Transition and Regional Conflict
Documents by Date (Dec 1999- Jan 1999)
- Promote a Compromise for Aceh
By Joe Saunders, Published December 7, 1999 in the International Herald Tribune
(NEW YORK) - If the international community is serious about preventing potential humanitarian crises, warning bells should be ringing over deteriorating conditions in Indonesia's westernmost province, Aceh. Aceh has the potential to become another Chechnya unless Indonesia's friends make clear now that they oppose a military solution in the province.They must also insist that military officers responsible for atrocities be brought to justice.
- Aceh: Accountability, Not Martial Law (New York, November 24, 1999) —Human Rights Watch today warned that a declaration of martial law in Aceh could trigger more violence.
- A Human Rights Agenda For President Wahid (New York, October 20)—Human Rights Watch today welcomed the election of Abdurrahman Wahid, known as Gus Dur, and urged him to make pressing human rights issues a priority from the outset of his administration.
- More Deaths Inevitable in East Timor Unless Donors Act
(August 27, 1999, New York) More deaths in East Timor are inevitable unless immediate, collective pressure is brought to bear on the Indonesian government to stop its regular security forces from aiding proxy militias, Human Rights Watch said today, in the aftermath of four and possibly five deaths in Dili on Thursday.
- Indonesia: Why Aceh is Exploding
(A Human Rights Watch Press Backgrounder, August 27, 1999)
(August 27, 1999, New York)—The twenty-four year conflict in East Timor may be nearing the end game with voters there choosing on August 30 between autonomy under Indonesian sovereignty and independence. But a potentially much more dangerous conflict is spiraling out of control in Aceh, the resource-rich region on the northern tip of Sumatra. The international community should be pressing Indonesia to address three of the key underlying causes of the conflict: failure to prosecute past abuses; failure to reduce a hated military presence; and diversion of locally-produced revenues to Jakarta.
- Indonesian Elections An Opportunity For Progress On Human Rights
(June 6, 1999) -- Human Rights Watch today welcomed Indonesia's first free elections in forty-five years and urged both winners and losers to set forth a clear human rights agenda.
- Indonesia: The May 3, 1999 Killings in Aceh
A Human Rights Watch Press Backgrounder, May 1999
Some forty-five civilians were reported killed and more than one hundred wounded after the army opened fire on protestors near Lhokseumawe, in North Aceh on May 3, 1999. The death toll could well rise. The army claimed they had used only rubber bullets and had fired in self-defense after shots were fired at their troops. Hospital sources reported that the victims, who ranged in age from seven to sixty, had been shot with lead bullets, and villagers said the army opened fire without warning. Video footage showed soldiers shooting at fleeing protestors.
- Regional Grievances and the Indonesian Elections
May 12, 1999: Testimony before the House International Relations Committee Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee
The first free elections in Indonesia since 1955 are now less than a month away. I would like to focus my attention on areas where the forthcoming election has generated little excitement and where discontent with the government in Jakarta is so deep that any new government coming in will have to confront the fundamental question of the country's unity.
- Joint Demarche Needed On East Timor Militias
(New York, April 9, 1999) Human Rights Watch called today on governments represented in the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI), a donor consortium, to make a joint demarche to the Indonesian government urging the disarming of army-backed militias in East Timor.
- Violence and the Indonesian Elections
March 18, 1999: Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,East Asia and Pacific Subcommittee by Sidney Jones, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch, Asia Division
- Indonesia: International Action Needed on Ambon Violence
March 17, 1999: In a new report on the communal violence that has wracked Ambon and surrounding islands for the last two months, Human Rights Watch calls on the Indonesian government to make public any hard evidence of provocation, investigate allegations of bias in the behavior of security forces called in to quell the violence, and acknowledge the terrible losses that both Christians and Muslims have suffered. It also calls on the government to examine and address the underlying communal tensions.
- Indonesia: International Action Needed on Ambon Violence
February 25, 1999: Human Rights Watch today called for urgent international attention to the escalating communal conflict in and around Ambon in Indonesia's Moluccan islands.
- Rights Group Demands Release of Indonesian Shrimp Farmer
(February 8, 1999)-- Human Rights Watch today condemned the February 8 arrest of Endang Suparmono, which took place shortly after a meeting with Sidney Jones, the Asia Director for Human Rights Watch. The arrest took place outside the office of the Legal Aid Institute in Palembang, South Sumatra.
- Open Letter to President Habibie on Aceh
January 12, 1999: Human Rights Watch today urged Indonesian President Habibie to take immediate steps to prevent a recurrence of the military attack on detainees that took place in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, on January 9. At least four detainees died, three remain in a coma, and twenty others required hospitalization.
