For Immediate Release
Human Rights Groups Protest Indonesia's War in Aceh
Demand an End to Human Rights Abuses
May 20, 2003--Protestors around the world are gathering at Indonesia's
diplomatic offices this week to oppose the launch of a massive military
campaign in Aceh. In Indonesia's biggest military operation since the
invasion of East Timor in 1975, an estimated 45,000 troops are now in
Aceh, on the northern-tip of the island of Sumatra.
Top ranking Indonesian military (TNI) officials have boasted that they
will "crush" the rebel Free Aceh Movement in six months. But the civilian
population will be the hardest hit. The Indonesian government estimates
that the number of refugees in Aceh will grow to 100,000 from the current
5,000. More than 12,000 people have been killed in the almost 27-year old
In the United States, rights groups will demonstrate at the Indonesian
Embassy in Washington on Wednesday in an event sponsored by Amnesty
International USA, the East Timor Action Network, and the Indonesia Human
Rights Network (IHRN). On Friday, demonstrators will gather in New York at
Indonesia's Permanent Mission office to the United Nations and the UN.
"Indonesia cannot keep Aceh by destroying it," said Kurt Biddle,
Coordinator of the Indonesia Human Rights Network. "This war will only
kill more civilians and strengthen the Acehnese resolve to be independent.
Human rights will be the main casualty of this war."
Indonesia is currently using U.S.-supplied weaponry and combat aircraft
in their war in Aceh. On Monday C-130 Hercules transport planes dropped
hundreds of TNI paratroopers into Aceh and counter-insurgency aircraft,
OV-10 Broncos, were used to fire rockets into villages outside of the
capital city of Banda Aceh.
Last December, the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM)
concluded a landmark accord on the Cessation of Hostilities (COHA), which
was enthusiastically welcomed by the Acehnese people and led to a dramatic
decrease in the number of casualties. The Indonesian foreign minister has
declared the COHA defunct.
In response to these most recent attacks, the Indonesia Human Rights
Network has renewed its calls to maintain the cut off of U.S. arms sales
to Indonesia and restore the ban on military training to that country.
Fueled by Jakarta's broken promises and brutal repression by the TNI
and Indonesian police, the Acehnese have been fighting for independence
since 1976. During Indonesia's national revolution in 1945, Aceh was
promised autonomy for its role in fighting the Dutch colonists during
Indonesia's independence struggle in 1945. But Jakarta never fulfilled
that pledge. Rich in natural gas and other resources, most of Aceh's
wealth flows to multinational corporations and Jakarta without benefiting
the local people.
The Indonesian government fears that resource-rich Aceh will go the way
of East Timor, which voted overwhelmingly for independence in an
UN-sponsored referendum in 1999 and celebrates one year of independence
The Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) is a U.S.-based grassroots
organization working to educate and activate the American public and
influence U.S. foreign policy and international economic interests to
support democracy, demilitarization, and justice through accountability
and rule of law in Indonesia. We seek to end armed forces repression in
Indonesia by exposing it to international scrutiny. IHRN works with and
advocates on behalf of people throughout the Indonesian archipelago to
strengthen civil society.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) supports human dignity for
the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable
development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights,
including women's rights. ETAN, which has 28 local chapters throughout the
U.S., calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against
humanity that took place in East Timor since 1975. For additional
information see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).
Locations for demonstrations in the U.S.
Wednesday, May 21
12:30 - 1:20 pm
2020 Massachusetts Ave., NW
New York City
Friday, May 23
10:30am - Noon: Outside the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to United
325 East 38th Street (between 1st and 2nd Ave)
Noon - 1:30 pm: Outside the United Nations, 1st Ave between 42nd and 43rd