Forced relocation is a crime

Kompas – September 10, 2003
Achenese refugees displaced by military operations (Liputan 6)
Achenese refugees displaced by military operations (Liputan 6)

Jakarta – The forced relocation of a population, as has occurred in Aceh, can be viewed as a crime against humanity. Therefore the regional emergency military command (PDMD) must avoid relocating populations forcibly.

The working coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Usman Hamid, raised this issue in a discussion titled “The Fate of Acehnese Refugees: Between Coercion and Suffering” in Jakarta on Tuesday September 9.

In his working paper, he said that the PDMD should instead heed the stipulations of international and national law before taking coercive action. He warned that “The forced relocation of a population, either through a [direct] order or because of the negligence of a superior, can be categorised as a crime against humanity and the [actions of the] perpetrator as well as their superior should be investigated by a human rights court.

“Based on the principles of command responsibility, the emergency military command cannot avoid responsibility for criminal acts of this kind. On the contrary, they can also face criminal charges if it fulfills certain conditions, such as those referred to in Article 42 of Law Number 26/2000 on Human Rights Tribunals”, said Usman.

Another speaker, a staff teacher from a course on social law and development from the University of Indonesia’s Faculty of Law, Heru Susetyo, gave an explanation on the general [legal] principles [involved] in handling internal refugees.

First of all, refugees must enjoy the same rights and freedoms under the protection of national and international law as other citizens in their country. Discrimination on the grounds of their status as a refugee is prohibited [under law].

The party most responsible in this case is the central authorities. They are obliged to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to refugees in their region.

Quoting from Kontras data, Usman said that the number of refugees in Aceh this year had reached 83,682 families or 334,727 people. If this is compared with the total population in Aceh of 4.2 million, the total number of refugees can be categorised being high. If this is calculated from the beginning of the military emergency in Aceh [which was declared on May 19] up until August 21, the total number of refugees has reached 107,267 people. Of this number, 18,397 people are still in refugee camps. (win)

[Translated by James Balowski.]