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Media Release

For Immediate Release

Human Rights Groups Protest Indonesia's War in Aceh
Demand an End to Human Rights Abuses

May 20, 2003--Protestors around the world are gathering at Indonesia's diplomatic offices this week to oppose the launch of a massive military campaign in Aceh. In Indonesia's biggest military operation since the invasion of East Timor in 1975, an estimated 45,000 troops are now in Aceh, on the northern-tip of the island of Sumatra.

Top ranking Indonesian military (TNI) officials have boasted that they will "crush" the rebel Free Aceh Movement in six months. But the civilian population will be the hardest hit. The Indonesian government estimates that the number of refugees in Aceh will grow to 100,000 from the current 5,000. More than 12,000 people have been killed in the almost 27-year old conflict..

In the United States, rights groups will demonstrate at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington on Wednesday in an event sponsored by Amnesty International USA, the East Timor Action Network, and the Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN). On Friday, demonstrators will gather in New York at Indonesia's Permanent Mission office to the United Nations and the UN.

"Indonesia cannot keep Aceh by destroying it," said Kurt Biddle, Coordinator of the Indonesia Human Rights Network. "This war will only kill more civilians and strengthen the Acehnese resolve to be independent. Human rights will be the main casualty of this war."

Indonesia is currently using U.S.-supplied weaponry and combat aircraft in their war in Aceh. On Monday C-130 Hercules transport planes dropped hundreds of TNI paratroopers into Aceh and counter-insurgency aircraft, OV-10 Broncos, were used to fire rockets into villages outside of the capital city of Banda Aceh.

Last December, the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) concluded a landmark accord on the Cessation of Hostilities (COHA), which was enthusiastically welcomed by the Acehnese people and led to a dramatic decrease in the number of casualties. The Indonesian foreign minister has declared the COHA defunct.

In response to these most recent attacks, the Indonesia Human Rights Network has renewed its calls to maintain the cut off of U.S. arms sales to Indonesia and restore the ban on military training to that country.

Fueled by Jakarta's broken promises and brutal repression by the TNI and Indonesian police, the Acehnese have been fighting for independence since 1976. During Indonesia's national revolution in 1945, Aceh was promised autonomy for its role in fighting the Dutch colonists during Indonesia's independence struggle in 1945. But Jakarta never fulfilled that pledge. Rich in natural gas and other resources, most of Aceh's wealth flows to multinational corporations and Jakarta without benefiting the local people.

The Indonesian government fears that resource-rich Aceh will go the way of East Timor, which voted overwhelmingly for independence in an UN-sponsored referendum in 1999 and celebrates one year of independence today.

The Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) is a U.S.-based grassroots organization working to educate and activate the American public and influence U.S. foreign policy and international economic interests to support democracy, demilitarization, and justice through accountability and rule of law in Indonesia. We seek to end armed forces repression in Indonesia by exposing it to international scrutiny. IHRN works with and advocates on behalf of people throughout the Indonesian archipelago to strengthen civil society.

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights, including women's rights. ETAN, which has 28 local chapters throughout the U.S., calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity that took place in East Timor since 1975. For additional information see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).

Locations for demonstrations in the U.S.

Washington, DC
Wednesday, May 21
12:30 - 1:20 pm
Indonesian Embassy
2020 Massachusetts Ave., NW

New York City
Friday, May 23
10:30am - Noon: Outside the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to United Nations
325 East 38th Street (between 1st and 2nd Ave)
Noon - 1:30 pm: Outside the United Nations, 1st Ave between 42nd and 43rd St.


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