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Demonstration for Jafar Siddiq Hamzah More BACKGROUND & UPDATES
on the Disappearance and Murder of
Jafar Siddiq Hamzah

Most recent info
Earlier Info & Background
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August 14 demonstration, New York City. Photo by Charles Scheiner.

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Earlier Articles and Background

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Jafar Siddiq scholarship created by New School University, New York
Oct 24, 2000

The New School University (NSU) in New York, the university where the late Jafar Siddiq Hamzah was studying when he returned to Aceh earlier this year, has established a special scholarship in honour of the Acehnese human rights activist who was murdered in August while on a visit to Medan, North Sumatra.

According to a report by TEMPO Interaktif from New York, Jafar was taking a master's degree in Political Science at the university. In September, he would have completed his first year on the master's course.

Acting Dean of Post-Graduate Studies at NSU, William C. Hirst, said the scholarship had been created as a mark of respect for Jafar's struggle for human rights and also because the NSU has a special interest in the question of transition to democracy, focusing on studies in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa. 'Jafar's death has prompted us set up a scholarship to enable a student to come to the university to study the question of transition to democracy,' he said.

He was speaking to TEMPO at the end of a symposium on the topic 'Aceh Identity and Democracy in Indonesia' held on Monday, 23 October.

The symposium was held in memory of Jafar. Among the speakers were Munir, former coordinator of Kontras, James Seigel from Cornell University, Dino Patti Djalal, an official from the Indonesian embassy, and Roberts Fitts from the State Department in Washington.

William Hirst said that the Jafar Siddiq scholarship would be given each year to a student from a country that was in transition to democracy, including Indonesia. The student will attend a course at the post-graduate faculty of NSU and the scholarship will cover the tuition fee. The first recipient of the scholarship will come to the NSU next year, said Hirst. (Supriyono)

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News and Letters, October 2000 issue

News and Letters mourns the death of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, 35, Acehnese freedom fighter and human rights activist, who was disappeared in Medan, Indonesia, August 5. His mutilated body was found along with four others about 40 miles away on Sep. 3, and could not be identified for several days.

Jafar lived in New York for the past three years, where he headed the International Forum for Aceh, working tirelessly to end government repression in his home province. He supported and advised the mass movement of students, women, farmers-the whole population of Aceh-that burst into protest against the military's torture and killing of dissidents, after the dictator Suharto was forced out of power two years ago. (See stories in N&L, Dec. 1999, Jan.-Feb., March and June 2000--all written with Jafar's generous assistance.)

Jafar recently helped found the first newspaper ever in the Acehnese language, "Su Acheh." He returned to the Aceh area for a few months in June, in spite of death threats that came to him here in New York, in order to set up offices for the newspaper and for a new organization, Support Committee for Human Right in Acheh, and to investigate the complicity of Mobil Oil in government repression. A man of peace, he was a major voice attempting to unify the Acehnese freedom movements, including the guerilla movement, GAM, whose violence he opposed.

Jafar was kidnapped in the third largest city in Indonesia, on a busy street in the middle of the day. He was well-known in the international human rights community, and a massive campaign of calling, writing and e-mailing the Indonesian and U.S. governments began as soon as he disappeared. Demonstrations demanding he be found were held in New York and Washington. But the Indonesian military and police refused to search for him-undoubtedly because he was kidnapped by one of them or a paramilitary group they sanction. At first the police refused even to take a missing person's report. A week later, a thousand students demonstrated outside the police station, as did a group of 400 lawyers. Then "investigators" came and harassed his friends and co-workers, some of whom have now received death threats as well.

Raised in what he described as a traditional rural Acehnese family and schooled in Islamic studies, Jafar became a prominent human rights lawyer in Indonesia. He left the country four years ago due to intimidation and threats by the military. At the time of his murder, he was a graduate student in political science at the New School University and a permanent resident of the U.S.

Large groups of people flocked to his family's home near Lhokseumawe for his funeral Sep. 8. The International Forum for Aceh (IFA) will hold a memorial meeting for him in October.

Aceh is in northwest Indonesia, on the tip of Sumatra. After suffering for years under martial law-at least 5,000 people were killed during the 1990s--and from economic exploitation by the central government, the people want the military out, and want a referendum to determine whether they will become independent. The demand for a referendum spread throughout the province after East Timor won independence via a referendum conducted by the U.N. last year. As the civil movements gained strength, however, killing and torture intensified--more than 400 people have been killed so far this year, more than 100 disappeared, and thousands have been driven from their homes. The only Acehnese member of the Indonesian congress was murdered a few months ago, and a prominent Islamic university rector was killed in September 16.

August 16 and 17, for Indonesia's independence day, 5,000 protestors rallied at a university campus near the capital of Banda Aceh to demand a referendum. According to a report, "UN flags sprouted on the campus and in most parts of Banda Aceh overnight, after Aceh police had warned they would not tolerate the flying of any flags other than the Indonesian national red and white flag on August 17." Last year, people were threatened by the authorities if they didn't fly the Indonesian flag, and threatened by GAM if they did. Now Aceh may be subjected to a new "civil emergency" law that would give the authorities even more power to search and seize anyone and anything, including the computers that are vital to getting out the news.

Jafar was an internationalist to the core. "Su Acheh" is to have a section in English so it can be read around the world. As many meetings as we attended with him over the last year on the subjects of Aceh, East Timor, and Indonesia, we saw him at nearly as many concerning U.S. movements, especially the "Seattle" youth movement. He was happy and grateful that people here were interested in the struggles in Aceh, and always shared the latest news-and always flashed a wonderful smile.

Jafar's knowledge of the histories of Aceh and Indonesia made him skeptical of appeals to nationalism, and keenly aware that freedom can only be measured by the lives of ordinary people.

We who knew him in New York are determined to continue his work, through the International Forum for Aceh (IFA) and the Student Coalition for Aceh, which people can join from anywhere in the world. Write IFA, Box 13, 511 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10011, or e-mail or You can also send donations for his family and to continue the newspaper "Su Acheh." Much information about Jafar and Aceh is available on the IFA and East Timor Action Network websites, and

--Anne Jaclard

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The chairman of International Forum for Aceh (IFA) was kidnapped, brutally tortured and murdered in Medan, Indonesia. Details about his abduction and killing can be found at ETAN's website at: Until today, Indonesian authority have not conducted a fair investigation on Jafar's killing. In addition, Indonesian Police in Medan has so far refused to hand-over Jafar's autopsy record. Independent investigators on the ground has suspected that Indonesian military / intelligence is the main suspect in Jafar's kidnapping, torture and murder. 

Jafar Siddiq Hamzah Personal Statement (Entering the New-School University) 
New York, December 23, 1998

As my curriculum vitae would testify, prior to my coming to the United States, I was an active human rights lawyer in Indonesia. My activism put me in direct opposition with the government of Indonesia and the military, which eventually forced me out of the country.

In retrospect it is hard to imagine that I would become a lawyer because being raised in a traditional rural Acehnese family, my education from elementary school to first year of college has always been in Islamic Studies. My mother who was educated in the Islamic boarding school had a dream that I would someday become a prominent religious leader, with profound knowledge in Islamic law. After finishing my first year at Islamic Studies at Alwashliyah University, my interest in legal matters developed as a consequence of the authoritarian campus environment created by Soeharto’s regime. The university administration acted as an extension of the hands of the New Order Regime. In fact it simply carried out the centralized policy of the government to domesticate and de-politicize campuses. In addition to this oppressive campus environment, my new found interest in law and justice in general also stem from a profoundly painful experience when I was a child of being forcibly separated from my father, an elementary school teacher, who was sentenced to six months imprisonment in Lhokseumawe Prison, North Aceh, followed by five years of exile to South Aceh, just because he refused to join the government political party, Golkar.

Toward finishing my law school, I work as a volunteer for the Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Medan (a Sumatra branch of Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation in Jakarta). After one year, I was promoted to paid staff with a beginning salary of 50,000 rupiahs per month (US$12). LBH Medan gave me the opportunity to mature as a lawyer, sending me for nine-month fellowship training program to study human rights and environmental law in several institutions in the US under the sponsorship of the International Human Rights Internship Program. My short experience of living in a democratic country, like the US, reinforced my belief that the repressive political situation in Indonesia is profoundly abnormal, and that propel me to devote my studies, my life and my work, toward social justice and democratic change in Indonesia, along with working to stop human rights violations carry out by the Indonesian military regime in my homeland, Aceh. My position as a lawyer and Public Relations Officer, after returning to LBH, necessitated that I made outspoken interventions and gave public interviews to the press and media on all political development. These, in many cases, put me in a difficult situation of public confrontations with the military and police. The fact that I am ethnically Acehnese created further difficulty of always being suspected as a "potential separatist and terrorist" whose allegiance to the state ideology, Pancasila, is already considered suspect. From October to December 1996, I was subjected to intimidation and surveillance by the military and threatened of being exposed as sympathetic to Liberation Front of Aceh/Sumatra (a group with the goal of fighting for the independence of Aceh from Indonesia). Due to military intimidation and threats of arrest, my wife and I finally decided to leave Indonesia.

