Response to the arrest of IMPEL members in Aceh

IMPEL – February 26, 2004
Protester arrested after calling for troops to withdrawn from Aceh (Tatan Syuflana)
Protester arrested after calling for troops to withdrawn from Aceh (Tatan Syuflana)

[The following is a translation of a press release by the Lingke Association of University and High-School Students (Mahasiswa dan Pelajar Lingke, IMPEL) which was issued on February 26 in response to the arrest of a number of IMPEL humanitarian workers in Aceh on February 23.]

The arrest of Iwan Irama Putra began with the arrest of Masrizal, who was a refugee from Central Aceh in 2001 and who then moved to the capital of Banda Aceh because they had nowhere to live in Takengon (Central Aceh). Police have accused the refugees from Central Aceh of being members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). This was followed by accusations that IMPEL is a part of GAM.

These accusations resulted in Iwan, a human rights worker from IMPEL who is also a member of SMUR (Student Solidarity for the People, Solidaritas Mahasiswa untuk Rakyat), becoming a target for arrest. This was followed by a raid by the Mobile Brigade on the boarding house of the general chairperson of IMPEL (Muksin) which ended in the arrest of Harlina and Syafruddin. The accusation that IMPEL is a part of GAM is groundless. IMPEL is a grouping of Central Aceh students, the majority of which are members of SMUR, who went on to establish IMPEL as a humanitarian organisation to conduct advocacy for refugees, in particular for refugees from Central Aceh.

In the context of IMPEL’s humanitarian work in conducting advocacy, we do not concern ourselves about who, or the background of the people we help. We base our work on the principle that we assist, to the best of our ability, whoever needs such help, including members of the TNI (armed forces) if they too need assistance. The accusation that we are part of GAM is therefore untrue, we simply assist refugees from Central Aceh. Furthermore, there is no evidence which indicates that these refugees are members of GAM. It is public knowledge that the accusation that people who are arrested in Aceh are members of GAM represents a campaign of rumor and innuendo which is used by emergency military command in Aceh to justify its actions.

It is therefore necessary for us to state in the clearest possible terms:

  1. That IMPEL is not a part of GAM but is an organisation made of students from Central Aceh who are endeavoring to provide a humanitarian advocacy service.
  2. That Iwan Irama Putra is not a member of GAM but is a member of IMPEL and the accusation that he is a member of GAM has been made to justify the torture and beating of pro-democracy activists.
  3. We urge the National Human Rights Commission to investigate these human rights violations, specifically acts of torture, which have been perpetrated by troops from the Aceh Mobile Brigade.
  4. We call on the Indonesian government to immediately end marshal law in Aceh.
  5. We reject to elections being held in Aceh while it is still under marshal law.

Jakarta, February 26, 2004

IMPEL general chairperson

[Translated by James Balowski.]