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Indonesia: Escape of Suspected NGO Killers

Indonesia: Escape of Suspected NGO Killers

New York, March 28, 20001


Human Rights Watch expressed outrage over reports yesterday that
four suspects in the killings of NGO workers in Aceh had escaped
from detention in Medan, North Sumatra. The international
monitoring group called for an immediate investigation by the
Indonesian National Human Rights Commission into the circumstances
surrounding the reported escape and asked the government to provide
tangible evidence that the remaining four suspects, all members
of the Indonesian army, are still in custody.

"This was a test case for the capacity of the government to prosecute
human rights violators. If the security forces can't even hold
high-profile thugs like these, what hope is there for justice in
Indonesia?" said Sidney Jones, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. "If
the reports are true, this escape means that no civilian between
Medan and Lhokseumawe is safe. The men who ran were
guns for hire, and now they're guns for hire with a grudge." The Medan
newspaper Waspada reported yesterday that the four had escaped five days
ago.

The December 2000 murders for which the men were detained became one of
the highest profile cases in recent years because of the involvement of
the army, the survival of a key eyewitness, and the nature of the work
the victims were doing. All were young volunteer
fieldworkers for the North Aceh branch of a nongovernmental
organization called Rehabilitation Action for Torture Victims in Aceh or
RATA.

On December 6, 2000, while in a clearly-marked RATA vehicle, they were
stopped on the road by a group of armed men, including both civilians
and soldiers. After stopping at several army posts, their captors took
them to an abandoned house outside the town of Lhokseumawe in Aceh and
executed them. One RATA worker managed to escape and provided
information to police that led later in December to the arrest of eight
men. Four were civilian informers for the military, known as cuak: Ampon
Thaib Geudong, 48, known as Teunku Pon; Abdullah bin Yusuf, known as
Guru, 37; Maimun, known as Buyung, 44, and Madiah, 44. These are the
four who escaped from the North Sumatra provincial command of the Mobile
Police Brigade (Brimob) in Medan last Thursday.

The army detainees, reportedly in custody in the Bukit Barisan regional
military command in Medan, are Maj. Jerry Patras, head of
intelligence for military resort (Korem) 011 in Lhokseumawe and three of
his subordinates, Sgt. Slamet Jawa, Sgt. Ermanto, and Lt. Harry Ruman.

"Someone should verify whether these men are still in custody or whether
they, too, have vanished," said Jones. She noted that in another
high-profile murder in 1999 in Aceh where the army had opened fire at a
religious school killing more than fifty people, the commander in charge
disappeared and was never prosecuted for the killings. Twenty-four
others were convicted.

"The men who escaped were the Acehnese equivalent of militia leaders in
East Timor," said Jones. "They were army-backed goons, and we find it
odd that they escaped just as the army and police are embarking on a new
military offensive in Aceh."

Coincidentally, Human Rights Watch last Friday sent a letter to Attorney
General Marzuki Darusman asking for a clarification of the detainees'
legal status. The Indonesian National Human Rights Commission had
planned to use the RATA killings as a test case before a new human
rights court established in Medan on March 12. The Banda Aceh police,
who had arrested and investigated the eight suspects, turned the case
over to the High Court in Aceh in late February for prosecution in a
koneksitas court, a hybrid court involving both civilian and military
judges. In the latter court, the eight would be tried for pre-meditated
murder.

In a human rights court, they could be prosecuted for the much more
serious charge of crimes against humanity if it could be shown the
killings were part of a broader pattern of state-sponsored abuse. The
Attorney General claimed that if he took the case away from the police
and turned it over to National Human Rights Commission for prosecution
in the new court, he would have to release the men pending their
re-investigation on the new charges. The dispute over jurisdiction was
unresolved at the time of the escape.

For more information on Indonesia, please see:

Indonesia: Sole Survivor of Attack on Humanitarian Aid Workers Speaks
(HRW Press Release, December 13, 2000) at
http://www.hrw.org/press/2000/12/acehtest.htm

Indonesia: Transition and Regional Conflict (HRW Campaign Page) at
http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/indonesia/index.htm

ENDS


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