Indonesia: Military Repression Against the Batak Church

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In late November 1992, a long-simmering conflict broke out in the open over the leadership of the Batak Protestant Christian Congregation (Huria Kristen Batak Protestan or HKBP) in north Sumatra. The head of the congregation is known as ephorus, roughly equivalent to "archbishop." In December, the North Sumatra branch of Indonesia's internal security agency, BAKORSTANASDA, intervened on one side of the conflict and issued a decree appointing its own choice for ephorus, a man who was a convicted embezzler. In the uproar and protests that followed, dozens of church members were arbitrarily detained, houses were searched without warrants, and press coverage of the situation was banned. As of January 18, 1993, some sixty people were believed to be in detention. Asia Watch called on the Indonesian government to release all those arbitrarily detained, to lift restrictions on freedom of expression and to allow members of HKBP full freedom of association to choose their leadership without government interference.

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