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On One Month Anniversary of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah's Anniversary, ETAN Calls for Stronger Government Action

September 5, 2000

Contact: John M. Miller, ETAN 718-596-7668; 917-690-4391 
Karen Orenstein, 202-544-6911

On the one-month anniversary of the disappearance of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, a New York-based Acehnese human rights lawyer, the East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) called for stronger action by the governments of both the U.S. and Indonesia.

"The U.S. and Indonesian governments must take concrete steps to resolve the disappearance of Jafar immediately. While we appreciate strong statements by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, words are not enough," said Karen Orenstein, spokesperson for the East Timor Action Network/U.S.

"Jafar's disappearance warrants a strong public statement by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to the Indonesian authorities explicitly outlining how seriously the U.S. takes Jafar's disappearance, as well as the ramifications if Jafar's safety is not secured," said Orenstein.

Jafar Siddiq Hamzah was last seen on August 5 in Medan, Indonesia, where he failed to keep an afternoon appointment. His family, friends, and colleagues have had no contact with him since. A tireless campaigner against Indonesian military violence and for the human rights of the Acehnese people, he is well-known both inside Indonesia and internationally. Jafar had received death threats and reported being followed in the days prior to his disappearance.

"Jafar disappeared without a trace in a crowded city in broad daylight, indicating the likely involvement of military professionals. Indonesian human rights organizations suspect the involvement of the Indonesian military. The Indonesian police investigation of the case has proven totally inadequate. There must be civilian oversight of the investigation, preferably including independent human rights advocates," said Orenstein.

Indonesian police forces are conducting investigations in Medan and Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra, but have refused to cooperate with Jafar's family and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The military has denied any knowledge or involvement in Jafar's disappearance. Queries by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, journalists and human rights advocates have not yielded results.

"Jafar's case merits the formation of a high level civilian investigation team that includes the participation of the Indonesian attorney general's and Komnas HAM, Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights. The Clinton Administration should publicly call for the formation of such a team, which should also include international officials and human rights advocates. Leaving the investigation entirely in the hands of the Indonesian police, given their record of severe human rights violations in Aceh and elsewhere, seriously compromises its integrity and transparency," said Orenstein.

"While five mutilated bodies have reportedly been found recently near Medan, none have been identified yet. Whether or not Jafar turns out to be among them, we urge that all efforts, including those outlined above, be used to discover and prosecute those responsible for this horrible crime," said John M. Miller of ETAN.

"The disappearance of such a prominent human rights activist shows that no one is safe," he added.

Jafar Siddiq Hamzah is the founder and chair of the International Forum on Aceh (IFA), a non-governmental organization actively campaigning for peace and human rights in Aceh, where a strong independence movement is active. Serious human rights violations are routine in Aceh, where over 300 Acehnese have been killed this year, many by Indonesian security forces. Through the IFA, Jafar has worked to inform the international community about human rights violations in Aceh. He has helped to organize several seminars on Aceh involving NGOs and others, and has raised the issue before the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva and the U.S. Congress. A permanent U.S. resident, Jafar has been pursuing a degree in political science at the New School University in New York since 1999, where he is enrolled for the fall semester, which begins this week.

ETAN has often worked with Jafar to address human rights issues and military violence in Indonesia and East Timor.

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Background and Updates on Jafar's Disappearance


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