Soeharto, the only President we had since 1966, step down last May 21. It gives us a little hope that there will be political reform, even thought we have to go through a very difficult route and situation. I my self, as an Indonesian human rights lawyer and activist, feel obliged to contribute as much as I can, to ensure that the changes benefit the majority of the people. A lot of difficult thing we, Indonesian, have to deal with: we have to bring an end to the repressive political situation left by Soeharto, under the condition that his people still at large hold the key positions of the Indonesian politic; we have to restore our country from militaristic culture while many of us, even though criticize it, enjoy of imitating its practices; we have to stop the military from dominating the political arena, while the real political power is still at their hands, and there are still a lot of people who believe that only the military can maintain the political stability; above all we want Indonesia to be more democratic, while most of us still do not understand what democracy is --  not to mention that there are still a lot of people who believe that democracy is something from the west which definitely mean -- according to those people -- will not meet our need for a better future of our country. Here I have to confess that I am lacking the knowledge, skill and experience related to democratic theory, democratic processes, democratic practices, building an open society, etc.

Based on the above reasoning I am interested in pursuing graduate studies in the political science. I really need to learn, such as: what democracy is, at the theoretical level; what the benefit will be to the people by choosing democracy; about the government and the history of democracy itself; about political theories; comparative studies of political practices in different countries, such as Latin America; transformation of political power and government, etc. This is the knowledge that I need most in strengthening my dedication to my job and my country.

My horizon has broadened greatly during the past two years living in the US. Engaged in activities for the cause of Aceh in the US, which include testifying before congressional subcommittee, gave me first hand experience of how democracy has been practiced in the people’s daily life, as well as in the government carrying its duties. I would like to broaden them by further continuing my education at New School for Social Research, Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science, a place known for its democratic tradition and commitment. I believe that there is much that I could learn from, and much that I could contribute to the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science, the New School for Social Research.

New York, December 23, 1998 
Jafar Siddiq Hamzah

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New York, October 5, 2000 


Human Rights Activists go into hiding fearing Indonesian Military and Police Forces would launch a Coordinated Operation Against Pro-democracy movements.

Several prominent leaders of human rights organizations in the strife torn Indoneisan province of Aceh, have gone into hiding as military and police intimidation against them continues to intensify.

"We now are facing a situation where the military and police feel that they can act with absolute impunity," said one prominent leader. "They do not believe that they will face serious action from the Indonesian or foreign governments."

Two other student leaders from SIRA (Aceh Referendum Information Center), an Acehnese organization which is organizing to allow for the exercise of the political rights of Acehnese to determine their future, are currently hospitalized, having been terribly beaten by members of the Indonesian mobile police, BRIMOB, on Tuesday. The two students, Muzakir and Mohamed Saleh, were abducted on Tuesday from a coffee shop in the provincial capital of Aceh, Banda Aceh, where they were waiting for their car to be repaired in a nearby car repair shop. The kidnappers were heavily armed and took the students away in unmarked jeeps. A witness recognized a few of the abductors as members of the Indonesian police intelligence force, POLRA.

The kidnapping mobilized human rights activists throughout Indonesia and in the United States, who called for the immediate release of the students. The police were pressured to free them, but not before Mohamed Saleh and Muzakir were terribly tortured.

Robert Jereski, the executive director of the International Forum for Aceh, a New York non-for-profit corporation advocating for accountability for human rights violations committed in Aceh, condemned the targeting of human rights workers today in a statement to the State Department. He said, "We are seeing a dramatic increase in the abominably prevalent practice by Indonesian security forces of systematically hunting down prominent civilians who are simply exercising political rights enjoyed in countries that respect the rule of law." Mr. Jereski pointed out in his statement that the cases of recent victims of state-sponsored disappearances and extra-judicial executions had been ignored by the Indonesian government. "We have seen no credible investigation by the Indonesian government of a pattern of serious human rights abuses."

Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, the Chairman of the International Forum for Aceh, was murdered last month in what many human rights activist believe was a premeditated blow to the movement calling for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Aceh. His body, together with four other unknown corpses, were found wrapped in barbed wire in a rural area, known to local villagers as a dumping ground for victims of the Indonesian military and police. Mr. Hamzah was a prominent human rights lawyer who had testified before Congressional committees considering human rights violations in Aceh and throughout Indonesia.

Dr. Safwan Idris, the rector of the IAIN, Institut Agama Islam Negeri (State Islamic Religion Institute), in Banda Aceh, and a candidate for Governor of Aceh, was assassinated in his house early Saturday morning. Dr. Idris, who had received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, was an outspoken advocate for a peaceful resolution to the violence in Aceh. Tengku Nashiruddin Daud, the only Acehnese member of the Indonesian congress, was murdered in March. Many human rights activists claim that both of these prominent Acehnese intellectuals were murdered by the military or police precisely because of their demands for peaceful change and their roles as leaders of their communities. Confidential sources in Jakarta warned activists in Aceh that the military are going after influential leaders of the province's growing pro-democracy movement.

Local activists, commenting on police and military violence against citizens, stated that "the military and the police do not feel that international pressure is serious". Many activists in Aceh have no faith in the commitment of the Indonesian government to respecting human rights and have even less hope that the government will bring military or police officers who violate human rights to trial. "What we need is international intervention," one source stated urgently. "Civilians in Aceh are tortured, "disappeared" and murdered on a daily basis. The military destroys our homes. They burn our shops. They murder our brothers and sisters in cold blood. Where is the U.N.? Where is the United States, which has called for the rule of law to be respected? (The military and police forces) are killing us every day."

A commission of inquiry, composed of academics and human rights workers from the US and Europe and Asia is currently touring Aceh to gather information on the pattern of assassinations, abductions, and disappearances of prominent Acehnese intellectuals which is currently plaguing Acehnese society.

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Lynn Fredriksson remembers Jafar Siddiq Hamzah

Where do you begin to describe someone who is hands-down the gentlest human being you've ever met? I think what first drew me particularly to Jafar, among the many activists who have come through Washington to lobby over the past four years, was his smile. Charming, warm, humble, but confident, Jafar moved through meetings, conferences, congressional briefings and other events with calm and determination. He would describe some of the worst of the violence perpetrated against his people in Aceh, horrify and anger you with his stories, then look down, and look up with that winning smile and you'd just know that, despite everything, the struggle would go on and justice would, with a lot of hard work, still prevail. He offered us not only truth, but hope.

Last year we testified, together with T. Kumar from Amnesty International and Assistant Secretary of State Robert Seipel, at a Senate briefing hosted by the Center for Jewish and Christian Values. It was on religious violence in Indonesia. Led by Jafar, the event was turned around-- to examine the role of the Indonesian armed forces in inciting and enflaming religious and ethnic conflicts throughout the archipelago. The main issue was no longer religion, but military violence.

A few months before East Timor's referendum, Congressman Chris Smith hosted a hearing in the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights. Jafar testified beside East Timorese friends who had survived the massacre in Liquica. He offered a much-needed comparison, of military and militia violence against the Acehnese people to military and militia violence threatening the East Timorese in the months leading up to the vote. He won important friends in Washington for Aceh that day, and, yet again, helped promote the cause of justice for East Timor.

In the Spring, Jafar asked me to travel with him to Aceh, but I couldn't. I didn't know then how courageous he was to return home so early. The last time I saw him he asked me, with that smile, to work for an Aceh Action Network. By that time we had already begun to explore the possibility of forming the Indonesia Human Rights Network. I apologized, and he accepted this, but teased me about needing more for Aceh nonetheless. And by that made me work harder. He also joined the exploratory committee for the Indonesia Network, and made important contributions to our final proposal for its formation.

The martyrdom of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, our dear friend, has no doubt
redoubled the efforts of many to establish a U.S.-based network devoted to
championing the rights of the peoples of Indonesia.  But, we will miss him


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Jose Ramos-Horta on Jafar Siddiq Hamzah

I met Jafar a few years ago in San Francisco. He had just fled Aceh and wanted to work for his country and people.

He wanted to work with me, under my direction. I tried to bring him to my Lisbon office but then I heard he had returned home.

He struck me as a humble, self-effacing, caring, and courageous individual.

The State that murdered Jafar has murdered several thousand of his people and many hundreds of thousands of Papuans, East Timorese, and Ambonese.

I have said many times that empires and regimes built on force, terror and fear never last. Sooner or later they come down crumbling under the weight of their own greed, corruption and arrogance.

This is the fate of the Indonesian empire, a false empire built over the misery of so many unfortunate people.

Jafar's life and death will always inspire us to pursue justice with all our strength.

God bless his soul.

Jose Ramos-Horta 
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

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A Native Son's Bid to Help End Abuses in Aceh Takes Deadly Turn
Indonesia: Rights activist who returned from the U.S. was found slain in August with four others. The military has denied involvement in the deaths.

Los Angeles Times 
Sunday, September 17, 2000

By RICHARD C. PADDOCK, Times Staff Writer

JAKARTA, Indonesia--When Jafar Siddiq Hamzah arrived in Indonesia from the U.S. this summer, he dreamed of ending the human rights violations that have claimed thousands of casualties in his native Aceh province. Instead, the New York resident became a victim of the abuse he had hoped to prevent.

