Subject: BBC: UN: rape used extensively by ABRI
Date: Fri, 02 Apr 1999 07:58:26 -0500
From: Charles Scheiner <>

BBC Summary of World Broadcasts March 27, 1999, Saturday Source: Radio Australia, Melbourne, in English (courtesy ICANET)

*UN official says rape used "extensively" by armed forces

The United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, Dr Radhika Coomaraswamy, has said that not only have women been raped by military personnel in East Timor, Aceh and Irian Jaya, but that in some cases victims were sent photographs of their own rape. Although he would not say that the rape was part of a deliberate policy, it was used "quite extensively as means of intimidation and torture" .

Text of report by Radio Australia on 25th March

[Presenter Peter Mares] The United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women says rape has been used extensively as a weapon of intimidation and torture in East Timor, and in other areas of conflict in Indonesia. Dr Radhika Coomaraswamy says during the Suharto era, military personnel often raped women in East Timor, Aceh and Irian Jaya and she has confirmed the mass rape of women from Jakarta's minority Chinese community during last year's May riots. Women's groups documented 168 rapes in Jakarta last May, but police and military authorities repeatedly denied the reports on the basis that no- one came forward to press charges. According to Dr Coomaraswamy, this is because the victims are being warned off with death threats.

[Coomaraswamy] I met some of the victims, and also people who were witnesses of the rapes. And we also saw some video footage which gives me a sense that impunity reigned during that time, where the armed forces were just looking on and not trying to stop the situation at all. And since many of the victims are getting death threats, they are not reporting the cases.

[Mares] According to your report, in some cases they have also been sent photographs of their own rape.

[A] They have been sent photographs, yes. They are receiving racial death threats, very racist, anonymous letters, anonymous phone calls. And a lot of them are extremely vulgar in language and racialist in content.

[Q] Your report didn't just focus on events in Jakarta in May last year. You also looked at events in East Timor, Aceh and Irian Jaya. What did you find there?

[A] We found that in the Suharto era, pre-May 1998, we found that rape and sexual violence were used quite extensively as means of intimidation and torture. We met with many victims, from all of these areas. Many of them carried the wounds with them, so it was first-hand reporting.

[Q] And you say rape was used as a form of intimidation by the armed forces?

[A] By sections of the armed forces, yes. We do not know whether it was part of the plan. I don't think so, but it was used, as we say. When you have impunity these things happen.

[Q] So you wouldn't say it was a deliberate policy from the top?

[A] I don't think so, no. We won't be able to say that clearly, but it did happen that in many cases rape was used as intimidation.

[Q] And nothing was done about it.

[A] Nothing was done about it and therefore impunity reigned.

[Q] What are you recommending that the Indonesian authorities do to tackle the situation if the women are, obviously, too afraid to come forward?

[A] We are recommending the setting up of a witness protection programme to allow witnesses the right to bring cases against the court [as heard]. We are recommending training and sensitization of the criminal justice process in Indonesia. And what we suggest is that there be some process of truth and reconciliation in Indonesia with regard to certain issues, and that they stop denying constantly that these things take place, rather that they accept that these things may have taken place and try to deal with the victims and give them ome form of compensation.

[Q] Did you see any evidence during your fact-finding mission to Indonesia that the authorities are in fact willing to admit that this violence against women actually took place?

[A] At the political level, we found a very open government that was very willing to listen to the recommendations. And even with regard to some of the military and police officers, some of them were very responsive. But there were others who were not. I think within Indonesia there is this debate going on in every institution between those who are very pro-reform and pro-acknowledging human rights abuses and those that one may call a part of a denial culture. So that debate within all institutions exists, I think.

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