I am a twenty-two year old field worker for the nongovernmental organization Rehabilitation Action for Torture Victims in Aceh (RATA). We provide counseling and rehabilitation services to victims of torture and abuse in Aceh… "Then the cuak ordered us to take off our shoes, and told us to get out of the car. It was about 1 p.m. and we were still in Lapang village. They started threatening us, and began to beat us. When we fell down from the beating, the cuak would order us to get up again, and fire their rifles near our feet, not hitting us but getting close. I was hit hard on the side of my head, near the right temple, with a rifle butt."
On December 6, at about 7:30 in the morning, I left my home village of Simpang Kramat, Kecamatan Kotamakmur, to go to the RATA office in Pusong [Lhokseumawe]. I arrived at the office at about 8:30 a.m., and then started out for the new RATA office in Kuta Blang where we were in the process of moving. I left in a RATA vehicle, together with three other RATA staff: twenty-seven year old Idriss, twenty-three year old Ernita binti Wahab, and twenty-four year old Bakhtiar.
From the new office, we left to provide treatment to some of our patients in Tanah Pasir. We reached Tanah Pasir at about 10:30 a.m., and brought three patients to the hospital [Puskesmas] in Lapang, had them treated, and brought them home. Then we left for Jambu Air around 12:30 p.m. to visit some other patients.
We had only gone about 500 meters from where we had dropped off the first patients in Matang Baru, Lapang, when a TAFT [brand] car with a black top pulled up from behind us, cut in front of us and forced us to stop. Two other cars pulled up from behind us, one green KIJANG [Toyota minivan] and another darker car, and also stopped.
The TAFT car had four people in it. One of them was a man well known as a government informant, a cuak. His name is Ampon Thayeb, and he goes by the name "Teungku Pon" among his followers. Ampon is from Lhokseumawe, and is in his mid-forties. The three others in the TAFT car were all young Acehnese, in their early thirties, and are also known as cuaks [government informants]. One of them I know as Madya, he has a distinctive red moustache.
The two vehicles who followed had about five men per car, and appeared to be TNI [Indonesian armed forces], but they were not wearing uniform. The driver of the green KIJANG was their commander, and the others called him "Dan" [short for "Komandan" or Commander]. These men were clearly not BRIMOB [mobile police brigade], because the BRIMOB troops being sent to Aceh these days are very young. These ones were in their thirties, they appeared big and strong. The men in all three vehicles were armed. Ampon carried a machine gun, I think it was an M-16, and had an FN pistol on his waist. Another one had a machine gun with a grenade launcher attached. The commander, Dan, had a pistol and an automatic rifle, most of the others also carried rifles.
Ampon ordered us to get out of the car, as the three other cuaks pointed their guns at us. He asked to see our IDs, and took our wallets. The men in our group also were ordered to hand over our watches, and Ernita was ordered to take off her necklace and bracelets. We did what they told us.
The cuaks kept their guns pointed at us, and started questioning us as follows:
Where are you coming from?
We just came from treating patients.
Where are your patients?
We took them home.
Who are you, that you can give people medical treatment?
We are from an institute called RATA that treats victims of violence.
What is RATA?
The men seemed to get angrier and angrier. They accused us RATA workers of giving information about abuses to the observers of the humanitarian pause [Note: There is a small monitoring presence in Aceh as a result of a "humanitarian pause" agreement between the Indonesian government and the GAM rebel movement.] We explained that we were not political, but humanitarian workers. Ampon said we were lying, because the area was known as a GAM [rebel] base, and no one would be brave enough to go there, implying that we had to be GAM [supporters].
We responded that we had an official letter [surat tugas] which allowed us to work freely in Aceh. The men wanted to see it, so I took it out of my wallet and gave it to them. [Passage of testimony withheld to protect confidentiality.]
Ampon then asked, "Who is paying you?" We replied that RATA got funds from the Danish government. One of Ampon's men said that was impossible that Denmark would provide us funds, that the [RATA] workers were getting 200 million a month from PT Arun [the local Mobil oil project]. Then they started accusing us of being GAM. Ampon said, "Anyone who works for an NGO must be GAM." ["Yang Kerja di LSM-LSM, GAM semua"]. Then he accused us of stirring up the people [mengadu masyarakat].
After this, we were put in their cars. Bachtiar and I were put in Ampon's car, in the front. Ernita was taken to the dark car, and ordered to sit next to the driver. Idris was in the last car, the green KIJANG, with the commander.
As the convoy proceeded, they continued asking us questions, as follows:
So you work in the health field?
Yes, we treat victims of DOM [military operations zone].
So how do you know who in this village is a victim of DOM?
We know because we have contacts with local clinics [Puskesmas] and
government health offices [Dinas Kesehatan]
But you don't treat other kinds of victims, that's not fair.
If we know of other victims of violence, we treat them all.
