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Fact-Finding Delegation to Aceh Urges Indonesia to Guarantee Safety of Humanitarian and Rights

Workers East Timor Action Network and Indonesia Human Rights Network Call for an End to Abuses by Armed Forces and Police

For Immediate Release
October 1, 2000

Contact: Michael Beer, Nonviolence International, 202-244-0951 
Lynn Fredriksson, Indonesia Human Rights Network, 202-546-0044

An international human rights delegation, recently returned from Indonesia's troubled province Aceh, found an atmosphere of fear and continued conflict despite a cease fire between the pro-independence guerrillas and the government.

"We found shocking and systemic abuses by the Indonesian police and military, as well as some by the guerrillas. All sides must respect human rights and demonstrate a genuine commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Aceh conflict," said Michael Beer, Director of the Washington, DC-based Nonviolence International and delegation member.

The delegation found that the situation has become so polarized that those working to promote human rights and peaceful conflict resolution and help refugees face enormous pressure. The recent killings of noted Acehnese such as human rights lawyer Jafar Siddiq and Professor Safwan Idris, Rector of the Ar-raniry State Islamic Institute (IAIN) in Banda Aceh, have intimidated and frightened others working for peace.

"Human rights abuses by the guerrillas, including execution of civilians, do not warrant a declaration of state of emergency now being sought by the Indonesian military. A military solution will only further the destruction of civil society and further polarize the conflict," said Beer.

While supporting the recently-extended "Humanitarian Pause" between the Indonesian government and the pro-independence guerrillas and first begun June 2, the delegation observed that the cease fire had failed to improve the safety of human right and humanitarian workers. Oxfam and Medecins Sans Frontieres recently suspended their work in Aceh citing concerns for the safety of their staff'. Thousands of internally displaced persons are now receiving no international assistance.

Beer urged the Indonesian government to provide the needed security so that international assistance can go to those displaced by the conflict.

"Jakarta and the international community should expand not reduce assistance to the Acehnese people at this critical time," said Beer. "For example, UNDP has received no additional funding for programs in Aceh since the signing of the Humanitarian Pause."

"The delegation's findings serve to reinforce the need for the U.S. to continue its suspension of military ties with Indonesia. In Aceh, as in West Timor, Papua and elsewhere in Indonesia, the police and military show no respect for human rights or those who defend them," said Lynn Fredriksson, Interim Coordinator of the recently formed Indonesia Human Rights Network and Washington Representative for the East Timor Action Network/U.S.

While in Aceh, the delegation gave their condolences to the family of murdered human rights lawyer Jafar Siddiq Hamzah. Hamzah's mutilated body was found with four others outside Medan on September 5. A resident of Queens, New York, Hamzah founded and chaired the International Forum on Aceh (IFA), a non-governmental organization campaigning for peace and human rights in Aceh. The delegation, citing fears that the current police investigation is likely to become a cover-up, urged a thorough and transparent investigation of these killings.

"We remain particularly aggrieved by the brutal murder of our friend, Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, and disturbed by the woefully inadequate police investigation into his case," said Fredriksson.

More than 5000 people have been killed in eleven years of fighting and repression in Aceh. Hundreds have been killed or disappeared since the Humanitarian Pause was instituted.

The U.S. recently reaffirmed its suspension of military ties to Indonesia. That ban was first instituted in September 1999 when the Indonesian military and its militias were destroying East Timor in response to the August 30 independence vote.

On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed legislation that would put the renewed ban into law, citing the murder of Hamzah and the recent killing of three UN humanitarian workers, including a U.S. citizen, in West Timor.

In the U.S., the international delegation was organized by the recently formed Indonesia Human Rights Network and supported by the East Timor Action Network/U.S.

The delegation visited Aceh from September 19 through September 26, 2000. It included Dr. Karim Crow, Director of the Islamic Peace Forum (Malaysia); Michael Beer, Director Nonviolence International (USA); Alex Flor, Watch Indonesia (Germany); and A.H. Semendawai, S.H., Coordinator Legal Service Department, Institute for Policy, Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) (Indonesia).

Michael Beer and other delegation are available for interviews.

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