Senators Urge UN Special Representative on Aceh and Papua
United States Senate
June 28, 2004
Honorable Kofi Annan
Dear Mr. Secretary General:
We are writing to urge you to appoint a United Nations Special Representative to Indonesia to monitor and report on the situations in Aceh and Papua. This Special Representative would also make recommendations regarding steps the UN Security Council and General Assembly might undertake to end the troubling and deadly conflicts that continue to engulf these regions.
In Aceh, the year-long period of martial law that ended in May with the imposition of a "civil emergency" has had an extraordinary human cost. While it is impossible to verify the precise number of extra-judicial incarcerations and killings, accounts suggest that more than 2000 people have been killed in the past year, the majority of whom have been civilians. Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights' (Komnas HAM) ad-hoc team for Aceh recently reported on the "attacks against unarmed civilians, including victims who were murdered, tortured, sexually abused or raped, or others who the court had not yet proved were rebels." The report also cited kidnapping, child abuse, arson, and robbery. The Komnas HAM team alleged that most violations were committed by the Indonesian security forces, including both high level political and military authorities, though some deaths have been attributed to the rebel Free Aceh Movement. The conflict has also generated massive refugee flows across international borders, with thousands of others displaced internally. Although martial law has formally ended, the massive troop presence in Aceh continues, as do most of the restrictions imposed under martial law.
The Indonesian government and security forces have effectively shut off Aceh from the rest of the world, severely restricting the activities of Indonesian and international humanitarian and human rights organizations. Many non-governmental organization workers and activists have been forced into hiding. International media have been effectively barred from entering the province and the Indonesian press has been intimidated. In an affront to the United Nations itself, Indonesian authorities forced the UN to curtail its humanitarian activities in Aceh for several months in 2003. While the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross are now allowed to operate there, significant constraints remain imposed on internal travel and contact with the civilian population.
In Papua, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have long documented human rights violations. Recently, the Indonesian military's creation of militia has exacerbated tensions between indigenous Papuans and migrants. A military campaign in the Central Highlands has led to an inestimable number of civilian deaths and significant population displacement. The fate of those hiding in the Papuan forests remains unknown, as military authorities have prohibited provision of humanitarian assistance. Human rights organizations have endured intimidation and threats by government security forces operating with impunity.
Human rights violations in Papua have instigated a refugee flow across international borders. Dialogue between the Indonesian national government and Papuan local leaders has recently broken down, as demonstrated by Jakarta's ultimately deadly attempt to divide the province into smaller provinces against the will of the people.
The international community has remained too quiet for too long regarding the conflicts in Aceh and Papua. The scale of human rights violations in these two Indonesian provinces warrants special international attention. Therefore, we urge you to appoint a Special Representative to Indonesia to monitor and report on the situations in Aceh and Papua. We look forward to hearing from you regarding these concerns.
Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (NJ)
cc: James B. Cunningham, Acting U.S. Representative to the United Nations