Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


Human Rights Developments

While international attention was focused on East Timor in the aftermath of the November 12, 1991 massacre in Dili, severe human rights abuses continued to take place throughout Indonesia. Hundreds remained in prison for the peaceful expression of their political or religious views. Trials of those accused of subversion or the political charge of "spreading hatred" were inherently unfair, with the verdicts determined from the outset and testimony presented in court that had been extracted under duress during interrogation. Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners continued, and allegations of political killings were not properly investigated.

Despite investigations by both a presidentially appointed National Commission of Inquiry and a Council of Military Honor, and the indictments and trials of nine soldiers and one policeman, little additional information emerged in 1992 about the Santa Cruz massacre in Dili, East Timor on November 12, 1991, in which Indonesian troops opened fire on unarmed demonstrators, killing at least 75. The government, which initially acknowledged some 90 as "missing," later lowered the figure to 66. Independent estimates were higher. Neither the Commission nor the Council shed any light on who started the shooting, who ordered military trucks to pick up bodies from the scene, who drove the trucks or where the bodies were taken. A year after the massacre, the bodies of those killed had not been returned to their families.

Despite calls for an impartial, international investigation of the massacre, none took place. Amos Wako, then Special Rapporteur on Summary and Arbitrary Executions for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, went to Jakarta and Dili in early February 1992 as a special envoy of U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. His report was never made public.

Much-publicized courts-martial of ten soldiers involved inthe massacre, accused of either disciplinary infractions or, in one case, assault, took place in Bali in May and June. To Asia Watch's knowledge, the courts-martial were the first ever of military personnel accused of criminal offenses in a political case. In that respect, the trials set an important precedent. But the defendants were curiously chosen, the prosecution was weak and the sentences were ludicrous. Not one of the ten was on the scene when the shooting started, so questions about the cause of the massacre remained unanswered. With one exception, no civilian witnesses were called. The highest sentence handed down, to one officer who admitted firing into the crowd, was 18 months in prison. In addition, two senior officers had been dismissed very publicly in December 1991, but disciplinary actions against other senior officers and transfers of key military intelligence personnel took place in 1992 out of the public eye.

Trials also took place in Dili and Jakarta of East Timorese accused of planning or participating in the November 12 demonstration and the march in Jakarta to protest the killings on November 19, 1991. In March 1992, the district court in Dili initially tried to prevent the defense team of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation and the Indonesian Bar Association from taking on the cases, and some of the defendants' families were harassed for not accepting a court-appointed lawyer. Although not a single Dili defendant was accused of using violence, the sentences were harsh. One young man, Gregorio da Cunha Saldanha, the alleged mastermind of the November 12 demonstration, was sentenced in May to life in prison.

In Jakarta, five students who organized the peaceful protest march on November 19 were sentenced on charges ranging from "spreading hatred" to subversion. Fernando de Araujo and Joao Freitas Camara, the two convicted of subversion, received sentences of nine and ten years in prison.

Throughout 1992, widespread preventive arrests were reported in East Timor whenever the authorities feared a demonstration or other manifestation of discontent with Indonesia rule. These arrests took place in March, prior to the sailing from Darwin, Australia of a "peace ship," the Lusitania Expresso, with hundreds of activists from around the world on board (it was turned back by the Indonesian navy before it reached East Timor); in August, before the Non-Aligned Summit meeting in Jakarta; in October, before an Australian parliamentary delegation was scheduled to visit Dili (the Indonesian government later cancelled the visit); and in November, prior to the first anniversary of the massacre, when hundreds were briefly detained for interrogation, ostensibly because their identification cards were not in order.

One young East Timorese was apparently summarily executed in October after a clash between Indonesian troops and some East Timorese youths in Baucau. One young East Timorese, Dominggus Aikarak, was wounded in the incident and made his way to the hospital in Baucau for treatment on the night of October 5. That night, soldiers removed him from the hospital, over the objections of doctors. His body was returned to his village for burial the next day, and the Indonesian government announced thatDominggus was a rebel who had died of gunshot wounds after a shoot-out.

On October 19, Dadang Trisasongko, a staff lawyer for the Surabaya branch of the Legal Aid Foundation, was arrested and detained for four days. His arrest was linked to his work on behalf of the people of Singosari, Gresik, a town near Surabaya, Indonesia'a second-largest city. In 1991, the National Electricity Company (pln) decided to erect a power grid of high-voltage wires over the homes of Singosari villagers. pln tried to convince the villagers that there would be no health or safety problems from the grid, but experts say the grid would have created such a strong electric field that voltage would be induced in metallic objects, giving rise to significant shock hazards.

