Subject: AP: U.S. slams Indonesia for deteriorating rights record

Also: U.S. Calls Indonesians Human Rights Record Poor; Govt Curtails Human Rights, Activists Say

United States slams Indonesia for deteriorating rights record

February 26, 2004 5:37am AP Online

JAKARTA, Indonesia_Indonesia's human rights record has worsened in the past year with soldiers murdering, torturing and raping civilians in military campaigns to crush rebel groups, the U.S. State Department said in a harshly-worded report released Thursday.

An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman rejected the claims.

One of the worst areas for atrocities is western Aceh province, where rebels have struggled for 28 years for a separate homeland, it said. The army launched a massive offensive against the insurgents in May _ the biggest military campaign since the country's 1975 invasion of East Timor.

Also stricken with abuses is eastern Papua province where separatists, armed mainly with spears, bows and arrows, have waged a low-level uprising for years, the report said.

"Security force members murdered, tortured, raped, beat, and arbitrarily detained civilians and members of separatist movements," the report said. "In many cases, the victims were not combatants but civilians."

The findings will likely bolster the case of rights groups and U.S. Congress members who want to uphold a 12-year-old American ban on arms sales to Indonesian, which was passed in response to human rights abuses in East Timor.

Some members of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration have argued that the ban should be lifted to help the Indonesian military fight terrorists.

The report slammed as "ineffectual" a joint police-military investigation into the deaths of two American teachers killed in a 2002 ambush near the town of Timika in Papua, saying police and soldiers failed to cooperate.

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said the report showed the United States' "ignorance" about what was happening in the country.

"What is worrying is that seems to suggest that the United States is unwilling to acknowledge the tremendous changes that have occurred in Indonesia and shows it is unwilling to invest the time and effort to better understand Indonesia," he said. "This is simply a cop out."

Attempts to contact Indonesia's military for comment were not immediately successful.

Human rights groups welcomed the report's findings.

"We see the military as unreformed and unrepentant," said John Miller, a spokesman for the East Timor Action Network.

A coalition of 28 Indonesian rights groups, calling themselves the Human Rights Watch Group released a similar report on Thursday saying that government policies had had created "human rights crises" in the county, the Jakarta Post newspaper reported.

The coalition counted 145 extrajudicial killings, 200 arbitrary detentions, 43 abductions and 54 disappearances in Aceh between May and October last year, the newspaper said.

The group acknowledged rebels had also committed atrocities in Aceh but said that "it is the government of Indonesia that holds the key to any political solution to the conflict."


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U.S. States Department:

Reuters, February 26, 2004

U.S. Calls Indonesians Human Rights Record Poor

JAKARTA - Indonesian security forces have committed serious human rights abuses, including murder and rape, particularly in far-flung provinces where they are battling separatists, the United States said.

Human rights groups have criticized the military and police of long-time U.S. ally Indonesia over rights violations for decades but the end of authoritarian rule in the late 1990s had raised hopes the government might rein in the security forces.

``Security force members murdered, tortured, raped, beat, and arbitrarily detained civilians and members of separatist movements,'' the State Department said in the Indonesia section of its annual human rights report, distributed in Jakarta Thursday.

It also took Indonesia to task for allegedly failing to adequately protect fundamental rights of groups ranging from children to journalists to indigenous people.

``Human rights abuses were most apparent in Aceh province, the scene of a long-running separatist revolt,'' it said, although it said there was ``some evidence that military commanders wished to improve the behavior of their troops in the field.''

Rebels have been fighting for decades for a separate state in remote, resource-rich Aceh, in Indonesia's far northwest.

Indonesian officials have denied widespread abuses in the province, where a big offensive against the Free Aceh Movement rebels was launched last May, and said they have acted promptly to prosecute soldiers who violate rights.

The U.S. report said soldiers, police and rebels, were guilty of unlawful killings, beatings, and torture.

``In many cases, the victims were not combatants but civilians,'' the State Department said.


