion was, and upon the admittance of Christian beliefs, killed the individuals. Reports suggest that approximately 20,000 people sought refuge in military bases, police barracks, churches and mosques" in nots in which "seven mosques, nine churches, and 570 buildings were burned." Similar reports have come from Banyuwangi, Ketapang, Poso, and other regions of Indonesia.

Other reports give details that during the noting in the region known as the "Spice Islands," in one week 15 churches and 11 mosques were badly damaged or completely destroyed. Local inhabitants of attacked areas often state that villagers lived in harmony until outsiders came to their homes and, armed with various weapons, instigated the various riots and attacks on ethnic and religions minorities. These attacks continue throughout Indonesia.

Many human rights reports suggest that the riots of 1998 and 1999 were orchestrated by a particular individual or group of individuals. The question in people's minds is who or what is behind the terrible violence sweeping through the various regions of Indonesia?

Unfortunately, a large portion of the Indonesian population is afraid to report what they have seen. However, today, we will hear from some courageous individuals who desire to see justice and national reconciliation in their country so that stability, based on democracy, will be the norm in Indonesia.

The actions of the perpetrators of rape, murder and other crimes and human rights abuses are cowardly and should be internationally condemned. In addition, the government of Indonesia must engage in a thorough investigation to bring to justice those who are responsible for the horrifying human rights abuses occurring even today.

I applaud the courage of today's panel and thank them for their willingness, though possibly putting their own lives in danger, to share their knowledge about current human rights violations in Indonesia and who or what might be behind those abuses. The Congressional Human Rights Caucus encourages you in your pursuit of protection of and justice for the Indonesian people.

Contact: Hans Hogrefe
Legislative Assistant Director
Congressional Human Rights Caucus
Office of Representative Tom Lantos
2217 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Tel.: 202-225-3531
http://www.house.gov/lantos/caucus/caucuswebpage.htm

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