Hamzah, a widely respected human rights lawyer, disappeared on the afternoon of Aug. 5 in the city of Medan. His body was found early this month with four others in a ravine 50 miles outside the city. All five had been stripped of clothing and bound with barbed wire, their hands tied behind their backs. Hamzah's face was smashed in. All of them had been shot or stabbed to death. Hamzah, 34, joins a growing list of activists who have disappeared or been killed in contentious Aceh province and in Medan, the capital of neighboring North Sumatra province. Aceh is one of many Indonesian provinces racked by violence in recent months as separatists, religious factions, military units and militia thugs vie for supremacy in the post-Suharto era. Hamzah's anguished colleagues accused the Indonesian military of involvement in the five deaths and called for an independent investigation. "We find it odd that so many high-profile people can vanish or be killed, particularly in Medan, Indonesia's third-largest city, and yet the police have not been able to make a single arrest," said Sidney Jones, a friend of Hamzah and Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch. "It would seem to indicate incompetence or complicity of the security forces." The military has denied any part in Hamzah's abduction and killing. His body was identified Sep. 6, but the confirmation of his death was overshadowed by the killing the same day of three U.N. aid workers in West Timor, another of Indonesia's far-flung troubled provinces. The U.N. workers were slain by members of militia groups originally formed by the Indonesian army. Although the rioting mob of militia thugs put West Timor on the map as Indonesia's newest conflict zone, Aceh has been seething with rebellion for more than a decade. Rich in oil and gas, Indonesia's westernmost province has long seen its wealth siphoned off by the central government in Jakarta. During the 1990s, rebel leaders pushed for the formation of an independent Islamic state, but the movement was ruthlessly suppressed by the regime of then-President Suharto, and at least 5,000 people died. Many Acehnese had hoped that the fall of Suharto in 1998 would prompt an inquiry into widespread allegations of human rights abuses by the military, but no investigation ever came.

In June, the new democratic government of President Abdurrahman Wahid and the rebel Free Aceh Movement agreed on a three-month "humanitarian pause" in the fighting in the province. Wahid has offered Aceh autonomy but opposes independence. The truce has since been extended for another three months.

Despite the truce, the conflict has continued to simmer, with dozens killed during the past three months and hundreds driven from their homes. Death threats against activists have been common, and Human Rights Watch estimates that an average of five people disappear each week.

The military accuses the rebels of violating the truce and using the break to rearm their fighters. The rebels contend that Indonesian generals have provoked new fighting because they fear that a peace pact would threaten their extensive business holdings in Aceh. Whatever the case, the "humanitarian pause" wasn't enough to prevent the death of Hamzah and the four as-yet-unidentified people found with him.

Born in the city of Lhokseumawe, Hamzah moved to New York in 1996 and was studying for a master's degree in political science at New School University. In the United States, he founded and headed the International Forum for Aceh to call attention to the conflict in his native province.

Hamzah, a devout Muslim, advocated a peaceful end to the fighting, and his organization last year mediated the first face-to-face peace talks between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement. The talks in Bangkok, Thailand, helped set the stage for the first three-month truce.

Hamzah returned to his homeland this summer to set up a legal office, document human rights violations and establish an Acehnese-language newspaper. He planned to return to New York and was enrolled in the fall semester at New School University.

Family members said that he had received death threats and that he suspected he was being followed in Medan. As a precaution, he telephoned his relatives every two hours to report his whereabouts. On Aug. 5, he left a meeting with an Acehnese businessman about 1:30 p.m. He was never heard from again. His disappearance prompted his friends and fellow activists to call for an investigation and to seek U.S. intervention. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) called Hamzah "a man of conscience" and pressed the State Department to take action.

On Sep. 3, residents of the village of Nagalingga noticed a foul odor coming from the ravine and discovered the five bodies. Police said the victims had been dead for at least 10 days.

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and Amnesty International in London were among those who urged the Indonesian government to find Hamzah's killers. "It is crucial now that the government redouble its efforts to find and bring to justice those responsible for the murder of Mr. Hamzah and four others found with him," the embassy said in a statement.

Hamzah's death greatly upset members of the human rights community, where he was well liked and highly regarded for the strength of his commitment.

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of such a wonderful colleague and friend," said Carmel Budiardjo of Tapol, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign. "He was a gentle and kindly man, humane and peace-loving and always inspiring others with his enthusiasm."

Jones, of Human Rights Watch, called Hamzah "one of the most dedicated human rights defenders I've ever known." "The most fitting honor to his memory," she said, "will be to bring to justice not only his killers but those responsible for the thousands of disappearances that have taken place in Aceh over the past decade."

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At UN, a brutal murder in Sumatra is protested

Daily News (New York) 
September 14, 2000


The mournful tones of two bronze gongs, creating harmonics largely unfamiliar to Westerners, were all that distinguished a group of Acehnese last week from hordes of other protesters outside the UN.

More than a dozen people from the Indonesian province stood behind a blue police barricade and a metal fence, squeezed between Gambian nationals screaming for the ouster of Ya Ya Jammeh and an animal rights activist dressed as a cow, mugging for TV cameras.

The Acehnese, who have formed a tiny, tight-knit community of 100 in Queens, came to the designated protest zone in midtown Manhattan to call attention to the death of one of their own. Two days earlier, the tortured body of a Woodside human rights activist, 35-year-old Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, was found in a ravine in the northern Sumatran province.

Perhaps best known to Americans as a place where gourmet coffee beans are grown, Sumatra is one of 17,000 islands that make up the Republic of Indonesia.

For more than a century, the Acehnese said they have fought for autonomy from Indonesia and leaders who exploited their land and their human rights.

Besides being fertile soil for fine coffee, Aceh's ground is rich with natural gas and petroleum, drawing millions of dollars in foreign investment. Acehnese autonomy would mean a huge economic loss for Indonesia and the military has historically worked hard to squelch pro-independence movements.

"We don't want Indonesia no more," said Danni Bidin, who grew up in Aceh and now lives in Astoria, as he paced along the protest zone.

He recalled the Indonesian military's behavior in Aceh. Bidin said he never left home without proper identification.

"If you don't have an ID card, they'll kill you," Bidin said. He said he remembered watching soldiers force civilians to lie in the street so they could walk across their backs. Bodies were left to rot on sidewalks because the families of the dead were too afraid to retrieve them.

"It's like they're not human," Bidin said of the military.

Hamzah, 35, believed the Acehnese deserved better. He did not think that independence was necessarily the answer to his people's woes, but he believed they should have the right to express their views without fear of retribution.

In Aceh, he formed a legal aid organization, helped start a local newspaper and catalogued human rights abuses.

Three years ago, Hamzah moved to Queens, where he became friends with other Acehnese and Indonesians, and founded the International Forum for Aceh to raise awareness about his people.

Despite receiving several anonymous death threats, Hamzah returned to Aceh in late June to promote peace. On Aug. 5, he disappeared between two appointments in Medan, a city in Aceh. His supporters in the U.S., including Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), quickly mobilized, pleading with the State Department to put pressure on the Indonesian government to find Hamzah.

A month later, his body and four other corpses were found in a ravine near Medan. They had been stripped and wrapped in barbed wire, and doctors needed medical and dental records to identify Hamzah positively.

Hamzah's friends and family say he was killed for political reasons, probably by paramilitary forces or perhaps by rogue factions of the Acehnese independence movement.

After the UN protest, in a ceremony at a Long Island City mosque where Hamzah often read aloud from the Koran, congregants recited "Janazah," a Muslim prayer for the dead.

"Allah, forgive them for their sins," they solemnly prayed, "and may Allah accept them and accept their good deeds."

They raised their open hands to the sides of their faces and then brought them to their chests. After the service, they sat on the floor of the mosque, sharing their memories about Hamzah, whom they call their Muslim brother.

"What they did to his body, what tortures he went through. . . . I think they're horrified by it," said Robert Jereski, director of International Forum for Aceh.

"But what they did to his body, they did the opposite to his spirit and his work," he said. "People there and here are that much more fierce in their determination to bring human rights to Aceh."

GRAPHIC: SHOWING RESPECT: Men gather at mosque to remember Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, an activist whose tortured body was found in Sumatra. JOHN ROCA DAILY NEWS

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In the face of our grief following the sadistic murder of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, our Chairman, colleague and friend, we in IFA feel such an uplifting spirit with the tremendous expression of support and sympathy we have received from all over the world. 

Before the discovery of his badly mutilated body last August 3 in a ravine near Nagalingga Village, District of Merek, Tanah Karo, North Sumatra, some 80 kms from Medan where he was kidnapped on August 5, NGOs and individuals, Acehnese, Indonesians and foreigners from Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Philippines, Australia, Europe and the US have strongly pressured the Indonesian government with demands that Jafar's disappearance be investigated immediately. There had been demonstrations in front of the Indonesian Embassy in Washington and its Consulate General in New York. Delegations from well-known human rights NGOs have been sent to Jakarta and Medan. While the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta had written an appeal to the Indonesian Government, American Congressmen had written to President Clinton to intervene, but unfortunately all was met with silence by Jakarta.

We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all of those valiant and kind people on behalf of our organization and also on behalf of the family of our late comrade. There were so many organizations and individuals who had worked so hard to try to locate Jafar, directly, indirectly, openly or discretely, that it is impossible to name all of them here. After the discovery of his mutilated body, these same people have expressed their shock and sorrow, and are now doing all they can to demand justice from the Indonesian government.

While expressing our most profound gratitude to them, we would like to take this occasion, to quote randomly a few statements in order to illustrate the wide ranging love and respect that people have for our late Chairman, as a way to verbalize what all of us are feeling for this tragic loss.

International Forum for Aceh

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TAPOL calls on Komnas HAM to investigate Jafar's murder

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, has written today to Asmara Nababan, secretary-general of the Indonesian National Human Rights Campaign, Komnas HAM, to undertake an investigation into the abduction and murder of Acehnese human rights activist. A week ago, just before Jafar's body was found and positively identified, TAPOL wrote to Nababan urging the Commission to investigate his disappearance.

In her letter to Nababan, Carmel Budiardjo said that the Komnas HAM team should broaden its investigations to include a number of questions:

1. Investigate the disappearance and murder of Jafar with a view to identifying the perpetrators so that they can be brought to justice. 

