ISSN #1088-8136

Vol. 7, No. 2
Spring 2001

Will East Timor See Justice?

ETAN Continues Legislative Efforts

About East Timor and ETAN

Conference Launches New Phase of Solidarity

West Timor Refugee Crisis Continues

Support East Timor in Your Community

Indonesian General on Trial in U.S. Court

U.S. - East Timor Relationship Raises New Questions

Madison: East Timor's First Sister City in U.S.

Community Empowerment in Theory and Practice

Estafeta Spring 2001

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U.S. Activists Respond to Indonesian Military Violence 

Kick-Off Conference Launches Indonesia Human Rights Network

by Kurt Biddle

   Indonesian Human Rights Network

The Indonesian military is out of control. Just one example is in Aceh, the area on the northern-most tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. On March 29, two human rights activists and their driver were found shot dead. The three men were killed after leaving a South Aceh police station, where one of them was summoned for questioning in a defamation case involving police. The killings are only the latest in which the Indonesian military and police have been implicated.

In response to growing violence by Indonesian security forces, almost 200 activists, academics and human rights advocates from Indonesia, Australia, Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere gathered in Washington, DC February 23 - 25 to attend the kick-off conference of the Indonesia Human Rights Network.

Entitled "Indonesia: A Human Rights Agenda," the conference featured workshops, panel discussions and strategy sessions on topics including Indonesian politics and economics, grassroots activism and Washington advocacy.

Among the many speakers were Hendardi of the Jakarta-based Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), Liem Soei Liong from the London-based organization Tapol, Charles Scheiner, National Coordinator of the East Timor Action Network, Jeffrey Winters of Northwestern University and Sidney Jones of Human Rights Watch/Asia.

Participants prioritized three national campaigns for IHRN:

• Working to support civilian control of the Indonesian military by strengthening the current ban on U.S. military training and weapons shipments;

• Generating support for rule of law by assisting judicial reform and pressing for an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor;

• Advocating for assistance for international and Indonesian non-governmental workers, and for an international presence to help deter further human rights violations in conflict areas.

Ideas considered for regional campaigns included speaking tours, teach-ins, and coalition work with the anti-sweatshop movement.

After the conference IHRN released a statement urging the Bush administration to "to stand strongly in support of Indonesian democratization and to maintain and strengthen the current ban on U.S. aid to the Indonesian military."

Cut Zahara, sister of IHRN founding member Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, dedicated the conference to her brother's memory. Jafar was an Acehnese human rights lawyer who was disappeared, tortured and killed last year in North Sumatra (see last Estafeta). Jafar founded the New York-based International Forum for Aceh.

Human rights activists created the Indonesia Human Rights Network last year to support Indonesians struggling for democracy. ETAN initiated the framework for IHRN and continues to provide office space and other support. IHRN strives to break the power of the Indonesian military by working to deny it international support, thus freeing up the peoples of Indonesia to make their own economic and political choices. IHRN supports worker's rights, promotes monitoring of the World Bank and IMF, and opposes violence and discrimination against minority racial, ethnic, and religious groups, women and sexual minorities.

If you are interested in the Indonesia Human Rights Network you can learn more by visiting or calling 202-546-0044.

Kurt Biddle is an Executive Board Member of the Indonesia Human Rights Network.

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