On October 20, in discussing why Dadang was arrested, the military commander of East Java, Major General Hartono, said Dadang had deliberately compiled press clippings about the Singosari case; he had paid for several families from Singosari to travel to Bekasi, West Java to look at the effects of a similar project; and he had suggested names of people and organizations that the Singosari villagers should contact. He also had shown the villagers a videotape of a protest against another pln project. Although Dadang was released from police custody after four days, charges against him of "spreading hatred" were still pending at the end of November.

East Timor was for all practical purposes closed to the outside world in 1992. A ban on foreign journalists and Indonesian journalists working for foreign news agencies was announced on February 26 and remained in effect for the rest of the year. It was lifted twice, once for a BBC journalist to cover the June parliamentary elections and once for a Reuters correspondent to cover the November 12 anniversary.

Aceh and Irian Jaya remained human rights trouble spots. In three subdistricts of the special region of Aceh where support of the Aceh Merdeka separatist movement was strongest, a heavy military presence remained under the guise of army assistance to village development. In the subdistricts of Kembang Tanjung, Mutiara and Tiro in Pidie district, a squad of between 15 and 30 men drawn from the mobile police brigade, the army special forces and the local district military command was placed in every four or five villages. A curfew was in effect in those subdistricts at least through March.

The army continued its policy of shooting suspected rebels rather than taking them into custody. The resulting deaths were usually explained as occurring when the suspects refused to heed calls to surrender, as in the case of Sofian, an alleged Aceh Merdeka member shot and killed in Padang Tiji, Pidie, on January 21, and Jamal Buraq, killed in his hiding place in the village of Beu'ah, subdistrict Delima, Pidie, on February 13. The army also continued to stage mass releases of "rebels"-Acehnese who had been arbitrarily detained during the counterinsurgency campaign. On January 11, 112 people were freed in Lhokseumawe after between six months and one year of incommunicado detention in military custody. They were given a loyalty oath and made to swear to helpthe army in its efforts to crush the "security disturbers."

Trials of suspected separatists continued throughout 1992 in Aceh, disappearances that occurred there at the height of the military campaign in 1990-1991 remained unresolved, and information about the area remained restricted. The International Committee of the Red Cross was able to visit the region for the third time in early September. Its representatives visited over 100 prisoners in 13 detention centers. On March 21, a report by the Legal Aid Foundation on trials in Aceh was formally banned by the Attorney General.

Human rights offenses also took place in the province of Irian Jaya, where the armed nationalist Free Papua Movement (opm) and other independence organizations operate. On May 30, troops from the regional military command (kodam Trikora) stormed the hideout of opm leader Martinus Prawar and killed him. Of the eight people present in the camp, only Prawar was shot, while the rest escaped, leading to allegations that Indonesian troops deliberately chose to kill rather than capture Prawar. Calls for an investigation were ignored. Indonesian authorities also rewarded a villager living near the southeastern town of Merauke for killing a suspected opm member, raising fears that the availability of bounties would lead to more murders.

In Lampung, Sumatra, three men remained in prison until October after having been detained more than two years without charge or trial in connection with a clash in 1989 in Talang Sari, Lampung, between Indonesian troops and Muslim radicals. Hasan Tito was arrested in June 1990, and Jayus bin Karmo and Suryadi in May of that year, by the regional army command. Tito and Suryadi said they were tortured. No arrest warrants were ever issued, none of the three had access to lawyers, and Tito's wife was only able to visit him 18 months after his arrest. In August 1992, the Legal Aid Foundation began to issue press releases about the case. In October, Tito and Suryadi were finally released. Jayus went on trial the same month; the trial was still in progress at the end of November.

One indication of the Indonesian government's determination to restrict freedom of expression and association was an announcement on April 24 by the Ministry of Interior banning Dutch government aid to nongovernmental organizations (ngos). The announcement followed Indonesia's rejection in March of any further Dutch development assistance because of the Netherlands's criticism of Indonesia's human rights record, particularly in East Timor. Since the major donors to the most outspoken Indonesian ngos, including the Legal Aid Foundation, are Dutch "co-financing agencies," which themselves receive government funds, the announcement was clearly a threat to silence ngo criticism by cutting off their financial support. That threat was reinforced by warnings that the government planned to introduce amendments to the Social Organization Law of 1985 that would lead to closer governmental scrutiny of ngos. The amendments had not been introduced by the end of 1992.

