Skip to main content

Human Rights Watch today called on the Indonesian government to step up its efforts to find "disappeared" activists and prosecute those responsible.

To date, 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," said Sidney Jones, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. "The lack of progress to date is increasingly looking like a cover-up _ if the new Habibie government wants to be seen as different from its predecessor and committed to the protection of human rights, it is going to have to pursue this issue far more aggressively than it has done thus far."
On May 1, General Wiranto, commander of the armed forces and Defense Minister, set up a Fact-Finding Team to look into the
disappearances, after strong domestic and international pressure to address the issue. As of June, six of the resurfaced activists had given testimony to the military police, but they say thus far, there has been no follow-up.

"Finding and prosecuting the people who abducted and tortured these activists is critical to redefining the army's role in post-Soeharto Indonesia," said Jones. "If nothing happens, it will confirm the fears of those who say that the fundamental power structure in Indonesia is unchanged. If those responsible are held accountable and the truth of who ordered these disappearances comes out, then there is real hope for human rights in Indonesia."

The evidence of military involvement is strong, especially since in many of the cases, the kidnappers either picked their victims up from district military commands or took them from a kind of safehouse where they were held to police or military commands in Jakarta. The failure of the military fact-finding team to come up with any facts after almost two months suggests a deliberate decision to keep the truth hidden.

The military's involvement is indicated by the following:

Andi Arief, the twenty-eight-year-old head of Indonesia Student Solidarity for Democracy (SMID), was abducted from his sister's house in Bandar Lampung by two men in plainclothes on March 28 at 10:30 a.m. The men, who were not in uniform, showed no identification and produced no warrant, searched the shop, found Andi Arief, and took him away. Andi's family reported the abduction to the provincial police command, the city police command, and the regional military command; all said they had no role in the arrest. On March 31, the information officer of the Indonesian armed forces denied that the armed forces _ which in Indonesia include the police _ were detaining any of the missing. On April 3, he denied that the security forces were behind the disappearances. On April 16, the Jakarta military commander said he had ordered all his troops to help find the missing. On April 21, Andi Arief's parents received a call from national police headquarters in Jakarta informing them that their son was being held there. Two days later, they received a formal detention order by post, saying that Andi Arief was being held both as a suspect in a subversion case and as a witness in a subversion case against two students charged with using explosives in connection with a homemade bomb that went off prematurely in an apartment in the Tanah Tinggi area of Jakarta on January 18, 1998. The order was backdated to March 29. On April 22, the commander of the Indonesian police, Maj.Gen. (Pol) Dibyo Widodo, publicly denied any knowledge of Andi Arief's whereabouts, when in fact, Andi Arief had been detained for five days in the same complex where Widodo works. On April 26, national police headquarters issued a statement that Andi Arief had been in police custody since March.

Two of those still missing, Yani Afri and Sonny, were picked up in April 1997 from the North Jakarta district military command where they had been taken after their arrest. They were taken directly from the district command to the safehouse where most of the activists have been held until their removal on March 12, 1998; the district commander must therefore have information on those responsible for the safehouse.

Three of the resurfaced activists, Nezar Patria, Aan Rusdianto, and Mugianto, all SMID activists, were abducted by four masked men from their lodgings in Klender, East Jakarta, and taken first to the East Jakarta district military command and from there to the safehouse on March 13 and 14. They were then taken by their captors to the metropolitan Jakarta police command, where they were accused of belonging to a banned organization. They were blindfolded at the time they were turned over to the police. Again, both the police and the district military commander must have knowledge about the operation.

Reports in the international press, based in part on interviews with the military and with the resurfaced activists, have pointed to a unit of Kopassus, the army special forces, as being responsible.

According to the Jakarta-based organization Kontras (Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence), those still "disappeared" are as follows:

1-2. Yani Afri, known as "Rian," 27, a driver originally from the Tanjung Priok area of Jakarta, who worked with the faction of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) supporting Megawati Soekarnoputri, and Sonny, another PDI supporter. Both were arrested on April 26, 1997 as the parliamentary election campaign was heating up and initially taken to the North Jakarta district military command (KODIM) where they were held overnight. Yani Avri's mother went to the KODIM twice after learning her son had been taken there, but was told the second time that he had already been removed to another location. It turned out that both men had been taken to the same detention center in Jakarta where several of the activists who have since resurfaced were held. One of those activists, Pius Lustrilanang, who talked to Sonny and Rian while they were held there, reports that they were taken out from their cells on March 12, 1998. They have not been seen nor heard from since.

3-5. Dedy Hamdun, a supporter of the United Development Party (PPP), was abducted during the May 1997 election campaign and held for three and a half months in the same place as Pius and the other activists. (He was already gone by the time Pius Lustrilanang arrived, but other detainees reported that he had been there.) According to them, Dedy was taken away from the detention center together with two men named Noval Alkatiri and Ismail. Both are still missing.

6. Herman Hendrawan, a political science student from Airlangga University in Surabaya, was originally reported by the head of the East Java police on April 17 to have returned home, but to date, he remains missing. He disappeared with two other students, both of whom have since resurfaced, on March 12, 1998, after attending a press conference in the offices of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute in Jakarta.

7. Suyat, a university student from Solo who was active in the leftwing organization called Indonesian Student Solidarity for Democracy (SMID), has been missing since February 12, 1998. According to Suyat's brother, five men who were not in uniform and showed no identification but said in response to a question that they were "officers" (petugas) came to the family's house in Gemolong, Sragen, Central Java at about 2:00 a.m. on February 12, looking for Suyat. The family said he was not at home, but the men entered anyway and began searching the house. According to an April 16 account in the Surabaya newspaper Jawa Pos, when the men could not find Suyat, they took away his brother, Suyatno. After being interrogated in an unknown place, Suyatno told human rights workers that he was blindfolded and tied up and then brought to the house of one of Suyat's friends in Karanganyar, outside Solo, then to the house of another friend in Kalijambe, Sragen, where Suyat was staying. The five men took Suyat away and dropped off Suyatno on the outskirts of Sumber village. No one has seen or heard from Suyat since.

8. Petrus Bima Anugerah, known as Bimo, aged twenty-five, is a student at the Driyakara School of Philosophy in Jakarta and a member of the militant political organization, the People's Democratic Party (PRD). He has not been seen or heard from since March 31. His father officially reported him missing to the national police command on April 12.

9. Mohamed Yusuf, twenty-eight, a schoolteacher and student in the pharmacy department of University of Indonesia, has been missing since May 1997 when he was campaigning for the United Development Party (PPP).

10. Ucok Munandar Siahaan, twenty-two, a student activist from Perbanas, a banking association, disappeared after the riots in Jakarta on May 13-14, 1998. His mother reported that she knew he had not been injured in the riots because he called her afterwards, but he never returned home. While the case does not fall within the same pattern as the others, the failure to resolve the others makes the case of any missing student activist all the more worrisome.

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country