2. Investigate other disappearances in Medan, in particular the disappearance and murder of member of parliament Tengku Nashiruddin Daud in January, and the as yet unexplained disappearance in Medan of GAM spokesperson, Ismail Syahputra. 

3. Arrange for the four bodies discovered with the body of Jafar to be identified with a view to investigating how they came to have been dumped in the same location. Does this mean that they were victims of the same men who abducted and murdered Jafar? 

4. A Waspada news item (5 or 6 September) which reported the discovery of Jafar’s body said that local inhabitants regard the location where the bodies were found as a dumping ground for dead bodies assumed to be ‘GAM’, ie Acehnese. This suggests that there may be or may have been the remains of other victims at the same location. Local inhabitants should be questioned about this.

The letter pointed to widespread international dissatisfaction with police investigations and with the refusal of the North Sumatran military to get involved in the investigation and said that an investigation by Komnas HAM would be widely welcomed internationally.

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Jafar Buried (TAPOL/Tempo Interactif)

Celebrating Jafar's Life

Today, Friday 8 September 2000, our beloved friend Jafar will be buried by his loving relatives and friends in Lhokseumawe. All of us who knew him intimately bow our heads in his honour. We send our deepest condolences to his family and wish them the strength to bear this terrible loss.

I have been asked many times during the past few days how best we all, far away from the place where he will be laid to rest, can join in mourning his loss. Some have suggested a day of mourning, others want a week of mourning.

My own feeling is that this is the time to CELEBRATE JAFAR'S LIFE.

We must use this day of sorrow to start to prepare a publication Celebrating the Life of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah.

To this end, I would like to invite anyone who knew him personally to write a few sentences or a few paragraphs about him. Write this as a friend who knew him. Jaqueline Siapno's moving personal note is an example and inspiration. Anyone receiving this message who knew Jafar personally and who wishes to take part in this venture should send their message to me.

Your words, in English or in Indonesian, could then be part of a book containing an account of his life and works, with photographs.

I will propose that this book should be jointly produced by IFA and SCHRA as a fitting memorial to a man who did so much for the people of Aceh. This would be a fitting response to those who thought that by snuffing out his life, they could destroy the work of one of Aceh's finest sons and silence the rest of us for ever.

May Jafar Rest in Peace!
Carmel Budiardjo

Jafar today buried beside his parents' graves 

The burial took place in Lhokseumawe today of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, who disappeared while on a visit to Medan and whose badly mutilated and decomposed body was discovered in a ravine on a hillside near Nagalingga Village, Kecamatan Merek, Tanah Karo, 80 kms from Medan.

Tempo Interaktif reports today that he was buried close to the graves of his parents Tgk H. Nyak Hamzah Yusuf and Hj Cut Habibah Rasyid in Blang Pulo village, Lhokseumawe, Aceh.

According to his younger brother Jamaluddin Hamzah, Jafar's last meeting with members of his family in Lhokseumawe took place on 27 July. On that occasion, he made a point of visiting the graves of his parents. 'None of us ever thought at the time that this would be our last meeting with him,' he said.

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Acehnese pay homage to slain activist

THE JAKARTA POST September 8, 2000

LHOKSEUMAWE, Aceh (JP): Relatives and neighbors flocked on Thursday to the home of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah to pay their respects to the Aceh activist who was slain in Medan, North Sumatra.

Groups of people for the last two days have been crowding Jafar's home located in the village of Blangpulo, close to the Arun gas refinery, some 10 kilometers west of the North Aceh capital of Lhokseumawe.

Jafar, the chief of the New York-based International Forum on Aceh (IFA), was reported missing in early August.

He was last seen in the North Sumatra capital of Medan, but efforts to locate him had been fruitless until Tuesday when one of five decaying bodies found in the Tanah Karo region was identified as that of Jafar. Tanah Karo is some 80 kilometers north of Medan.

Forensic experts confirmed on Wednesday that one of the dead bodies was Jafar's.

The remains were flown from Medan at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday.

"The body will be buried at a local cemetery tomorrow (Friday)," a local, who requested anonymity, said on Thursday.

Deputy Free Aceh Movement (GAM) chief in North Aceh Abu Sofyan Daud called on Acehnese to come to Jafar's home to pay their respects, although Jafar was not a GAM member.

The United States embassy extended on Thursday its deepest sympathy to Jafar's family, which has been living in uncertainty since his disappearance.

"It is a cruel and tragic irony that he, a staunch proponent of peaceful change, should fall victim to the violence that has already cost too many lives in Aceh, " the press statement made available to The Jakarta Post said.

Meanwhile, violence continued in the restive province. A gun battle between Indonesian troops and GAM members and a grenade attack on a joint police/army dormitory in Lhokseumawe left at least 12 wounded on the government side.

An official report had yet to be made available Thursday night.

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Message from Jafar's former wife

I am sending you hereunder a few words about our dear departed friend, Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, from his former wife, Prof. Dr. Jacqueline A. Siapno. Ms. Siapno has authorised this text to be redistributed and released to the press.

Remembering Jafar Siddiq Hamzah

Someone asked me if I could please say something about Jafar during this time of mourning. So many friends called from far away to express their deepest sorrow and affection. We all grieve not just for him, but for the four people found dead with him who still have not been identified, and for so many people who have lost their lives during this armed conflict. We all feel extremely sad that he was killed in such a sadistic, tragic manner. The violence in Aceh must be stopped, the loss of lives has been too great.

I am just one friend among so many who loved and respected him profoundly. I suppose what is special is that he was my former husband. Despite the fact that we had gotten divorced two years ago, we continued to be very good friends as we always had been since we first met in Medan in 1992. Since the first time I met him 8 years ago he had become one of my best friends in this world and our friendship continued that way despite the end of our marriage.

Jafar had many special qualities that made him a role model for me and lots of other people. His most endearing qualities are his kindness and humility. He was a politically committed and hard-working person who was not an exhibitionist. He was a very humble person, from a very humble background, and his self-effacement is something so many of his colleagues admired. He was always able to do so much with so little resources. He was very kind to children and to strangers. In Medan and Aceh in crowded labi-labis and public transportations, he would often offer to take a kid on his lap if the bus was full and there was nowhere to sit. One time in Medan, late at night as we were going home, we passed by a drunken man who was lying in the street. Jafar stopped to talk to him and help him get home. He was always generous with many gestures of kindnesses to people he didn't know, and treated strangers as if they were part of his own immediate family.

Before he came to the U.S. in late December 1996, he already had a brilliant career as one of the most dedicated and courageous human rights lawyers in Aceh and Medan, working on issues on labor, the environment, human rights, women's rights, land dispossession, and defending poor Acehnese accused of subversion against the state. He wrote numerous articles in newspapers in Aceh and Medan on various topics, but especially politics and religion. In the many years that I have known him, I can say with all honesty and humility that he was one of these rare men who was genuinely empathetic to women's issues and feminist praxis. He was always consultative, democratic, had genuine respect for women's rights, and did not find strong and independent women thinkers threatening. I cannot say this of many men. In the early 1990s, he was one of the few men in Aceh who was already working closely with and organizing Acehnese women widows in poor rural villages.

What I remember best about Jafar is his great sense of humor. Many people have spoken of him as a "role model for Muslim activists", as an "exceptional human being", as someone "held in high esteem by many Acehnese people", all of which are true. But what many of his close friends remember so well is also how funny he was and what a terrific sense of humor he had. He was a person who didn't have a single thread of hatred or harbored revenge in his body, despite the many tragic atrocities he witnessed in Aceh day to day.

Most of all, he was a very pious Muslim whose closeness and devotion to God was something I had always admired deeply. Even as a very busy human rights lawyer at the Lembaga Bantuan Hukum-Medan, unlike many activists who had no time for prayers, Jafar always left all wordly things behind when it came time for prayer. His closest friends who inspired him deeply were also people who were both politically committed and unusually pious. He had an extraordinary breadth of knowledge and understanding of Islamic texts, history, and civilizations. Because he had a beautiful reading voice, he was often asked to lead the chanting of the Qur'an at mosque prayers. During Ramadan, he often spent many hours by himself at night reading and chanting the Qur'an. I am certain that God will have a very special place for him in heaven.

It is an honor to have been his good friend and part of his life. I hope that his struggle was not in vain, and that all of us will reflect and find strength to sustain us in the difficult years to come. A thorough and serious investigation must be made regarding his death. His murderers must be found and put on trial. His life and example is a source of comfort and inspiration to many of us and his spirit continues to live on amongst us who love him deeply.

Dr. Jacqueline A. Siapno 
Lecturer Department of Political Science and Melbourne Institute of Asian Languages and Societies University of Melbourne Australia

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Daily News (New York)
September 7, 2000, Thursday 

The badly mutilated body of a Woodside-based human rights worker was found over the weekend in Indonesia, a month after he disappeared off a busy street on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in midafternoon.

Yesterday morning, his family in Indonesia confirmed that the body - one of five discovered by villagers in a ravine near the city of Medan - was that of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah.

All five bodies bore stab wounds, said Robert Jereski, Hamzah's friend and colleague at the International Forum for Aceh, which Hamzah founded in New York. "They were wrapped in barbed wire and stripped," he said.

John Miller, a member of the East Timor Action League, said the faces on the bodies were smashed in. "One just hopes it was quick," Miller said. "But I kind of doubt it."

Hamzah's supporters believe either Indonesian paramilitary forces or a renegade faction of the independence movement could be responsible.

Jereski and other human rights workers are seeking answers from Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, who is in town this week for the United Nations Millennium Summit.