Numerous arrests took place in 1992 in violation of the right to freedom of expression. In May, two popular student emcees from Central Java were arrested after punning on wellknown phrases of the Quran during a student rock concert. On October 13, Ambar "Moko" Widiatmoko, a literature major, and Bambang Wahyu Nurbito were each sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison by the Yogyakarta District Court for insulting a religion.

Curbs on freedom of expression were also evident in arrests that took place on the island of Yamdena, Tanimbar, in September, following local protests against logging of valuable hardwoods by a company owned by Liem Sioe Liong, a Chinese financier close to President Suharto. Thirty-nine people were arrested and remained in detention without charge in a prison in Tual, the capital of the district of Southeastern Moluccas, which includes the Tanimbar archipelago. All were reported to have been badly beaten after their arrest.

Others were arrested in violation of their right to freedom of association. On March 6, three members of a Sumatran ngo coalition-Osmar Tanjung, Taufan Demanik and Sri Muharani-were arrested for organizing an "illegal meeting" in Medan two days earlier to discuss an anti-pollution project. They were interrogated at the local military headquarters for four days about the nature and funding of the ngo coalition and then released.

On October 27, anti-riot police and army troops from Yogyakarta arrested 12 participants, all but one of them students, meeting in what they called an Open Forum to discuss how to disband the official government youth organization, the National Indonesian Youth Committee. They were released the next day.

A pattern of harassment and intimidation, sometimes involving physical abuse, was evident against those who supported political parties other than the ruling golkar in the June parliamentary elections, which golkar won.

Asia Watch continued to be concerned by violations of labor rights in Indonesia. Efforts to form alternatives to the one officially recognized trade union, spsi, met with intimidation. On October 28, nine members of an independent union formed in April 1992 called Prosperous Indonesia Labor Union were arrested and held overnight in the West Javanese town of Tangerang on charges of holding an "illegal meeting." The meeting was called to discuss how legally to register the new union. The U.S. embassy's labor attache, Greg Talcott, was attending the meeting and was "invited for questioning" by the arresting officers. He was allowed to leave after an hour. Military intervention in strikes and military supervision of worker efforts to negotiate wage increases with management was common.

Despite its human rights record, Indonesia acknowledged the legitimacy of human rights concerns by setting up a new committee on human rights in the national parliament.

The Right to Monitor

Human rights organizations were under constant pressure from the government in 1992. As noted, the financial survival of the largest human rights organizations was in question at year's end. In addition, individual monitors faced intimidation or arrest.

Indonesia continued to deny access to international human rights monitors. Asia Watch executive director Sidney Jones was told in February, on leaving Indonesia, that she had been formally blacklisted since 1991 and would not be permitted to re-enter. (She joined 17,000 others on the Department of Immigration's blacklist of foreigners who are not allowed into Indonesia and domestic critics who are not allowed out.) The ban appears to have been the result of Asia Watch reports about human rights abuses in Aceh. After the February visit, Asia Watch learned that human rights lawyers visited by Jones had been interrogated by military intelligence; it issued a protest and took steps to ensure that the lawyers would be protected by the diplomatic community.

U.S. Policy

Indonesia was the focus of much congressional criticism for human rights abuses in East Timor, to the point that in October, Congress took the unprecedented step of cutting off U.S. military assistance to Indonesia through the International Military Education and Training (imet) program. U.S. embassy officials, while opposed to the imet cutoff, were generally willing to raise human rights concerns with the Indonesian government. In Washington, however, the Bush administration seemed reluctant to take any step that would offend a major friend in the region and possibly jeopardize U.S. business interests. Its priorities were underscored at the Senate confirmation hearing on June 24 for new U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Barry, who said, "Trade and investment will be the central goal of the embassy." At the same time, he said that human rights would be "one of our priorities."

Indonesia was increasingly important as a trading partner, with the yearly two-way trade with the U.S. valued at over $5 billion. The value of exports to the U.S. for which Indonesia received benefits under the General System of Preferences (gsp) program was over $351 million in 1991. Indonesia was less important as an aid recipient, with only $45.6 million requested by the administration for disbursement in fiscal year 1993 by the U.S. Agency for International Development (usaid). Security assistance totalled $5 million in economic support funds (esf) and $2.3 million for imet, which was used to train some 130 Indonesian officers each year. No esf was requested for fiscal year 1993. Foreign military sales totaled $15 million in fiscal year 1992 and were estimated at the same level for fiscal year 1993. Commercial military sales were valued at an estimated $115.8 in fiscal year 1992, with $69 million in sales projected for fiscal year 1993. Japan remained Indonesia's most important donor, creditor and trading partner.

