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Govt Urged to Condemn Indonesia

3 June, 2004

Government urged to condemn draconian crack-down on human rights monitors in Indonesia.

The Indonesia Human Rights Group is appealing to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Phil Goff urging him to condemn the Indonesian Government move to seek to expel Sidney Jones, the Jakarta based Director of the respected International Crisis Group.

The move to deny Ms Jones a visa to continue her work, is coupled with an announcement from retired General Hendropriyono, chief of BIN, the State Intelligence Agency, that other individuals and organisations are also to be put on a watch list. Australian academic Max Lane who is regularly sought for his comment by the Jakarta media is singled out.

"There are two very frightening consequences of this move, " said Maire Leadbeater speaking for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee. "The first is that the most vulnerable people in Indonesia - those living in areas of ongoing war and conflict such as Aceh, West Papua and Maluku will be living under even greater danger. Take the case of Aceh, the world is already almost blind to the suffering there, because the Indonesian authorities have imposed such severe restrictions on all media and humanitarian work."

"In West Papua the people are reliant on the local human rights monitoring group ELSHAM which is being targeted now, as it has been repeatedly in the past. What protection will the people have from ongoing human rights abuses if ELSHAM can no longer function freely?"

"The other consequence is to the overall health of Indonesia's democracy. Since the fall of Suharto, human rights groups, other civil society organisations, and critical individuals have been a most important element in upholding democratic rights. Now, just at the time of a Presidential election they risk being stifled. No wonder it is being said that these moves recall the bad old days of the Suharto dictatorship when no-one was safe to speak out."

The New Zealand Government should speak up and defend the rights of the Sidney Jones, the International Crisis Group and all other human rights groups in Indonesia.

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

3 June, 2004

Dear Phil Goff,

We are very concerned about the recent moves taken by the Indonesian Government to effect the expulsion of the Director of the International Crisis Group (ICG), Sidney Jones. We urge you to condemn this move, and to make it clear to the Indonesian Government that New Zealand opposes this draconian and unjustified action.

I know that you are familiar with the work of this organisation which has provided an important human rights monitoring service in Indonesia. The ICG has a reputation of being authoritative and thorough in its research work.

As Sidney Jones herself has commented, the move appears to be motivated by the fact that exposing human rights abuses, or breaches of legal process is damaging to certain vested interests.

Human Rights Watch, Deputy Director, Sam Zafiri has condemned the move to deport Ms Jones and the announcement that twenty other international and local nongovernmental organisations are to be placed on watch list as threats to the country's security. "Targeting independent monitors is not about protecting national security, it's about protecting officials whose records are embarrassing when exposed by insightful experts."

There is a real fear that these draconian tactics signal a return to the days of the Suharto dictatorship, when no one felt safe to speak out when they were witness to terrible abuses.

We are particularly concerned about the implications of this move for the people of Aceh and West Papua. If the ICG can no longer report on the situation in those war torn areas, the people will be at even greater risk of arbitrary killings. If the eyes of the world are blind, then there will also be reduced international pressure for the resumption of peace negotiations in both places.

One of the organisations which is being targeted is the respected West Papua based ELSHAM which has already been subject to ongoing threats. The people of West Papua are very reliant on the courageous work of the ELSHAM monitors to provide them with some protections against military abuses.

Academic, Max Lane, is an Australian with a deep and long-standing involvement with Indonesia. He has translated into English the novels of Indonesia's leading prose writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, and is a frequent commentator in the Indonesian media. We understand that he is also on the watch list.

Since the fall of Suharto, human rights and other civil society groups have played a highly valubable role in presenting a different perspective to that of the government and the military. It is a serious threat to Indonesia's fledgling democracy that these groups may be stifled in the run up to the Presidential elections.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater (for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)

ENDS

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