"I can tell you that the government would certainly condemn the killings," said Rizali Indrakesuma, Indonesia's consul for information and cultural affairs.

"I am shocked at this outcome."

While initial investigations by the Indonesian police have found that the military was not involved in Hamzah's disappearance, Indrakesuma acknowledged that the government has not been able to rein in all of its foot soldiers, who view pro-independence activists as the government's enemy.

"What we've got to do is turn up the pressure on the Indonesians to ensure that this case is prosecuted to the fullest and that they don't give up simply because now they have a body," said Sidney Jones, who is head of Asian affairs for the Manhattan-based Human Rights Watch.

Born in Aceh, which is on the northern tip of Sumatra, Hamzah had helped draw international attention to atrocities - including murder, rape and torture - committed or sanctioned by the government against Aceh independence activists in the 1990s.

Aceh is a province rich with oil and other natural resources, drawing substantial foreign investment to Indonesia.

Hamzah returned to Indonesia this summer to launch a newspaper in Aceh and to promote democracy and peace in his homeland.

Before he disappeared Aug. 5, he'd been calling his family every two hours to leave a trail of his whereabouts.

He feared for his life, Jereski said, having received several anonymous death threats prior to his return to Indonesia. The FBI is investigating those threats.

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Sign from demonstration at Indonesian Consulate in New York City, Aug. 14. Photo by John M. Miller.


Embassy Press Statement -- Death of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah
September 7, 2000

The Embassy of the United States of America learned with great sorrow today that the body of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, Director of the International Forum for Aceh, was positively identified by his family as one of five bodies found in Tanah Karo district, North Sumatra, earlier this week. The reported circumstances of Mr. Hamzah's death--with hands and feet bound and with wounds all over his body--indicate that he and the four other unidentified persons found with him were sadistically murdered.

Since Mr. Hamzah disappeared in Medan on August 5, we have been in constant contact with his family, friends, and colleagues, to assist in the search for him. We expressed our deep concern about his welfare to the highest levels of the Indonesian government, and urged the police and other authorities to do all in their power to bring about his safe return. We regret profoundly that these efforts were unsuccessful. It is crucial now that the government redouble its efforts to find and bring to justice those responsible for the murder of Mr. Hamzah and the four others found with him.

We extend our deepest sympathy to Mr. Hamzah's family, which has been living in uncertainty since his disappearance. It is a cruel and tragic irony that he, a staunch proponent of peaceful change, should fall victim to the violence that has already cost too many lives in Aceh. We will continue our quest to discover the facts of Jafar's disappearance and murder, and to support efforts to bring peace to the province of his birth.

(end text)

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Queens Activist's Body Found In Indonesia 
by BRYAN VIRASAMI Staff Writer

Newsday (NY) 
September 7, 2000

A month after a Queens activist disappeared in his native Indonesia, his mutilated body has been found in a ravine near a city where he was last seen, his family reported yesterday.

Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, 35, of Woodside, was on a visit to Aceh, on the island of Sumatra, to document and expose human rights abuses by the military and police. He lost contact with his family Aug. 5.

Yesterday, his sister and other relatives were awaiting his body for a proper funeral.

They originally thought his body was not among five found in a ravine Tuesday. However, an autopsy later revealed a number of distinguishing features that convinced them Hamzah was among the dead, according to John Miller, a spokesman for the East Timor Action Network, based in New York.

Hamzah's face was smashed in and his body was found with multiple stab wounds, wrapped with barbed wire, according to Miller.

"We are extremely saddened. We can't say we're shocked, unfortunately,” Miller said. "We all knew this was a possibility; our hearts go out to his family. We're all rededicating ourselves to carry on his work.”

The body was found near Medan, a city that Hamzah was visiting when he disappeared, according to colleagues. The injuries to Hamzah, according to human rights advocates, fit a pattern used often by the military to suppress those who expose abuses relating to the separatist fighting.

Yesterday, police in Medan were requesting Hamzah's medical records from Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens before they released the body to his family, according to Sidney Jones, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch. She said the records had been sent and the family hopes to bury the body soon.

An official at the Indonesian mission to the United Nations said a spokesman was not available.

Hamzah came to New York several years ago and launched the New York-based International Forum for Aceh to highlight the abuses there. He was chairman of the organization.

Hundreds of people have been killed in separatist violence in Aceh. Many residents say profits reaped from oil and other natural resources are not shared with locals, prompting fighting.

Robert Jereski, a colleague of Hamzah in Manhattan, said he he shouldn't have met such a fate. "He was such a kind person, a really good person,” he said. "That this could happen to anyone is really just outrageous.”

Since his disappearance, several human rights groups, including Hamzah's colleagues and friends, have worked with State Department officials to convince Indonesian authorities to investigate his whereabouts.

U.S. officials in Jakarta held discussions with Indonesian authorities, but it remains unclear if they actually investigated the disappearance.

A State Department official in Washington, who asked not to be named, expressed sorrow at the news yesterday.

"We are deeply saddened by the news of Mr. Jafar Siddiq Hamzah's death and extend our condolences to his family,” said the official. "We will continue to urge the Indonesian authorities to investigate this matter and to bring his murderers to justice.”

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Relatives identify body of US-based rights activist in Indonesia 

Relatives on Wednesday identified a decomposed body found in Indonesia's North Sumatra province as a US-based rights activist missing for one month, a report said.

The family of activist Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, 35, found distinctive signs on one of five bodies found that enabled them to ascertain that it was their missing relative, the state Antara news agency said.

"The family has ascertained that one of the five bodies at the Pirngadi state hospital in Medan is Jaffar Siddik Hamzah," said Maya Manurung from the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute in Medan, North Sumatra.

Hamzah's sister, Susi Hamzah, made the idenitificcation.

Hamzah was a US resident and a director of the New York-based International Forum on Aceh (IFA). He was last seen in Medan, the main city in the province of North Sumatra that borders Aceh, on August 5.

IFA is a non-governmental organization monitoring human rights issues in Aceh province, where the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has been fighting for an independent state since 1976.

The five decomposed bodies were found naked on Sunday in the hilly Tanah Karo area near Medan.

Manurung said that confirmation that Hamzah's body had been found had been communicated to the United Nations, to IFA and to the US embassy in Jakarta.

His relatives have said Hamzah went to Aceh in late July to set up the Support Committee of Human Rights for Aceh (SCHRA) and that he had planned to stay for one year.

Members of Hamzah's family and fellow activists suspect he was abducted by the Indonesian military, who have been accused of gross human rights violations in Aceh during a campaign to quash rebels.

The military has denied allegations it abducted Hamzah.

Aceh is currently awaiting a final decision by representatives in Geneva next week on the length of an extention of a three-month long truce which expired on September 2.

Government and rebel forces have both agreed to extend the truce.

Pro-independence sentiment -- led by the Swedish-based Free Aceh (GAM) movement -- has also been fuelled by anger over Jakarta's failure to plough revenues from Aceh's natural resources back into the province.

The truce has reduced but not halted the violence between the two camps in Aceh, where rebels have been seeking to create an independent Islamic state since 1976 on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

Each side has accused the other of violating the truce.

Jakarta has remained adamant it will not grant Aceh independence, but only broad autonomy, while the GAM has said its independence goal remains unchanged.

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PRESS RELEASE: Statement by the International Forum for Aceh on the Murder of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, Chairman and Founder (September 6, 2000)

The abduction, torture and murder of a man of peace, who has struggled not only for the hopes of the people of Aceh but for those of all Indonesians - such villainous acts are slaps in the face of every Indonesian. The International Forum for Aceh will continue the work which Jafar guided us in doing: the documentation of human rights violations occurring in Aceh and the steadfast defense of the people of Aceh and of Indonesia from the terrorist tactics of militarized groups, which are increasingly targeting innocent civilians and human rights activists.

We are encouraged by certain honorable steps taken by Gus Dur to challenge criminal elements at the highest levels of the military. He has called for a transformation of that institution from one which often preys on the weak and defenseless into one which will one day uphold the dignity and rights of each person. The first steps of such a transformation are fraught with uncertainty and danger. Much remains to be done. The Indonesian people are awaiting justice for the crimes against humanity of Suharto and yet he is being tried only for corruption. If that is the justice meted out to a tyrant who has committed a litany of crimes against humanity and who has supposedly fallen from power, then what can the Indonesian people expect from investigations of a military which continues to be provided with weaponry by Britain and enjoys cordial relations with the United States military in periodic "humanitarian" exercises?

The United States must make clear their support of Gus Dur's most courageous steps and thereby make clear its support for the aspirations towards freedom from terror of the Indonesian people.

The Indonesian government and military have worked hand in hand, creating a culture of impunity. The United States government must support any efforts by Gus Dur which would result in calling to account human rights violators in the Indonesian military.

We have provided the American Embassy with the names of 53 people who have been "disappeared" in Aceh between October 1999 and early August 2000. The circumstances of the disappearance of these people are also provided . By far the most implicated party is the Indonesian military and police. We are eagerly awaiting a statement from the US Embassy and Indonesian authorities, concerned with the well-being of the Indonesian people explaining the steps they have taken towards investigating these "disappearances" and bringing those responsible to justice.

Issued by
Robert Jereski 
Executive Director, International Forum for Aceh

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We have learned with deep sorrow of the death of our beloved colleague and friend, Jafar Siddiq Hamzah. His death was confirmed by members of his family, after receiving the findings of an autopsy carried out by a forensic expert.

