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Defending Human Rights

Human rights groups continued to be at the center of legal reform and justice efforts. Independent human rights lawyers, including Munir of the Commission for Disappeared Persons and Victims of Violence, played a key role in strengthening and professionalizing the work of the investigative team for East Timor put together by the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission (Komnas). On January 31, the Komnas team issued a hard-hitting report on the 1999 violence. Other human rights lawyers, including Ifdhal Kasim of the Institute for Research on Public Adovcacy (Elsam), were actively involved in drafting legislation on human rights courts and the first draft of a bill for a proposed "Truth and Reconciliation Commission." Still others were appointed to a team of experts advising the attorney general on the East Timor prosecutions.

Komnas also monitored the efforts of the attorney general and military courts on other leading human rights cases throughout the year. In June, Komnas was widely criticized for a weak report on 1984 army violence in Tanjung Priok, Jakarta, and for doing little to document ongoing abuses in Aceh and Papua. In October, Komnas issued new report on the Tanjung Priok case, naming twenty-three suspects, reportedly including high-ranking generals.

In Aceh, Papua, and the Moluccas, human rights defenders operated at great risk. The worst conditions were in Aceh, where assassinations were commonplace and perpetrators seldom identified. On January 31, Sukardi, a volunteer with the Bamboo Thicket Institute (Yayasan Rumpun Bambu Indonesia), a local environmental and human rights group based in Aceh, "disappeared"; his naked and bullet-riddled corpse was found on February 1. Dozens of other activists and local humanitarian aid workers were beaten and threatened, apparently because security forces suspected them of supporting the rebels.

The murder of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, described above, again put a spotlight on the dangers faced by human rights defenders.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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