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House Letter to Madeleine Albright on Aceh and West Papua

October 30, 2000

Dr. Madeleine Albright 
Secretary of State 
U.S. Department of State 
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madame Secretary,

We are writing to express our deep concern over Indonesian military (TNI) and police violence now devastating Aceh and West Papua (Irian Jaya). To prevent more bloodshed by attacking the roots of this violence, it is imperative that the U.S. refrain from all re-engagement with the Indonesian military at this time. Because of the escalating spiral of human rights abuses in these regions, we are convinced that additional action is now required.

In just one incident this month, more than 30 Papuans were killed, including 11 gunned down by police and military forces. Hundreds were arrested, some beaten and tortured, after armed forces tried to prevent the raising of the "Morning Star" independence flag in West Papua. Local citizens rioted in response to the shootings. Since then, Indonesian President Wahid has again banned the independence flag entirely.

At a June people's congress, 2,700 Papuan citizens rejected Indonesian rule. On December 1, 2000 the pro-independence body the Papuan Presidium Council will report back on their "struggle for world recognition of the sovereignty of the Papuan people." As that day approaches we fear even worse violence. In the last several weeks alone the government of Indonesia has quietly deployed hundreds of additional troops to the province. The United States should hold the government of Indonesia responsible for promoting human rights and providing adequate security and safety for the people of Papua.

Military and paramilitary operations against civilians in Aceh are also on the rise, despite a cease-fire recently extended through the "Humanitarian Pause" negotiations between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and TNI. Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, a human rights lawyer and founder of the International Forum for Aceh, testified before Congress on several occasions about human rights violations committed by the Indonesian military in Aceh. Jafar was abducted on August 5 from Medan, Northern Sumatra, after receiving anonymous death threats. One month later his body was found lying in a ravine with four other corpses, so badly mutilated they were identifiable only by autopsy. Jafar's family and friends strongly suspect Indonesian military involvement in his murder, based on the circumstances of his abduction and the nature of his torture.

If such an atrocity can be perpetrated against someone of Jafar's international visibility, anyone is a potential target of death squads. Indeed, cases of harassment and intimidation against local Acehnese human rights and humanitarian workers have only increased since Jafar's murder. Many International workers have fled, leaving few to witness or prevent further military and militia attacks, and no one to provide relief. Refugees receive little food and medicine, and are provided with inadequate shelter.

It is the responsibility of the Indonesian government to protect human rights and provide safety and security throughout Indonesia, including Aceh and West Papua. In this regard, immediate and effective actions need to be taken by the government of Indonesia to halt human rights abuses by members of the Indonesian security forces. Those responsible for human rights violations should be brought to justice. Independent Indonesian and international human rights investigators and monitors should be allowed to provide genuine oversight and monitoring without fear of intimidation and harm.

The U.S. administration should work with the UN and other governments to increase international pressure on Jakarta to insist that these actions be taken. We specifically request that you join calls for a UNHRC Special Reporteur for Aceh. We ask that an expansion of USAID funding be made available for humanitarian assistance, monitoring by international non-governmental organizations and Acehnese human rights organizations. We believe it is essential that the U.S. offer financial as well as political support to the Humanitarian Pause effort. Finally, we would welcome continued communication on ways in which human rights activists in Aceh, especially those who have visited the U.S. Congress and the State Department, can be protected from retaliatory violence.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Rep. Joseph Crowley 
Rep. Cynthia McKinney 
Rep. Eni Faleomavaega 
Rep. Anthony Weiner 
Rep. Michael Capuano 
Rep. Dennis Kucinich 
Rep. Mark Udall 
Rep. Fortney Pete Stark 
Rep. Robert Weygand


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