Fulfill the Acehnese people’s right to safety: Komnas HAM

Kompas – August 24, 2003
Komnas HAM Aceh ad hoc team head M.M. Billah (padanglawasutarajaya)
Komnas HAM Aceh ad hoc team head M.M. Billah (padanglawasutarajaya)

Jakarta – The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) is of the view that the integrated operation which has continued for three months in Aceh has been characterised by far too many violations of human rights and humanitarian laws. The government’s promise to guarantee a sense of safety for the people has not been fulfilled, even though the aim of the integrated operation is to win the hearts and minds of the Acehnese people.

“We therefore urged the central emergency military command to pay more intensive attention to human right violations, humanitarian law, and the military emergency regulation itself”, said the chairperson of the Komnas HAM Aceh Ad Hoc Team M.M. Billah in Jakarta on Friday (22/8).

Billah raised this issue after the third visit to the Aceh between August 13-17 which included [the provincial capital of] Banda Aceh, Khokseumawe and Bireuen.

Komnas HAM has already interviewed 102 witnesses in relation to cases of schools and houses being burnt down, arbitrary arrests, torture, extra-judicial killings, sexual harassment, mass graves and [forced] evacuations.

According to Billah, during the military emergency arrests frequently occurred without a warrant as required under Law Number 23/1959 on the implementation of a military emergency. Aside from this, arrests by members of the TNI [Indonesian military] are frequently followed by the seizure of [people’s] assets without written authorisation, which means plundering. Billah also asked that the military emergency command immediately relocate military posts which are using school buildings. The reason being that it is dangerous for children. “If there is an attack children could become the target of shooting. The use of schools as [military] posts violates the 2nd Protocol of the Geneva Convention”, said Billah.

Billah added that Komnas HAM will soon begin training local staff from 13 regencies as day-to-day human rights monitors. He hoped that each regency will have four monitors. So far, there have only been Komnas HAM posts in Lhokseumawe and Bireuen.

Billah also warned that if violations of human rights and humanitarian laws continue and failed to decline over the next six months, there is significant possibility that an independent human rights investigation team would be able to enter to Aceh. (b14/WIN)

[Translated by James Balowski.]