Indonesia: Transition and Regional Conflict

On July 23, 2001, Indonesia’s parliament forced out President Abdurrahman Wahid and replaced him with Megawati Sukarnoputri, who until then had been his vice-president. Wahid had come to power in October 1999 following Indonesia’s most democratic elections in more than four decades. He was a reformer committed to cleansing the government of its authoritarian inheritance, but he managed in his year and a half in office to alienate nearly all potential coalition partners (his party controlled only 11% of the votes in parliament).

President Megawati, daughter of Indonesia’s first president Sukarno, has broader political support but faces many of the same daunting obstacles that President Wahid was unable to surmount. Indonesia remains divided, with many regions still a tinderbox and basic reforms in many areas barely off the ground if underway at all. The government itself is split between reformers and an old guard still defending old interests. The economy remains in crisis. And the army, still operating largely beyond the reach of the law, has regained much of the political clout it had lost with the 1998 ouster of dictator and former general Soeharto.

Major human rights concerns in Indonesia today include continuing abusive behavior by security forces against civilians in Aceh and Papua (Irian Jaya); massive internal displacement of populations due to political, ethnic, and religious conflict; judicial corruption; and the government’s continued failure to prosecute commanders responsible for past atrocities, including the 1999 scorched earth destruction of East Timor and dozens of other cases dating all the way back to the army-backed massacres in 1965 that accompanied Soeharto’s rise to power.


Indonesia: Freedom of Expression Under Assault
(New York, Jan. 18, 2002) Human Rights Watch today condemned the January 16 conviction of an activist who organized peaceful demonstrations in Jakarta. The demonstrations called for an end to "crimes against humanity" committed by Indonesian forces in Aceh.

Indonesia: Investigate Death of Papuan Leader
(New York, November 11, 2001)—Human Rights Watch today condemned the murder of Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay and called for a high-level investigation into his death.

Backgrounder on Indonesia: Accountability First
(September 2001)-- On September 19, 2001, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri will meet U.S. President George Bush. Support from Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, for a U.S. "war against terrorism" is likely to be high on the agenda. U.S. sources have said that the Osama bin Laden network has penetrated Laskar Jihad, a radical Java-based Muslim militia that now has thousands of young fighters in Maluku, an archipelagic province east of Bali and north of East Timor.

Indonesia: Megawati Should Investigate Aceh Killing
(New York, September 7, 2001) -- Human Rights Watch today called on the Indonesian government to launch a thorough and impartial investigation into the killing of Dayan Dawood, the rector of Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh.

Indonesia: Abuses Mount in Aceh
(Jakarta, August 20, 2001) In a new report released today, Human Rights Watch called on both the Indonesian government and armed rebels in Aceh to protect civilians, saying both sides had been responsible for human rights violations.

Indonesia's Sea of Troubles
By Sidney Jones
Published July 27, 2001 in The New York Times
Megawati Sukarnoputri, Indonesia's new president, has a mess on her hands. The economy is in tatters, regions are in revolt and the government has almost broken down. So what did Mrs. Megawati do the weekend before becoming president, as the political crisis reached its height? She went to see "Shrek," the animated movie about a friendly ogre.

Indonesia: Abdurrahman Wahid's Human Rights Legacy
(New York, July 27, 2001) -When, on October 20, 1999, Abdurrahman Wahid became Indonesia's first democratically elected president in more than four decades, he was welcomed at home and abroad as the country's best hope for healing political rifts, building civil society, and revitalizing government.

Indonesian President Risks Undermining Rights
(New York, July 23, 2001) Abdurrahman Wahid, Indonesia's president, has embarked on a dangerous course in declaring a not-quite-state of emergency today, Human Rights Watch said.

Indonesia: Violence and Political Impasse in Papua
(New York, July 3, 2001) -Indonesia's crackdown on the Papuan independence movement is diminishing prospects for peace, Human Rights Watch said in a new report issued today.

Civil and political rights: Colombia and Indonesia
(April 4, 2001, Human Rights Watch Oral Intervention at the 57th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights )
HRW believes the Commission must take strong action on Indonesia. In particular, like many of our Indonesian colleagues, we call on the Commission to address continuing military impunity in Indonesia.

Indonesia: Escape of Suspected NGO Killers
(New York, March 28, 20001) Human Rights Watch expressed outrage over reports yesterday that four suspects in the killings of NGO workers in Aceh had escaped from detention in Medan, North Sumatra.

Trial Welcome but Justice Still Elusive in Timor
(New York, January 26, 2001) Human Rights Watch today welcomed the first successful prosecution by an East Timorese court of a militia member, but said real justice for East Timor was a long way off.

Indonesia: Sole Survivor of Attack on Humanitarian Aid Workers Speaks
(New York, December 13, 2000) Human Rights Watch today released an eyewitness account of the December 6 execution-style murders of three humanitarian workers and a villager, all from the Lhokseumawe area of Aceh in Indonesia.

Indonesia: Aid Workers Executed in Aceh
(New York, December 8, 2000) In a joint statement today, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned Wednesday's execution-style killings by Indonesian police of three humanitarian aid volunteers and a torture victim in Aceh. The two leading global rights monitors called for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the security officers responsible for the killings.

Indonesia: Release Aceh Activist
(New York, November 21, 2000) Human Rights Watch said today that the arrest of an Acehnese activist on charges of "spreading hatred" and incitement were a throwback to Indonesia's authoritarian past.

West Timor: Refugee Safeguards Urgently Needed
(New York, October 24, 2000) Human Rights Watch today called on Indonesia to halt the "registration" of East Timorese refugees until minimum safeguards are in place for them to choose freely whether they wish to return to East Timor or settle in Indonesia.

