Immediately form an independent team

SEGERA – June 4, 2003
Civilian victims of military operations in Aceh (Acheh Times)
Civilian victims of military operations in Aceh (Acheh Times)

[The following is a translation of a statement presented to the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) by the Civil Society Coalition for Peace and the People’s Solidarity Movement for Aceh (SEGERA) on June 4.]

Every day the press continues to report on Indonesian military’s (TNI) claims of significant developments in the military operation in regions which there are Free Aceh Movement (GAM) bases, that they have been taken control of them one-by-one, that many GAM personnel have been arrested or that a number of GAM leaders have surrendered, and even according to TNI’s claims, the military operation may be completed faster than planned. Moreover the chief of TNI has promised that civilians will not become targets of violence by TNI soldiers. In most of the reports in the Indonesian press, it appears as if there only minimal human rights violations and violations against civilians in the military operation in Aceh.

We are extremely wary of the objectivity of these claims by the government and TNI and the claimed successes of the military operation in Aceh because their evaluation is only measured in terms of numbers, in terms of the successes in reducing the strength of GAM, without counting the damage which is being inflicted on civilians. Furthermore, these claims were made after successfully muzzling the press which was legitimised by patriotic journalism, after elimination control by the international community and evicting international non-government organisations from Aceh.

Control of the military operation must be implemented and be a commitment of TNI, a control based on the importance of protecting civilians and upholding human rights, not control based on the nationalist and chauvinistic interests of the TNI. The Indonesian public and the international community have the right to know about the objective developments of the military operation in Aceh, because the commitment to protect humanity and the upholding of human rights is a universal commitment of modern society.

The reality has shown us the facts, the reality of the military operation which cannot be hidden, hundreds of schools have been burnt down, scores of political activists arrested, civilians continue to die, be tortured and suffer displacement and even the threat of starvation, and the poorly paid TNI soldiers, who are on the front line, also continue to die. Moreover, outside of Aceh there is discrimination against Acehnese people, Aceh activists are suspected of being separatists, thus it becomes legitimate for them to be spied on, terrorised and arrested.

Based on this repressive and bloody nationalistic chauvinism, the government and the TNI have succeeded in forcing the national press to become a tool to justify their political interests, moreover international control has been eliminated so that the military operation is truly being carried out without public scrutiny.

We, the community of civil society who prioritise the future of the people of Aceh demand that Komnas HAM:

1. Immediately form an independent team which is not just made up of Komnas HAM members but also involves civil groups who have proven their consistency in struggling for human rights and humanity to monitor the military operation in Aceh, and on a regular bases report their results to the public. If in fact the military operation is proven to only result in suffering and damage to civil society, if human rights violations continue, public facilities continue to be destroyed, then this team must have the courage to recommend that the military operation be terminated.

2. If in fact we see that the government’s humanitarian operation has failed, if it is found that the displacement of people threatens hunger and decease, we also therefore call on Komnas Ham to form a humanitarian team to collect and distribute humanitarian aid which is needed by the displaced people of Aceh.

Herein are our demands, which should be implemented immediately by Komnas HAM as the only institution which can provide the public with the hope of controlling the upholding of human rights in Aceh.

Civil Society Coalition for Peace
People’s Solidarity Movement for Aceh (SEGERA)

[Translated by James Balowski.]