In Papua province at the eastern end of the sprawling Indonesian archipelago, the United States said there has been no improvement in the human rights situation, citing extrajudicial killings, numerous acts of torture and politically motivated arson.

Regarding an issue of special concern to the United States, an August 2002 ambush near the town of Timika in which two Americans and an Indonesian were killed, the report said an Indonesian investigation had been ineffectual, largely because of limited cooperation between the police and the military.

Some people have suggested elements of the military were responsible for the ambush, a charge military officials have denied. Indonesia has allowed U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation teams into the area but results of their investigation have not been released.

The murders have become a fresh sticking point in Indonesian-U.S. relations, where allegations of human rights violations over the years have been a key element inhibiting U.S. military aid and sales to Indonesia.

The State Department also called Indonesia's judicial system corrupt, contributing to what it said was the government's failure in most cases ``to provide redress to victims of human rights violations or hold civilian perpetrators accountable.''

Indonesian officials have said criticism of its legal system has been overstated and that in any case the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri has made significant progress toward reform.


The Jakarta Post Thursday, February 26, 2004

Govt Curtails Human Rights, Activists Say

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The human rights condition in the country has been deteriorating since the government announced wars on separatism and terrorism last year, rights watchdogs said.

The Human Rights Watch Group (HRW) said the government's policies on the two issues had sparked new humanitarian and human rights crises in the country, worsening its human rights record.

The group, which consists of 28 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), is expected to present its 2003 evaluation of Indonesia's human rights condition during the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva next month.

The HRW highlighted policies that were imposed last year on Aceh and Papua provinces, both of which are still struggling to settle separatist conflicts.

The government imposed martial law on Aceh on May 19, 2003 after talks to maintain a cease-fire between the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), brokered by the Henry Dunant Centre, faltered.

Despite protests from rights groups and regret expressed by international donors, President Megawati Soekarnoputri decided to extend the martial law another six months.

Martial law allows the military to restrict civilian rights, including freedom of expression, and the imposition of the law has been fraught with rights abuses.

"Both warring sides are responsible for the atrocity. Indeed, the extension of the law means an extended gross violation of human rights," the HRW said in a report released on Tuesday.

The group recorded 166 cases of physical abuse and torture, 200 arbitrary arrests and detention, 43 abductions, 54 involuntary disappearances and 145 extrajudicial killings, as well as 22 attacks against journalists between May and October.

"While being aware of the fact that GAM, too, has committed serious human rights violations, it is the government of Indonesia that holds the key to any political solution to the conflict," the group said.

Fahrul Syahmega, a rights activist, deplored the government, GAM and civil society for lacking the will to promote peace in the province.

"Indonesia has many laws that support peacebuilding in Aceh instead of martial law," he said.

In Papua, the government's issuance of a 2003 Presidential Decree to implement Law No. 49/1999 on the division of Papua into three provinces and the revision of the decree on the Papuan People's Council (MRP) has contributed to a series of bloody incidents there late last year, the group said.

"Neither the law nor the decree reflect the needs of locals, while the bill has blocked Papua's involvement in politics through the MRP," it said.

The revised decree on the MRP establishes the council as a body dealing with tribal and cultural affairs, and not a Papuan representative council to the government.

Separately, Ifdhal Kasim of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), a member of the HRW, said the government's campaign on war against terror had opened more loopholes for rights violations.

Since the terrorist attack on Bali two years ago, the government has enacted a legislation most rights watchdogs have slammed for justifying rights abuses.

Antiterrorism Law No. 15/2003 is "a legislation of an authoritarian character" that ignores basic rights, Ifdhal said.

He feared that the law would only empower intelligence agencies, the military and police to further curtail people's freedoms.

The law enables the detention of terror suspects for seven days upon the basis of intelligence reports, without the knowledge of their families or lawyers.

The government has completed the amended law, which increases the detention period to 30 days.

Under the Criminal Code, preliminary evidence is required to arrest an individual.

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