Ever since his disappearance in Medan on 5 August, a huge campaign has been underway to press the Indonesian authorities to conduct serious investigations into the circumstances of his disappearance. However, the police in Medan, which is Indonesia’s second largest city and a main trading centre, have failed abysmally to produce any information. The campaign that developed on his behalf is proof of the fact that Jafar had become widely known and respected for his dogged commitment to exposing the appalling human rights abuses that have been the lot of the Acehnese people for many years. 

Jafar, 34 years, had been living and studying in the US where he had obtained permanent residence. In 1998 he took the initiative to set up the International Forum on Aceh and convened several international conference with the aim of creating an international network on human rights in Aceh. This became his obsession in the last two years of his short life and this was what prompted him to leave the comfort of a university course in New York and return to Aceh to set up the Support Committee on Human Rights in Aceh and plan its programme for the coming year.

He always knew that he was a marked man and that his decision to return to Aceh placed him in great personal danger. During the few short weeks after his return to Aceh, he knew that he was being followed and when he made a brief visit to Medan, he made sure to keep his relatives informed regularly every two hours of all his movements.

Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL said: ‘I am deeply saddened by the passing of such a wonderful colleague and friend. He was a gentle and kindly man, humane and peace-loving and always inspiring others with his enthusiasm. I feel privileged to have known him well and to have worked with him during my own visit to Banda Aceh less than two weeks before he disappeared. His loss can only encourage us all to intensify our efforts to disseminate information about the appalling human rights situation in Aceh.’

TAPOL wishes to convey its deep condolences to Jafar’s family.

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 
111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8HW, UK Phone: 020 8771-2904 Fax: 020 8653-0322 

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Body in forest feared that of Aceh activist

South China Morning Post 
Wednesday, September 6, 2000


Family and friends of a US-based activist missing in Aceh last night nervously waited to discover if his was among five bodies found bound and decaying in a Sumatran forest.

Human rights lawyer Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, head of the International Forum for Aceh, vanished in the city of Medan exactly a month ago. He was making a rare visit to assess the violence in Aceh, his home, and had received death threats before his disappearance.

The five male bodies were already badly decomposed when they were discovered on Sunday in the Karo region of North Sumatra province, not far from the tourist centre of Berastagi. The head of Naga Lingga village alerted police after villagers began to notice the smell.

Two were naked, two were wearing only underpants and the fifth had jeans, said Senior Inspector J. Sinaga, who is leading the investigation. He estimated they had been there for about 10 days. The bodies had stab wounds, Inspector Sinaga said.

"All five had their hands tied behind their backs and their legs tied as well," he said. "They had not been buried. They were found a few metres apart."

There had been fears for Mr Jafar's safety before his disappearance. He phoned relatives in Medan several times a day before he went missing on August 5. His brother was among those anxiously waiting for news last night as doctors carried out an autopsy at Medan's Pirngadi Hospital.

"The autopsy is not over. We are just waiting to find out who they are. We don't know for sure yet," said Maya Manurung, of the Medan Legal Aid Society, which had been working with Mr Jafar and his aides.

The US and Indonesian rights groups are deeply troubled by his disappearance, the latest in a series in Medan involving leading Acehnese. Washington urged Jakarta to get to the bottom of it, while fellow activists blamed Indonesian military intelligence - claims the military has denied.

Another US-based pressure group yesterday slammed the police probe. The East Timor Action Network said police had refused to co-operate with Mr Jafar's family.

"Jafar disappeared without a trace in a crowded city in broad daylight, indicating the likely involvement of military professionals," spokeswoman Karen Orenstein said. "Indonesian human rights organisations suspect the involvement of the military. The Indonesian police investigation of the case has proven totally inadequate."

The human rights lawyer played a leading role in bringing the world's attention to the plight of Aceh, a secret war zone under former president Suharto. As head of the International Forum for Aceh, he lobbied international organisations to take an interest in the province, where thousands have died in a separatist war that has lasted more than a decade.

Last year, his organisation mediated the first face-to-face peace talks between the Free Aceh rebels and representatives of the Jakarta Government, held in Bangkok.

Some Indonesians saw his organisation as biased towards the pro-independence camp. Though those talks failed, they helped pave the way for a truce earlier this year.

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Summary of September 5 Press Conference on the One Month Anniversary of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah's Disappearance (Draft) 

September 5, New York--- New School University today held a press conference today on the disappearance of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, a graduate student of the university who disappeared in Medan, Indonesia one month ago. 

"We are deeply concerned bout the fate of Jafar, who is a student in good standing at the university and well-appreciated here for his work on human rights," said Robert Gates, First Vice President of the University, who facilitated the conference. "We call on the government of New York, the US Department of State and the government of Indonesia to do everyhing they can to find Mr. Hamzah and ensure his safe return." 

Congressman Joseph Crowley, Democrat, District 7 of the US Congress also expressed concern for Jafar's safety and urged stronger action from the US and Indonesian government. "Hamzah is a legal resident of the US and a constituent of my district, " said Crowley, who is a member of the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives. "He is a "man of conscience", which makes it that much more important for the US to be concerned for his well-being." Speaking as Jafar's congressional representative, Crowley related actions that his office had taken since Jafar, who is a resident of Woodside, Queens, disappeared. "I have spoken to Under-Secretary of State, Thomas Pickering, and he has said that Jafar's safe return to the US is of top priority to the US State Department. I have written to the Indonesian Ambassador to the US, but unfortunately have had no response. I have also sent out a letter to all my colleagues of the House of Representatives, and to the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) to help with investigations." Crowley reminded those present that the disappearance of civilians is a common phenomenon in Aceh.

"There are thousands of others who have disappeared, and more Americans need to know about this," he said. William Hirst, Acting Dean of New School University's Graduate Faculty for Political and Social Science, the division in which Jafar was pursuing a Masters in political science, urged the US government, media and American public to keep Jafar's disappearance "in the light" as much as possible. Hirst said that the university is planning to hold a high-level symposium on Aceh at the beginning of October. 

Sidney Jones, Executive Director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, reported on the recent news of the discovery on Sunday, (3/9/00) of 5 mutilated bodies in a village 83 km from Medan, where Jafar disappeared. "There were suspicions that Jafar's body might be among them, but the bodies have since been inspected and there is now firm assurance that Jafar is not among them," said Jones. Human Rights Watch has been working closely with non-governmental and student organisations in Aceh to track human rights violations in the province, which is located on the northern tip of Sumatra. According to Jones, activists in Aceh receive death threats frequently, even while a recently-extended Humanitarian Pause, which was signed by representatives of the Indonesian government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement in Switzerland on May 12, is being implemented in the region.

 "Although we do not have reliable figures on the number of Aceh-related disappearances, our sources say that it might be as many as 5 people a week," she said. Jones spoke about continuing threats to other Acehnese activists "I spoke to Aguswandi, a prominent Acehnese student leader who has worked with many of us here New York, and he has received threatening phone calls saying "You know what happened to Jafar, and you are next," said Jones. "One of the difficulties in this case is that after one month there has been no information," continued Jones. "We suspect that the military is responsible, but there is no direct evidence. It seems impossible that someone could disappear in broad daylight from the main street of Indonesia's third largest city without a trace, but there has been not a single piece of information since Jafar's disappearance." Jones said that the US Embassy would be able to do more to find Jafar had it more details of what happened. 

Robert Jereski, Executive Director of the International Forum for Aceh, "We holding out hope that he is still alive and well." Jereski disclosed, however, that Jafar has a medical condition, Gardner Syndrome, which could affect his ability to survive captivity. "IFA urges Jafar's captor's to release him immediately and will hold them responsible for his murder if his captivity and medical condition result in his death." Even in the absence of Jafar, who is Chairman of IFA, Jereski assured that the organisation will continue to document human rights violations in Aceh, while defending the people of Aceh and Indonesia against militarised groups who increasingly target civilians and human rights activists. Jereski spoke in support of President Abdurrahman Wahid's efforts to transform the Indonesian military. "The US must make clear its support of these efforts by not restoring military ties and support efforts that would hold the Indonesian military responsible for their human rights violations. IFA has given the US Embassy a list with the names of 53 people, including Jafar, who have been "disappeared" in Aceh between October 1999 and early August 2000, and are waiting for a response. 

Finally, Michael Sweeney of the International Human Rights Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, expressed concern for Jafar on a number of levels. "We are concerned for Jafar, firstly as someone who worked as an advocate of human rights. We also support him as a lawyer, who has been working to establish rule of law based on international standards in Indonesia." Jafar's disappearance, said Sweeney, chills the struggle for human rights around the world.

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Activists: No evidence NYC lawyer among Indonesian dead 09/05/2000

NEW YORK (AP) - Human rights activists renewed their efforts Tuesday to locate a New York lawyer-activist who vanished in Indonesia a month ago, saying there is no evidence his was among five bodies discovered there over the weekend.

The five decomposing corpses - all with stab wounds - were found Sunday by villagers in a ravine in the country's North Sumatra province, where Jafar Siddiq Hamzah was last seen on Aug. 5. Hamzah's family was allowed to examine the bodies, but did not recognize any, the activists told a Manhattan news conference.

''We're counting on him being alive,'' said Robert Jereski of the International Forum on Aceh, a group founded by Hamzah.

Jereski and others fear Hamzah, 35, of Queens, may have been kidnapped by Indonesian military or paramilitary troops during a visit to Medan, Indonesia's third largest city. He had recently returned to his native Aceh, on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, where his work on human rights issues drew death threats.

In New York, activists called on both U.S. and Indonesian officials to conduct a ''high-level civilian investigation'' of the disappearance.

