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Government Called To Take Action Over Aceh

17 June, 2003

Media Information: Government called to take action over Aceh

A public meeting called to discuss the situation in Aceh, expressed concern at the New Zealand's government's near -invisible response to the ongoing military assault. The group resolved to write to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to appeal for the New Zealand Government take urgent action to demand that Indonesia cease its attack on the people of Aceh.

New Zealand has an obligation to everything it can to galvanise action from other countries - a repeat of the inaction that marked government policy over East Timor for so long would be intolerable.

The group also noted that Major General Adam Damiri, former regional commander responsible for East Timor is has been treated with extreme lenience by the Jakarta human rights court for East Timor. Now he is one of those executing the assault on Aceh. The New Zealand Government should call for an international tribunal for the war criminals responsible for the tragedy in East Timor.

Letter attached: for further information : Maire Leadbeater 09-815-9000

Hon Phil Goff, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

16 June, 2003

Dear Phil Goff,

We are deeeply concerned about the worsening situation of the people of Aceh who have been living under martial law since May 19, 2003.

The latest military offensive in Aceh is Indonesia's largest military operation since the invasion of East Timor in 1975. There has already been widespread civilian loss of life and the destruction of vital infrastructure. Human rights groups are especially concerned about the safety of human rights defenders and civil society activists. Numerous reports of extra-judicial killings and torture are emerging from Aceh, including of students and boys as young as 12.

Several NGOs have been forced underground because of dire warnings from the Martial Law Authority. Their activists have been threatened with arrest and as a result many have gone into hiding. Acehnese communities are being targeted in Jakarta and other cities outside Aceh. In an attempt to isolate Aceh and suppress the truth about the war, the Government has banned foreign aid workers and international NGOs from entering Aceh, and ordered out those already there. It has imposed severe restrictions on press freedom.

At least 23,000 people have been internally displaced and villagers are afraid to tend their land. The military says it plans to forcibly relocate up to 200,000 civilians. The UN has expressed concern about a looming humanitarian crisis as food supplies run dangerously low.

The military has set up a Guantanamo Bay style prison camp on the island of Nasi just north of the provincial capital Banda Aceh, where they anticipate holding up to 1,000 detainees. Nasi was recently subject to a massive attack by the Navy, Army and Air Force.

Major General Adam Damiri, the last of 18 suspects on trial in Jakarta for crimes in East Timor is almost certain to be acquitted when the court reconvenes to hear his statement on July 1. The prosecutor has already declared that he is not guilty of crimes against humanity. However, there is strong evidence linking Damiri, who was the regional military commander responsible for East Timor, to the training, funding ard arming of the militias. He is also alleged to have had a direct role in several massacres. Major General Damiri is on active service, part of the command for the war on the people of Aceh.

We therefore call on the New Zealand Government to take strong action to demand that Indonesia cease attacking the people of Aceh and instead resume peace negotiations with both the armed Free Aceh Movement and representatives of civil society.

We also call on you to take immediate steps to condemn the phony human rights trials in Jakarta and to call for an international human rights tribunal for the war criminals responsible for the tragedy in East Timor.

Yours sincerely,


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