Rights groups say Aceh problem must be resolved peacefully

Kompas – November 11, 2004
Komnas HAM Aceh Monitoring Team head MM Billah (Sindo News)
Komnas HAM Aceh Monitoring Team head MM Billah (Sindo News)

Jakarta – It is hoped that the government can resolve the conflict in Aceh peacefully in the lead up to the end of the period of civil emergency on November 18. Furthermore the government is being asked to reduce the state of civil emergency in Aceh to one of a civil authority.

The call was made separately by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) and Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) in Jakarta on Wednesday November 10.

The head of the Komnas HAM’s Aceh Monitoring Team, MM Billah, said that torture and arrests are still occurring in Aceh. The government must therefore immediately resolve the conflict in Aceh without further human rights violations. “We will be proposing at the Komnas HAM plenary session that the state of civil emergency in Aceh be reduced to one of a civilian authority. If a civil authority is brought into force, the military will be subordinate to to the civilian [authorities], and if there are still officers who cannot be controlled by the civilian [authorities], they’ll just be repatriated”, said Billah.

From the results of Komnas HAM’s observation, Billah revealed that many human rights violations are still occurring in Aceh, such as arrests being made without a warrant, punishments melted out without due legal process, an absence of just legal procedures, the loss of the right to life, the loss of the right to gainful employment and torture, such as kickings and beatings.

“Of the cases which we found during a visit in early November, there were indications of human rights violations there, moreover we also found that there were no changes between the operation under martial law and the state of civil emergency which followed”, he said.

Failed policy

One of the founding members of Imparsial, Otto Syamsuddin Ishak, said that to date the Indonesian nation has repeatedly failed to resolve regional conflicts without resorting to violence. “All [prior attempts seeking a] resolution have almost invariably used a security approach which then results in violence. In fact in order to resolve the Aceh conflict what is needed is a democratic peace movement, not a military operation”, he said.

According to Ishak, the government should involve civil society as a third party in the resolution of the conflict in Aceh. Imparsial is therefore recommending to the government and the People’s Representative Assembly that they reevaluate the current policy which has been in place since May 2003 and issue a new policy which takes into consideration the dangers of using a security approach in Aceh.

Executive director Rachland Nashidik said that the policy of implementing a state of civil emergency in Aceh as a solution to the conflict has failed because it has created a regime which is militaristic and which has no respect for human rights and a democratic system.

“By all means change the status in Aceh, but if the operation to restore security is prioritised the situation will remain the same and it will only become an extension of the [policies of] the previous government. The president must have the courage to adopt a policy of non-violence to [resolve] the conflict in Aceh”, he said. (SIE)

[Translated by James Balowski.]