''Leaving the investigation entirely in the hands of the Indonesian police, given their record of severe human rights violations in Aceh and elsewhere, seriously compromises its integrity and transparency,'' the East Timor Action Network said in a statement issued Tuesday.

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TAPOL calls on Komnas HAM to investigate Jafar disappearance

Tuesday, 5 September 2000

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, has today called on Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission to initiate an investigation into the disappearance one month ago of the leading Acehnese human rights activist, Jafar Siddiq Hamzah.

In a letter to Asmara Nababan, the secretary-general of Komnas HAM, Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL said that the police in Medan had failed to make any progress in finding out what happened to Jafar and tracking down his abductors. She said:

The failure of the police in Medan to act effectively with regard to Jafar’s disappearance replicates their abysmal failure to make any progress in finding the persons responsible for the murder in January this year of Tengku Nashiruddin Daud, the member of parliament who worked so hard to expose human rights violations in Aceh as a member of the Independent Investigation Commission. I find it quite extraordinary that the murder of an Indonesian parliamentarian who was engaged in human rights investigations has hardly created a stir or led to criticism of the police in North Sumatra for their failure to make any progress in investigating that crime.

These failures point to a lack of seriousness on the part of the police in North Sumatra to investigate cases in which human rights defenders are targeted by criminal forces intent on paralysing the activities of persons and organisations that are trying to protect the people of Aceh against gross human rights violations.

TAPOL pointed out that it fell fully within the mandate of the Commission to initiate an investigation into these two crimes.

Jafar Siddiq Hamzah vanished without trace some time in the early afternoon of Saturday, 5 August after failing to call his relatives and keep an appointment at 5pm. Jafar had only recently returned to Aceh from New York in order to establish an international network to expose human rights violations in Aceh. While in Banda Aceh, just before visiting Medan, he held discussions with Sipadan Samydorai, secretary general of the Support Committee on Human Rights in Aceh, and Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL, who is also on the board of SCHRA, to set up an office of the organisation.


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Statement at the Graduate Faculty of New School University by International Forum for Aceh Executive Director, Robert Jereski (September 5, 2000)

Jafar has been missing for a month now. We are all holding out hope that he is still alive and well. Sunday, Sept. 3, five bodies were found strewn by the side of the road, wrapped in barbed wire, and were stripped of their clothes. They showed signs of torture and required a forensic team to determine who they were. The forensic team examining these corpses believes that JafarŐs body is not among them. We are awaiting positive identification of the five most recent victims of human rights abuses in Indonesia. We are calling for a thorough and independent investigation of their deaths, and for their murderers to be brought to justice.

We would like to reiterate to the American Embassy and to JafarŐs captors that he has a medical condition, Gardner Syndrome, which will make it difficult for him to endure long periods in captivity. IFA urges his captors to release him immediately. We will hold them responsible for his murder if his prolonged captivity results in his death.

The abduction of a man of peace, who has struggled not only for the hopes of the people of Aceh but for all Indonesians - such an abduction is a slap in the face to every Indonesian. The International Forum for Aceh will continue the work which Jafar began: the documentation of human rights violations occurring in Aceh and the steadfast defense of all Indonesians from the terrorist tactics of militarized groups, which are increasingly targeting innocent civilians and human rights activists.

We are encouraged by certain honorable steps taken by Gus Dur to challenge criminal elements at the highest levels of the military. He has called for a transformation of the present military which often preys on the weak and defenseless into a military which will one day uphold the dignity and rights of each person. We recognize that the first steps of such a transformation are fraught with uncertainty and danger. Suharto a man who has caused 800,000 deaths is being tried for corruption instead of crimes against humanity. If that is the justice meted out to a tyrant who has supposedly fallen from power, what can the Indonesian people expect from investigations of an ungoverned military? A military which continues to be provided with weaponry by Britain and enjoys cordial relations with the United States military during periodic "humanitarian" exercises? The Indonesian government and military have worked hand in hand, creating a culture of impunity. The United States government must support any efforts by Gus Dur which would result in calling to account human rights violators in the Indonesian military.

We have provided the American Embassy with the names of 53 people who have been "disappeared" in Aceh between October 1999 and early August 2000. The circumstances of the disappearance of these people are also provided . The most implicated party is the Indonesian military and police. We are eagerly awaiting a statement from the US Embassy and Indonesian authorities concerned with the well-being of the Indonesian people explaining the steps they have taken towards investigating these "disappearances" and bringing those responsible to justice.

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September 5 2000


The Student Coalition for Aceh (SCA) appeals to the US and Indonesian governments to support an independent investigation of the disappearance of International Forum for Aceh Chairman Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, who vanished in Medan, Indonesia on August 5.

"We are concerned that after one month the police investigation of Jafar's case has yet to produce concrete results," said Lilianne Fan, Coordinator of SCA, which is based at the New School University, where Jafar was pursuing a master's degree in political science. "Reports that the police have not been conducting their investigation thoroughly are very troubling. We have been told that rather than collaborating with local civil groups in their efforts to find Jafar, the police have been harassing Jafar's friends and family, while accusing local NGOs of being sympathizers of the separatist movement. Given the human rights record of the Indonesian police, it is crucial that an independent investigation, involving both local Indonesian and international civil participants, is carried out immediately to bring those responsible for Jafar's disappearance to justice."

Jafar was on a month-long visit to Indonesia, to set up a legal office and an Acehnese-language newspaper. He had been staying with his brother while in Medan. For several days before his disappearance Jafar had been in the habit of calling his family every two hours for as he suspected he was being followed. The family last heard from him in the late morning of August 5. There has been no information about his whereabouts or condition since then.

The founder and chair of the New York-based International Forum for Aceh, Jafar advocated a peaceful resolution to the conflict-torn province, which has been ravaged for over a decade by military and separatist violence. "Jafar has always supported the strengthening of civil society, especially student groups, in Aceh, who organize along the lines of non-violence and democracy," said Fan.

Jafar founded the Student Coalition for Aceh in October 1999 to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Aceh among the student and civic communities in New York, and throughout the US. The coalition brings together students from several universities in New York, including New School University, Fordham Law School, New York University, CUNY Law School and Columbia University, who are committed to building an international campaign for human rights in Aceh. Jafar, a resident of Queens, has spoken about the situation in Aceh at all the above mentioned schools. He is enrolled for the Fall 2000 semester at the New School University, which begins today.

Five mutilated bodies were found near Medan on Sunday, but autopsies at the Pirngan General Hospital in Medan confirmed that Jafar was not among them. "We continue to hope that Jafar is still alive, and strongly urge for more thorough investigation, one that involves civil participation and respect for human rights."

Student Coalition for Aceh New School University (212)7250381

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Remarks of Michael Sweeney on One-Month Anniversary of Jafar's Disappearance 

Press Conference on the One-Month Anniversary of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah's Disappearance Remarks of Michael Sweeney at the New School, September 5, 2000

I am here as a representative of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

The President of the Association, Evan Davis has written to Secretary of State Albright and various Indonesian officials on Jafar Hamzah's behalf. We are concerned with Jafar's disappearance on several levels.

Jafar's work as a human rights advocate to promote human rights in Aceh is something that the Committee supports. We are concerned that his dream remains alive.

We also support Jafar's work as a lawyer, trying to establish a rule of law based on international standards. Lawyers have a professional responsibility to work toward establishing the rule of law. Jafar's disappearance threatens lawyers all around the world. We are concerned that his the work continues.

And we knew Jafar as person, and are concerned with his safety.

Jafar's disappearance is more than an individual tragedy, however; it chills the struggle for human rights around the world. His disappearance is an act of violence intended to coerce people into abandoning their work for peace and democracy. As such it is unacceptable.

The International Human Rights Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York urges the Indonesian Government and the United States of America to thoroughly investigate Jafar's disappearance, return him to freedom and bring those responsible to justice.

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Relatives fail to identify missing US activist among bodies in Indonesia

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia Sept 5 (AFP) - Relatives on Tuesday failed to identify a missing US rights activist among five unidentified bodies found in Indonesia's North Sumatra province.

A member of the immediate family of the activist, 35-year-old Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, told AFP by telephone from the North Sumatran capital of Medan that they found "no strong evidence" that Hamzah was among the five.

"After the family inspected the five victims, it turned out that there was no supporting evidence that among them was Jafar ... ," said a family member who asked not to be named.

He said the family had looked for and could "not find a scar from an old (appendix) operation" on any of the five bodies.

He also said none of the victims' teeth appeared to match the dental records of the Hamzah, a permanent resident of the United States and director of the New York-based International Forum on Aceh (IFA), who was last seen in Medan on August 5.

But Maya Manurung, one of the family's lawyers from the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) in Medan, told AFP that she had been told by police there that "one of the bodies is that of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah."

Manurung said that doctors had yet to reveal their findings after almost a full day of autopsies on the decomposed bodies, which were found without any clothing on Sunday in the hilly Tanah Karo area near Medan.

"The bodies are decomposed and bear wounds. They must be homicide victims," Manurung said.

She said Hamzah's family members had gone inside the autopsy room to personally inspect the bodies. They would return to the hospital on Wednesday to wait for "a more definite confirmation of the identities."

IFA, which Hamzah represented, is a non-governmental organization monitoring human rights issues in Aceh province, where the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has been fighting for an independent state since 1976.

His relatives have said Hamzah returned to Aceh in late July to set up the Support Committee of Human Rights for Aceh (SCHRA) and that he had planned to stay in Aceh for one year.

Members of Hamzah's family and fellow activists suspect he was abducted by the Indonesian military, who have been accused of gross human rights violations in Aceh during a campaign to quash rebels.