- International Effort Needed on Aceh
January 4, 1999: In the aftermath of civilian deaths during military operations in Aceh on Sunday, Human Rights Watch today urged all parties involved in the conflict there to respect basic principles of humanitarian law banning torture and extrajudicial executions. The operations followed a December 29 attack on a public bus carrying soldiers, in which a mob dragged eighteen soldiers off and killed seven of them. In the aftermath of civilian deaths during military operations in Aceh on Sunday, Human Rights Watch today urged all parties involved in the conflict there to respect basic principles of humanitarian law banning torture and extrajudicial executions. The operations followed a December 29 attack on a public bus carrying soldiers, in which a mob dragged eighteen soldiers off and killed seven of them.
- No Limits on Irian Jaya Dialogue Says Rights Group
December 28, 1998: In a new report issued today, Human Rights Watch called on those concerned about developments in Indonesia to look beyond Jakarta to rising political tensions in Irian Jaya. Those tensions are being fueled by the Habibie government's reluctance to allow a discussion of independence in a "national dialogue" on Irian Jaya originally planned for January and now likely to be postponed. Human Rights Watch takes no position on the political status of Irian Jaya but believes that the government should not attempt to restrict the content of any discussion on political options.
- Background Briefing on Indonesia: Urgent Action Needed to Halt Communal Violence
December 9, 1998: Human Rights Watch calls on the Indonesian government to act immediately to prevent further communal violence. A series of attacks on churches and mosques since November has led to a dramatic increase in communal and religious tension across Indonesia. There is strong circumstantial evidence that some of the attacks were provoked. Although it is widely believed that elements in the security forces may have been responsible for instigating a November 22 incident in Jakarta, no conclusive evidence has been produced thus far.
- Indonesia: East Timor Massacre Reports Still Unconfirmed, Both Sides Must Respect Rights
(November 23, 1998) -- Human Rights Watch today urged all parties to the conflict in East Timor to respect humanitarian law after reported abuses by both the Indonesian army and East Timorese independence supporters near the town of Alas, Manufahi district, East Timor. Major military operations have been underway in the area since early November after armed guerrillas executed three suspected intelligence agents on October 31 and fatally wounded a fourth. Villagers, apparently with some guerrilla support, then attacked a subdistrict military command post on November 9, killing three soldiers and taking thirteen others into custody. Two men, both East Timorese, remain in captivity; the others were released.
- Jakarta Killings Need International Response
(November 13, 1998) -- Human Rights Watch today called on Indonesia’s major donors and APEC leaders to urgently make personal calls to Indonesian President Habibie and General Wiranto, asking them to investigate excessive use of force by soldiers confronting angry mobs in Jakarta.
- Civilian Guards Pose Threat in Indonesia
(November 10, 1998) Human Rights Watch today expressed deep concern over the Indonesian army's use of 125,000 civilian guards to help with security during a meeting of the country's highest legislative body.
- Better Protection Of Rapes Investigators Needed
(New York -- October 12)Human Rights Watch today called for a full and independent investigation into the murder on Friday of Martadinata Haryono, known as Ita, a young Chinese-Indonesian woman in Jakarta. It also called for better protection of members of the Volunteer Team for Humanity who are investigating rapes of ethnic Chinese women.
- New Report Says Official Denials of Indonesian Rapes Hinder Investigation
(September 8, 1998)-- Human Rights Watch today called on senior Indonesian government officials to immediately cease efforts to discredit reports of rapes of ethnic Chinese women during riots in Jakarta in May. Instead, they should work to create a climate where victims of sexual violence might be more willing to come forward. In a new report titled "The Damaging Debate On Rapes of Ethnic Chinese Women," the organization said the debate raging on whether or not rapes had occurred was obscuring other issues, including the extent to which the May rioting was organized, the fact that sexual violence other than rape occurred, and the need to make Indonesia a society where people of all ethnicities felt secure.
- Indonesia: Soeharto-Era Abuses Must Go
(September 4)--In a major new report released today, Human Rights Watch warns that if the current political opening in Indonesia is not followed by legal and institutional protections for basic rights, the entire reform effort could unravel. The new report, "Academic Freedom in Indonesia: Dismantling Soeharto-Era Barriers," is a study of the legal and institutional mechanisms used by the Soeharto government to silence campus critics, arbitrarily limit public debate on pressing social issues, and stymie intellectual inquiry.
- Indonesia and East Timor: The Prisoner Releases So Far (August 25, 1998)
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch welcome the releases; however, both organizations urge the Indonesian Government to ensure that there is a comprehensive release program for all those detained for their peaceful political activities and for the automatic review of convictions against all political prisoners.
