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.
In the last three days, at least ten people have been killed in the clashes, and the"There is no question that security forces had an obligation to protect the parliament building against surging masses of students and others who joined in the protests," said Sidney Jones, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
"But eyewitness accounts indicate that by Friday, the soldiers were firing rubber bullets at extremely close range. Instead of using the minimum amount of force necessary to control the crowds, they seemed to be deliberately targeting the protestors."
Jones said the situation was made worse by the economic crisis, and local groups were appealing urgently for medicine, drugs, and funds to cover the hospitalization costs of all those wounded in the last three days of clashes.
Protests in Indonesia have been building for weeks as students challenged the convening of a special session of the country’s highest legislative body, the People’s Consultative Assembly, better known as the MPR. The MPR, which opened Tuesday, was charged with setting Indonesia on the path to reform, but the same students who brought down Soeharto in May rejected it as being too closely tied to Soeharto cronies. They began trying to march to the parliament building to demand the session be closed down; they also demanded the resignation of President Habibie and an end to the role of the armed forces in politics. By Friday, the student ranks had been swelled with large numbers of youths and others, angry at the army barricades that prevented them from moving about the city.
Jones called on APEC leaders to make personal appeals now, and to reiterate the need for an investigation when they meet with President Habibie at the APEC summit in Kuala Lumpur next month. APEC member states include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and the U.S. Russia, Vietnam, and Peru will also be at the APEC summit.