In Washington, Congress took the lead in raising human rights issues. On February 27, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on East Timor. Kenneth Quinn, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, defended the administration's policy of working cooperatively with Indonesia and opposed a cutoff of imet. On March 21, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Richard Solomon testified before the Committee. In response to aquestion about Indonesia's decision to ban Asia Watch director Sidney Jones, Solomon said that the State Department had urged reconsideration of the ban. He added, "The U.S. government believes that policies which encourage openness and freedom of movement best serve the interests of truth and will best help ameliorate the situation in East Timor."

Several members of Congress met Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas when he visited Washington in March to raise concerns about East Timor. The following month, Senators Claiborne Pell and David Boren, heads respectively of the Foreign Relations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, visited Indonesia in April but were denied permission to visit East Timor. On April 23, they met with President Suharto and told him that the situation in East Timor was having a negative impact on U.S.-Indonesia relations. On June 11, a bipartisan group of senators wrote to Secretary of State James Baker expressing concern about the cutoff of Dutch aid to Indonesian ngos and urging the U.S. to make a "strong, public statement" at a World Bank-chaired meeting scheduled for July of donor countries providing aid to Indonesia. The statement, the letter noted, should reflect America's "continued distress at Indonesia's human rights record."

The U.S. delegation to the July meeting, which included representatives of usaid and the Treasury Department, did in fact raise concerns about human rights in East Timor in a public statement, the only donor attending to do so explicitly. (Canada did not attend the meeting at all as a protest against the November 12 massacre; it was the only country that at the end of 1992 had not resumed its full development assistance program to Indonesia.)

After a bitter battle in Congress and over the objections of the State Department, the imet program was cut from the foreign aid bill in October. State Department spokespersons had claimed that the program fostered human rights and humanitarian values. In September, a study by the General Accounting Office (GAO) entitled "Security Assistance: Observations on Post-Cold War Program Changes" was published. The study found that for the most part, the imet program worldwide did not provide specific human rights training and that about half the imet students questioned by GAO did not recall receiving any human rights education while in the U.S. American officials interviewed in Indonesia for the study said that the impact of imet on human rights conditions in specific countries need not be evaluated, because "providing human rights education is not a stated objective of the imet program."

The U.S. embassy in Jakarta was helpful on human rights issues. Officials raised concerns about the interrogation of human rights lawyers in Medan and Surabaya; they attended the trials of both civilians and military personnel arrested in connection with the East Timor massacre; and they complained about the Indonesian government's unwillingness to grant access to human rights organizations. Indonesian ngos generally considered the U.S. embassy, its consulates in Medan and Surabaya, and its consular affairs office in Bali to besupportive of their concerns.

The Work of Asia Watch

Indonesia remained a priority for Asia Watch in 1992. In late January, Asia Watch sent a mission to Indonesia and East Timor; delegates were under surveillance throughout the trip. Six newsletters on human rights concerns in Indonesia and East Timor were published during the year as well as several press releases. Asia Watch regularly translated press releases from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation on the trials of East Timorese and distributed the translations in the U.S. Asia Watch also acted as the U.S. distributor for the English-language journal published by the Foundation, Human Rights Forum.

The Asia Watch staff testified at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on East Timor in February; met with Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas during his visit to Washington in March; and testified at a public hearing on East Timor held by the European Parliament in Brussels in April.

The Asia Watch staff kept in regular contact with the Indonesian embassy in Washington, as well as with other embassies concerned about the human rights situation in Indonesia and East Timor. Indonesia was a major subject of discussion with Japanese Foreign Ministry officials during an Asia Watch mission to Japan in March. Throughout the month of June, Asia Watch coordinated efforts to urge the U.S. delegation to the July meeting of donor countries to raise human rights concerns, including by organizing meetings at the World Bank and the Treasury Department and writing to the usaid representative leading the delegation.

In June, Asia Watch submitted a petition to U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills alleging labor rights violations in Indonesia in accordance with a procedure whereby the U.S. is obliged to cut off gsp benefits if such violations are established. Trade Representative Hills agreed to review the petition, and a hearing was held in Washington on October 16 at which Asia Watch testified. A decision is not expected until 1993.

Asia Watch took an active role in the debate over the imet cutoff, urging that the cut be made as a gesture of concern to the Indonesian military. Staff met with representatives of American corporations that were concerned the cutoff might lead the Indonesian government to take retaliatory actions against U.S. businesses.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page