(New York, July, 2002)
After one year in office, President Megawati's administration has restored a degree of political stability in Indonesia. But her efforts to secure support and stability have led to a retrenchment of many of the old interests of the Soeharto regime that ruled for three decades, most notably the military. The last year has seen a resurgent military, while half-hearted judicial measures against corruption and human rights abuses have only demonstrated the level of impunity. Megawati's administration has yet to deal effectively with problems of military reform, the ongoing violence in conflict areas such as Aceh and Papua, and attacks on human rights defenders. These issues should all be on Secretary Powell's agenda.
Lack of military reform
There were some tentative reform measures under Presidents Habibie and Wahid, such as separating the police from the military and reducing the army's political role. However following the turmoil that ousted Wahid in July of 2001, Megawati has increasingly looked to the military for support. The institution has enjoyed a resurgence in influence, including new commands, impunity for human rights abusers, and weakening civilian control.
The territorial command structure, the architecture of the military's domestic security role that posts soldiers all the way down to the village level, has only been strengthened, with new regional commands created in Aceh and Maluku. Army chief of staff General Ryamizard Ryacudu recently condemned proponents of reforming this structure: "This is not the time to be talking about getting rid of or not getting rid of the territorial commands. It is irrelevant. What I would like to see are some intelligent and clear thoughts and ideas about how expansive a role should be entrusted to the territorial commands in safeguarding integrity, regional unity, and the safety of the nation now and into the future."
Rather than being prosecuted, officers implicated in human rights violations have frequently been promoted. Retired Lt. General Hendropriyono, known as the Butcher of Lampung for his role in a 1989 massacre, was named National Intelligence Chief despite his suspected role in funding the Timorese militias. Major-General Sjafrie Syamsoeddin received the key post of military spokesman despite his role as Jakarta military commander during bloody 1998 riots that ultimately brought down Soeharto. More than a thousand civilians died in the riots, and several students disappeared or were shot by snipers thought to be members of the police or military. And Major-General Mahidin Simbolon, an officer linked to the creation of the Timorese militias, was promoted to Regional Commander for Papua, where there are recent reports of militia activity.
The military has thumbed its nose at civilian control by ignoring summons by the National Human Rights Commission investigating the 1998 killings of students. Deployments and strategies in Aceh and Papua reportedly lack the civilian input required by recent laws.
East Timor Trials in Jakarta
Trials are underway of 18 military, police, government and militia leaders in Jakarta before special ad hoc human rights tribunals. But domestic and international organizations observing the process have excoriated the indictments and prosecution for ignoring the most serious and significant criminal offenses. Most charges are limited to the army's failure to intervene in a supposed civil conflict, overlooking the widely accepted role of the army in creating, arming, and directing the militia campaign of terror. The weak prosecution and unchallenged statements of defense witnesses have if anything reinforced the army's version of events in Indonesia. Many high-ranking suspects were never charged at all, ignoring documentary evidence and the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission and other investigators. These include Generals Wiranto and Zacky Anwar Makarim.
The first verdict may be handed down as early as Thursday, August 1. Prosecutors have asked for sentences just over the minimum of ten years for the former governor, provincial police chief, and five low-ranking officers linked to the Suai massacre. There are concerns that any convictions or sentences - however token or limited - will be used by supporters of military aid in the U.S. government to justify removing all remaining restrictions on U.S.-Indonesian military cooperation.
Armed Conflict in Aceh
The government continues to address the long-running conflict in Aceh mainly through a military approach. Both the Indonesian army and the opposition Free Aceh Movement (GAM) have been responsible for serious abuses, including torture, abductions, and extrajudicial executions. The military commander for Aceh, Major-General Djali Jusuf, recently stated "Of the central government's six programs for Aceh, only the security scheme was implemented. Other matters such as economic and social development have become completely stagnant." Talks between the Free Aceh Movement and the government had made some small progress under the mediation of a Swiss organization, the Henry Dunant Centre, with the participation of retired U.S. General Anthony Zinni, an advisor to Secretary Powell. These efforts have been undermined by an aggressive military campaign waged under the authorization of a series of Presidential Instructions beginning in 2001. President Megawati is expected to renew those instructions in August 2002, and some within the military have been pushing for greater authority enshrined in law or a declaration of martial law.
The provincial parliament has made little progress in adopting implementing regulations for the Special Autonomy Act, adopted in July 2001. Autonomy measures intended to reduce demands for independence have been largely limited to the imposition of Shariah law, which many Acehnese say they have not asked for and do not want. Decentralization of oil and gas revenues has created new opportunities for corruption at the provincial level.
In recent weeks the army has been making moves to obtain a declaration of martial law in the province. After a visit to the region security minister Yudhoyono labeled the rebel group as terrorists, which some saw as an effort to deflect criticism for a coming crackdown. But the governor and Acehnese civil society organizations have come out strongly against martial law. The Regional Commander for Aceh recently stated, "The risks of implementing martial law are too high. There will be casualties on all sides including civilians and our troops too."
However there is still support for martial law or civil emergency status, a decision that may be made in August. There are also signs that the army is increasing troop strength even without a formal designation, what some observers have called martial law by stealth. Based on its documentation of the impact of the war on civilians, Human Rights Watch believes that martial law would lead to an increase in military abuses and impunity, and so resentment towards the central government.
Legal and judicial reform
The Megawati administration has made little headway in reforming Indonesia's corrupt and ineffective legal system. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Param Cumaraswamy, told the press during his July visit to Indonesia: "I didn't realize corruption was so endemic. Practically everyone with whom I discussed the matter admitted the prevalence of corruption in the administration of justice." The same week a Jakarta-based NGO called Indonesian Corruption Watch issued a report that described a court mafia of corruption from the lowest court clerk to the Supreme Court.
Unfortunately, the government's initial response to these critiques has been highly defensive. Until this enormous problem is addressed, Indonesians -and donors and private foreign investors-- will lack confidence in the rule of law in Indonesia. This is a fundamental problem that action on a few high-profile cases will not in itself begin to repair.
Human Rights Defenders
Well-organized gangs attacked several Jakarta NGOs that had criticized military officials in March of 2002. In conflict areas such as Aceh and Papua, death threats and physical attacks on NGO workers are common. For example, in December 2000 three young field workers for an NGO called Rehabilitation Action for Torture Victims in Aceh (RATA) were killed. An eyewitness named four army informers as the perpetrators but they were later allowed to escape from detention.
At the same time, the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas-HAM), a semi-independent body first established by then President Soeharto in 1993, has become increasingly ineffective and marginalized after playing a credible and important role in the Soeharto period. Some crucial investigations have been half-hearted, or never followed up. The parliament recently recommended appointment of new members, but some highly qualified candidates were passed over. Even so the newly formed commission can still carry out investigations and push for prosecutions. For example, the commission last year conducted a preliminary inquiry into the massacre of 31 people at a plantation, Bumi Flora, in East Aceh on August 9, 2001. As of late July 2002 a long-awaited follow-up investigation was underway but had reportedly run into problems due to lack of security. This investigation should be carried out in a comprehensive and transparent manner with results swiftly made public and acted upon with prosecution of those responsible.