Indonesia Urged To Call Off Papua Ultimatum
(New York, October 17, 2000) -- Human Rights Watch today urged Indonesian authorities to call off an ultimatum to independence supporters in Irian Jaya (West Papua) to take down all West Papuan flags by Thursday, October 19.

Indonesia: Indictment of Militia Leader Insufficient
(New York, October 3, 2000) Human Rights Watch today called Indonesia's indictment of the notorious militia leader Eurico Gutteres a necessary but insufficient step to address the violence in West Timor.

Indonesia: Aceh Situation Worsening, Human Rights Groups Warn
(New York, September 25, 2000) Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch today warned that the Indonesian government's failure to address a rapidly deteriorating security situation in Aceh is leading to a huge increase in human rights violations.

Indonesia: Attacks on Academics in Aceh
(New York, September 21, 2000) The Indonesian government should investigate the assassination of Prof. Safwan Idris, a prominent academic in the Aceh region of Indonesia, Human Rights Watch said today.

Indonesia: Postpone Donor Meeting
(New York, September 20, 2000) Human Rights Watch today urged Indonesia's donors to delay an annual donor conference until the Indonesian government takes effective action against militia violence in West Timor. The Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI), convened by the World Bank, is planning to meet in Tokyo in late October to determine aid commitments for the coming year. The CGI includes both bilateral donors such as the European Union, Japan, the U.S. and Canada, as well as multilateral agencies such as the Asian Development Bank.

Urgent Need for Independent Timor Investigation
(New York, September 8, 2000) Human Rights Watch today backed the call from the Indonesian Human Rights Commission for an independent investigation, with U.N. participation, into the killings of aid workers in West Timor on September 6.

Indonesia Must Act on West Timor Killings
(New York, September 6, 2000) Human Rights Watch said that the deaths today of at least three U.N. refugee aid workers in West Timor were directly attributable to the Indonesian government's failure to control the militias.

New York-Based Aceh Activist Murdered in Indonesia
(September 6, 2000, New York) Human Rights Watch called on Indonesian authorities to find and punish the murderers of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah. Jafar, a leading human rights activist from Aceh, Indonesia, and a permanent resident of New York, disappeared in the North Sumatran city of Medan on August 5. His body was found with four other as yet unidentified victims some 83 km west of Medan on Sunday and was positively identified by the family on Wednesday.

Ban Arms Sales to Indonesia Unless Timor Militias Stopped
(August 17, 2000, New York)—Human Rights Watch today called on the Indonesian army to disband, once and for all, militias operating in West Timor. If it fails to do so, donor countries should reinstitute the ban on commerical military sales to Indonesia imposed in September 1999 at the height of the army-led violence in East Timor.

New York-Based Activist Missing in Indonesia
(New York, August 8, 2000) Human Rights Watch today called on Indonesian authorities to step up efforts to find a missing human rights activist, Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, who vanished on Saturday from the Indonesian city of Medan. The international monitoring organization also said residents of New York city should take a particular interest in the fate of the missing activist, who is a permanent resident of Woodside, Queens. Jafar is also a student at the New School and a sometime taxi driver in the New York metropolitan area.

Indonesia Must Control Troops
(New York, June 29, 2000)-Human Rights Watch today called on Indonesian authorities in the troubled Moluccan island region to take immediate action against troops believed to have taken sides in the communal conflict there. A recent spate of clashes between members of Muslim and Christian communities has left more than 200 people dead since June 21, 2000. According to government sources, nearly 3,000 have been killed since communal violence first flared up in the region in January 1999.

Indonesia: Aceh Trial - Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Call for Full Accountability
(New York and London, May 17, 2000)—Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch today called on the Indonesian authorities to hold military leaders accountable for gross rights abuses in Aceh.

Aceh: Conditions For Long-Term Peace
(New York, May 12, 2000)-Human Rights Watch welcomed the start of a new round of talks in Geneva between Indonesian government officials and Acehnese rebel leaders, amid reports that the two sides would sign a cease-fire agreement later today. It urged, however, that the cease-fire agreement be followed by a peace process in which justice and protection of civilians are top priorities. It also called on the Indonesian government to involve leaders of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civilian groups in efforts to implement the cease-fire.

Indonesia: Investigation of Bias Needed in Maluku
(New York, January 7, 2000) — Human Rights Watch today urged the Indonesian government to investigate allegations of bias and partisan participation by government security forces in the bloody communal conflict in the Moluccan islands (Maluku). During the past two weeks, the islands, located some 1,000 miles to the northeast of Bali, have been the site of repeated clashes between armed Christian and Muslim groups. The clashes have left hundreds of people dead. Partisans on each side have claimed that government security forces were directly supporting their adversaries.




Papua (Irian Jaya)
Moluccas (Maluku)
West Timor

Indonesia: The War in Aceh Report, August 2001
"There is no question that both sides have been responsible for unlawful killings, as well as a wide range of other abuses. But the Indonesian government has a particular responsibility to ensure that those who are supposed to uphold the law do not themselves become violators of it. In this, it has failed utterly."  More..
Indonesia's Sea of Troubles
Megawati Sukarnoputri, Indonesia's new president, has a mess on her hands. The economy is in tatters, regions are in revolt and the government has almost broken down. More..
Indonesia: Abdurrahman Wahid's Human Rights Legacy
When Abdurrahman Wahid was elected president, he was welcomed at home and abroad as the country's best hope for healing political rifts, building civil society, and revitalizing government.  More..

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