The military has denied allegations it abducted Hamzah.

Acehnese, currently awaiting for a decision on whether or not they will see an extension of the second phase of a three-month long truce which expired September 2, have experienced decades of human rights violations by the security forces

Pro-independence sentiment -- led by the Swedish-based Free Aceh movement -- has also been fuelled by anger over Jakarta's failure to plough revenues from Aceh's natural resources back into the province.

The truce has reduced but not halted the violence between the two camps in Aceh, where rebels have been seeking to create an independent Islamic state since 1976 on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

Each side has accused the other of violating the truce.

Despite the truce, Jakarta has remained adamant it will not grant Aceh independence, but only broad autonomy, while the GAM has said its independence goal remains unchanged.

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Stories on 5 bodies found near Medanfrom Indonesian Press

5 bodies found in North Sumatra cannot yet be identified

Translated from a report in (Sep 4, 2000)
Reporter: Aulia Andri & Khairul Ikhwan

Detikcom - Medan,

The Criminal Investigation Department Chief of Tanah Karo Police, Senior Inspector J Sinaga, said that up to Monday night (4/9/2000), his service has not yet been able to identiy the five bodies recovered last Sunday night (3/9/2000) at Naga Lingga village, Sub-District of Merek, District of Karo, North Sumatra.

"We have not been able to identify the corpses as no identity documents were found around the concerned location," J Sinaga told reporters at Tanah Karo, North Sumatera on Monday (4/8/2000).

Before that there were rumours going around among reporters that one of the body could be that of the Chairman of the International Forum for Aceh (IFA), Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, who has been missing in Medan since sometime ago.

According to detikcom's own observations, the five corpses were in very bad condition, in fact they have started to rot; the corpses could have been a week old. When found, only one body was clad in jeans, one in short, and the other three were naked.

The five were thought to have been murdered, as on the bodies there were 5-10 stab wounds each. The ages of the deceased looked like between 25 -50 years. At the time fo the filing of this report no autopsy has been performed on the bodies; we were told that probably this will be carried out tomorrow, Tuesday (5/9/2000).

The corspes are still kept at the Trimadi General Hospital, Medan. In fact, before that they were left in an ambulance for 1 hour, due to a misundertsandiang among hospital staff. (san)

About dead bodies in Medan: Jaffar Siddiq might be among them

Reported in Serambi (Aceh), 
5 September

Medan- Tanah Karo Police found 5 bodies in Naga Lingga village, 83 km from Medan on Sunday. The Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) in Medan will send a team to the location to confirm if Jafar, who diasappeared at the beginning of August, is among them.

A source from the location explained that 5 bodies found could not be identified easily, as the facial features were damaged. "Only a doctor can identify whether Jafar is among them", said the source.

The bodies was brought to the hospital for medical examination. All five bodies were in deteriorated condition. The bodies found between 5 to 100 meters apart from one another, found in almost naked condition. It is assumed that they are murder victims who underwent torture before being killed.

The head division of Civil and Political Rights Division of the Legal Aid Foundation, Maya M. said that LBH Medan have to come to the location to confirm the assumption. "We have to visit the location to confirm, if jafar is among the dead bodies," she said last night.

The LBH director, Irham B. said that IFA, an NGO in NY, wrote to Gus Dur in relation about the disapperance of the head of IFA, Jafar last week. The letter, signed by Suraiya IT, Vice President of IFA, asked the president as the highest armed force officer to immediately find out the whereabouts of Jafar and return him back in safe condition to his family.

In the mean time, 2 NGO's located in the US have given an ultimatum to the Indonesian Consulate that had Jafar not been found they will conduct a demonstration for a week at the consulate location, stated Irham, answering ANTARA in Medan.

Five bodies discovered near village in north Sumatra
Excerpts from report by Indonesian newspaper 'Analisa' web site on 4th September

Kabanjahe: On Sunday (3rd September), acting on information from members of the public, Tanah Karo police discovered five bodies at Nagalingga, Merek Tanah Karo [North Sumatra]. The condition of the corpses was very distressing.

The bodies, which have yet to be identified, were evacuated to Kabanjahe hospital on Sunday night for autopsy. Tanah Karo police chief Superintendaent Muryan Faizal confirmed the discovery to reporters.

The police inspector who supervised the evacuation said that the bodies were unrecognizable and had started to decompose. The feet and hands of the corpses had been tied with wire...

The bodies were discovered in the jungle at a distance of between 15 to 100 metres from each other and between seven and 30 metres from the edge of the main road. When asked if the bodies originated from Aceh or if one of them may have been the body of missing ISA activist Jafar Sidik, the local police chief refused to comment. "Their faces were unrecognizable," he said.

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Press Release: Fordham Law School (IFA)

September 3, 2000

Law School Holds Discussion on Jafar Siddiq HamzahŐs Disappearance

New York - Fordham Law School hosted a program on August 31 to discuss the "disappearance" of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, Chairman of the New York-based International Forum for Aceh (IFA). The event, which was organized by Fordham's Crowley Program for International Human Rights, was attended by an audience of over 70 people, including law students, representatives from human rights organizations, journalists, and students and faculty from several other universities in the New York area.

Speaking at the discussion were Robert Jereski, Executive Director of the International Forum for Aceh (IFA), Lilianne Fan, Coordinator of the Student Coalition for Aceh, Machyar Kumbang of IFA, and John M. Miller, Media Coordinator for the East Timor Action Network.

Speakers addressed Jafar's case and the situation in Aceh from four different perspectives: 1) Aceh's economic and political history; 2)Acehnese calls for referendum and justice; 3) details of Jafar's disappearance and IFA's efforts to find him; 4) U.S. military ties with Indonesia.

The discussion began with an introduction to Aceh, its strategic location and rich natural resources. Lilianne Fan presented an overview of the province's history, relating Aceh's role as a powerful trading and religious center in the 16th century; the colonial period, during which Aceh fought a long war of resistance against the Dutch; the political and economic relationship between Aceh and the Republic of Indonesia since 1945; human rights violations under the DOM era from 1989-98; the emergence of a strong civil movement and calls for referendum; and continuing violence in Aceh since 1998. Fan, whose organization was founded by Jafar Siddiq Hamzah at the New School University in October 1999, spoke about the urgency of extending the Humanitarian Pause in Aceh, which was signed in Geneva on May 12, went into effect on June 2 and is due to expire on September 2. "

In a stirring presentation, Acehnese activist Machyar Kumbang from IFA shared his views on the culture of military intimidation in Indonesia. Describing his own experience of living in Aceh and Indonesia, Machyar related how people have lived in fear for so many years, under the Suharto government who used the military as a tool to suppress divergent opinions, lifestyles, and political aspirations. "Indonesia has its own definition of human rights," he explained, "and they use this to tell the outside world not to get involved in their affairs, that they can handle the internal problems that threaten to pull the country apart. Although Suharto has been replaced by Abdurrahman Wahid, who is supported internationally as being a democratic reformer, many political structures which were powerful under Suharto's regime have retained their influence. Machyar also provided the audience with insight into why Acehnese society is calling for a referendum on independence, for the opportunity to determine their own future.

An account of Jafar's disappearance in Medan was given by IFA Executive Director Robert Jereski, who described how Jafar disappeared on August 5 in Medan, Indonesia. Suspecting he was being followed for several days by men on a motorcycle, Jafar had been calling his family every two hours to inform them of his whereabouts. When he failed to keep an appointment on the evening of August 5, his family alerted the police. There has been no further information on where Jafar might be. Jereski spoke of how IFA has been in communication with the US Embassy in Jakarta, the US State Department, and the regional police and military in Medan regarding Jafar's disappearance. IFA has also been working closely with NGOs in Aceh and Jakarta to track human rights abuses since the DOM ended in 1998.

The final speaker was John M. Miller from the East Timor Action Network, who noted that while there are many differences between East Timor and Aceh, there are also many similarities, not the least of which is that both provinces have long been dominated by a US-backed Indonesian military. Miller said that after a vote for independence in East Timor set off a wave of militia violence, an international grassroots campaign for the former province succeeded in getting the US government to suspend military ties with Indonesia. The US government has been gradually and quietly working to reestablish these ties, conducting a joint exercise with the Indonesian military, under the guise of humanitarian training. Reading material on US-Indonesia military ties were distributed during the event, along with a local newspaper article on Jafar and Amnesty International action posters.

The seminar ended with a question and answer session, during which Fordham students expressed interest in working closer with IFA in its efforts to highlight human rights abuses in Aceh. Sidney Jones from Human Rights Watch, who was in the audience, suggested that the campaign for Aceh try to make contact with other governments to issue statements of concern and pressure the Indonesian government to step up its investigation, and to allow for independent investigations on Jafar's disappearance to be conducted.

Jafar, who is a permanent resident of the United States, has been pursuing a Masters Degree in political science at the New School University here in Manhattan since 1999. He is enrolled at the university for the fall semester, which begins next week.

New School University will hold a press conference on September 5 to urge the US and Indonesian authorities to increase their efforts to find Jafar. Among those scheduled to attend are Congressional Representative John Crowley; Sidney Jones, Director of Asia Division of Human Rights Watch; Deborah Sklar, Indonesia Country Specialist of Amnesty International and Robert Jereski, Executive Director of the International Forum for Aceh; William Hirst, Dean of the Graduate Faculty of New School University; and Bob Gates, Secretary and Vice President of the university. September 5 marks the 1-month anniversary of Jafar's "disappearance".


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Most recent information
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