Then the cuak ordered us to take off our shoes, and told us to get out of the car. It was about 1 p.m. and we were still in Lapang village. They started threatening us, and began to beat us. When we fell down from the beating, the cuak would order us to get up again, and fire their rifles near our feet, not hitting us but getting close. I was hit hard on the side of my head, near the right temple, with a rifle butt. Bachtiar and I were dripping blood. Those doing the beatings were not only the four cuaks, some of the others also gathered around and took turns beating us. One of the other armed men, the ones whom I think were TNI, was filming the entire beating and the abuse with a large shoulder-supported camera.
Idris was beaten by the men in his car, and then brought to where I and Bachtiar were standing. As we were standing there, one of the [suspected] TNI took our RATA car and removed the RATA insignia and covered up the license plate. He then went up the road for about fifteen minutes and came back, in order to check if anyone was coming.
[Passage of testimony withheld to protect confidentiality.]
We first stopped at a KORAMIL [subdistrict military command] post for about fifteen minutes. I'm not sure which KORAMIL post it was. Soldiers from the KORAMIL surrounded the car and peered in, but none of us got out. [Note: According to a second source, the KORAMIL post is likely to be one of three in the area: Simpang Muling, Matang Kuli, or Blang Jreunere.]
We then started driving down along Jalan Pipa [pipeline road], before stopping again at the TNI post at A13. Some of the [suspected] TNI got out from the cars--the cuaks stayed in the car--and the [suspected] TNI briefly spoke with the other soldiers at the post. Then the cars turned around and left. We went along Jalan Pipa, then along a small road by a rice paddy. Then we passed another military post. [At one point,] the man referred to as "Dan" came over to Ampon's car. Ampon asked him where he should get rid of us, saying "Should we finish them off here?" Dan told him, "No, not here."
At that point, one of the cuaks was going through our wallets, and found our ATM cards. He demanded to know our secret PIN numbers, and asked how many billions we had stashed away.
Our convoy then approached the village of Cot Mat Tahe. It was now about 2:30 p.m. A bombing had taken place there earlier in the morning, and many people were still milling around out of curiosity. The [suspected] TNI members got out of the cars and aimed their guns at the people, ordering them into a kind of village hall. Others started running, and a man named Rusli was caught and beaten by the [suspected] TNI. They first shot around his feet, just as they had done with us earlier. Then Ampon took a big stone and slammed it down on Rusli's head, giving Rusli a two-inch gash. Others started kicking Rusli also. Finally, Rusli was brought into the car with Bachtiar and I.
The convoy took off, first going north, then south, and then north again to the village of Keude Karing. Then we turned towards Lhokseumawe. We went into the village of Kandang, just on the outskirts of the city along the railroad line, then turned into the forest around Blang Raya. The convoy stopped in front of the Kandang high school, SMA Kandang. Everyone got out.
At this point, Idris and Ernita were put in the same car with Bachtiar and I, and we were now the last car in the convoy. Ampon came to us and said, "Now you are going to confess and say what's what if you want to live. We will give you fifteen minutes." One of us said, "What can we confess, we are just volunteers?" "Then it's clear you want to die," Ampon replied.
Thayeb got a rope and gave it to the cuak with the red moustache. The cuak tied the hands of all five of us: myself, Bachtiar, Ernita, Idris, and Rusli. [Passage of testimony withheld to protect confidentiality.] Ampon got into the car and another one from his gang got into the back. Ampon told the one in the back to put his gun in Ernita's mouth, which he did. One of them tried to say something to us but Ampon said, "Don't talk to them, they're all pigs."
Ernita was saying, "Don't Pak [Sir], don't kill me." Two of the cars then drove off, Ampon's car and our RATA car. The other three stayed at the SMA school. The two cars drove about 400 meters in the forest along the railroad line. Near a ruined house, all of us started to get out, but Ampon said, "No, two of them first." Idris and Ernita then got out of the car. They were brought to the house by the one with the red moustache and one of the [suspected] TNI who had their guns against the heads of Idris and Ernita. A [suspected] TNI man was filming the whole time. Ampon said, "Don't shoot them standing up, make them lie down. It's enough to use one bullet per person. Ernita and Idris were then kicked to the ground, and immediately shot in the head.
I was in the meantime trying to get my hands untied. I managed to do so, but kept the rope in place so it looked like I was still tied up. I then went to work on freeing Bachtiar's hands but only managed to get a few knots untied when the cuak came back and the three of us, myself, Bachtiar, and Rusli, were ordered out of the car. Rusli said to me, "What will happen to my wife and children?" We were marched for about a meter, and when we got closer to the house I just ran. I later heard two shots as I took off, and believe that Bachtiar and Rusli were killed then. The men opened fire on me as I was running and emptied a full magazine trying to hit me.
I ran for about fifteen minutes without stopping through tall grass. When the sun set, I was still in the forest. I went up a small hill and saw a house with a light in the distance. I went to the house and called out, but the family inside was scared. I was dressed only in my underwear. Eventually, they took me in and gave me food. I asked to be taken to the next village and they helped me, and finally I managed to make it home.