Subject: Human Rights Victims Call for Inquiry in Aceh

The Jakarta Globe Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Human Rights Victims Call for Inquiry in Aceh

Nurdin Hassan

Banda Aceh. Hundreds of survivors of the 1999 Simpang KKA tragedy gathered in Aceh over the weekend to commemorate the massacre of 45 villagers by the Indonesian Armed Forces.

The survivors also called for the government to honor the terms of the Aceh peace deal and establish a human rights court in the province.

The massacre, which is commemorated annually, is known as the Simpang KKA tragedy because the Armed Forces (TNI) allegedly opened fire on a protest rally at the entrance to the now liquidated state-owned paper manufacturing company, PT Kertas Kraft Aceh, in North Aceh district. In addition to 45 fatalities, another 156 Acehnese were wounded.

The emotional mass prayer at the scene of the massacre at Paloh Lada village proved too much for one of the survivors, Fauziah, 40, who was inconsolable. A decade earlier, at the same location, Fauziah had cradled her 7-year-old son, Saddam Hussein, in her arms as he took his last breath and died from a shot to the head.

Murtala, head of the Human Rights Victims' Community of North Aceh, said he was disappointed that the government had failed to establish a human rights court to probe past injustices, saying Jakarta had shunned the victims of the conflict.

"The formation of a human rights court is one of the mandates stipulated by Helsinki's memorandum of understanding that has been applied in Aceh for the last four years. But up until now, the government seems oblivious to the rights of the victims for justice," Murtala said.

Under the terms of the 2005 peace deal, which ended a bloody 30-year civil war that claimed an estimated 25,000 lives in the province, the government promised, among other things, to establish a truth and reconciliation commission and the court.

"The victims' community is not vengeful. What we demand is justice and the revelation of what happened to us during the military operation. We want the Simpang KKA tragedy to be resolved immediately through a human rights court," Murtala said.

He said he expected the newly-elected Aceh Provincial Legislative Council to set a clear agenda to fight for the rights of human rights abuse victims in Aceh.

"Our biggest hope lies in the new government members in Aceh. Hopefully, they will not lose sight of what needs to be done, fighting for human rights violation cases in Aceh all the way to the court," he said.

Murtala also blasted the National Commission for Human Rights, or Komnas HAM, saying he had reported nine gross human rights abuse cases in Aceh to the body but it had not yet taken any action.

"Komnas HAM is like a toothless tiger. They have administered no further action toward these cases. They should deploy a team to investigate these major cases," he said.

These nine cases include the Military Operation Region (DOM) in Aceh from 1989 to 1998; the Simpang KKA tragedy itself; the massacre of 31 civilians at PT Bumi Flora plantation in East Aceh district in 2001; the killing of 28 civilians who came from a gathering in Idi Cut, East Aceh, in 1999; and the kidnapping and the assassination of four activists of Rehabilitation Action for Torture Victims in Aceh (RATA) in Tanah Luas subdistrict, North Aceh, in 2000.

Also included was the massacre of Teungku Bantaqiah and 50 of his students at a boarding school in Beutong Ateuh, Nagan Raya district on July 23, 1999.

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