- Update on Rapes of Ethnic Chinese Women in Jakarta
The systematic rape of ethnic Chinese women that occurred during the May 13-15 riots in Jakarta and other cities and that is still taking place sporadically has become a major political issue in Indonesia. Some government officials and some conservative Muslim leaders are questioning whether the rapes took place at all, suggesting that the problem has been blown out of proportion by nongovernmental organizations seeking to discredit the government. The fact that the team that has done more than any other to investigate the rapes is headed by a Catholic priest and that most of the ethnic Chinese victims are Christian or Buddhist has only exacerbated the communal divide. (The priest, Father Sandyawan, is the founder of the Volunteer Team for Humanity, usually known by its Indonesian name of Tim Relawan.)
- July 9, 1998: Irian Jaya Detainees Denied Family Visits, Medical Care
Human Rights Watch said today that an impartial investigation was urgently needed into the firing on demonstrators by the Indonesian military in Biak, Irian Jaya, where two days after the shootings, the casualty toll remains unclear and access is tightly restricted.
- July 6, 1998: Indonesia Alert: Trouble In Irian Jaya
Human Rights Watch said today that the explosion of violence over the weekend in Irian Jaya, Indonesia's easternmost province, underscored the need to take urgent measures to prevent further human rights violations there.
- June 26, 1998: Attacks on Ethnic Chinese Women in Indonesia: What You Can Do
- June 22, 1998: More Pressure Needed On Disappearances
Human Rights Watch called on the Indonesian government to step up its efforts to find "disappeared" activists and prosecute those responsible. As of this writing, at least ten activists remain unaccounted for, and investigations seem to be on hold. Evidence of military involvement in the disappearances is by now overwhelming, and the Habibie government, in order to maintain its credibility, must fully investigate these crimes and the military's role.
- June 4, 1998: The Post-Soeharto Crisis: Testimony before the House International Relations Committee Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific by Sidney Jones, Human Rights Watch
In a statement before the House subcommittee, Sidney Jones reported on the human rights implications of the political transition in Indonesia. She also made recommendations on the United States' role in maintaining stability and safeguarding human rights in Indonesia, including working toward parliamentary and presidential elections as soon as possible; finding ways to enhance support for nongovernmental organizations and independent media; and pressing the army for a full-scale investigation into the disappearances of political activists.
- June 4, 1998: Release Prisoners of Conscience Now: A Joint Amnesty International - Human Rights Watch Report
- May 21, 1998: Reforms Needed After Soeharto's Resignation
Human Rights Watch today said the resignation of Indonesia's long-serving President Soeharto was an important first step toward reform, but it was still unclear whether his successor, President Habibie, would have the will or capacity to transform Indonesia's authoritarian political system. The organization called on the new government to free political prisoners, including many critics of Soeharto; initiate a dialogue on political reform and human rights protection with the people of East Timor; and publicly announce Indonesia's commitment to signing and ratifying major international human rights treaties.
- May 18, 1998: Statement by Sidney Jones before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Asia Pacific Subcommittee on Crisis in Indonesia
Speaking before the Asia Pacific Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sidney Jones spoke about the horrendous violence in Jakarta on May 14 and 15 which left an estimated 500 dead, as well as riots in the cities of Solo, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Surabaya, Medan, Bandar Lampung, Palembang, and Ujung Pandang. Political disappearances have yet to be resolved, and military involvement looks increasingly likely.
- May 15, 1998: G-8 Must Take Action On Indonesian Crisis
With Jakarta and other Indonesian cities wracked by rioting, Human Rights Watch urged leaders of the countries known as the G-8 to recognize the urgency of political reform if social order and economic prosperity are to be restored in the world's fourth largest country.
- May 15, 1998: Wang Dan's statement on the situation in Indonesia
- >Rights Group Urges International Action On Indonesian Killings
(May 13, 1998) -- In the aftermath of the deaths of six student protesters in Jakarta, Human Rights Watch called on donor countries to toughen their policies toward Indonesia. The group urged all member countries of the World Bank-chaired Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI) to condition all non-humanitarian assistance to Indonesia on the lifting of legal and administrative controls on the rights to freedom of assembly, expression, and association. It joined Indonesian human rights organizations in calling on the Indonesian government to invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Summary and Arbitrary Executions to the country as a matter of urgency to investigate the latest deaths.
- May 7, 1998: Statement to the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights Human Rights in Indonesia
Sidney Jones commented on the widening political crisis in Indonesia, including the growing student protests and the government's use of repression, threats, and promises of reform in order to stem those protests.
- March 1998: Indonesia Alert: Economic Crisis Leads to Scapegoating of Ethnic Chinese The rise in prices of basic goods such as rice and cooking oil has led to violent protests across Indonesia, much of it aimed at the ethnic Chinese minority who dominate the retail economy. The rioting appears to have been largely spontaneous, but Human Rights Watch believes that senior government and military officials have fueled anti-Chinese sentiment through veiled references to "rats" and "traitors" and by their failure to explain that high prices and food shortages are not the fault of individual retailers.