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Indonesia: Human rights sacrificed (Aceh)

Indonesia: Human rights sacrificed to security in NAD (Aceh)

People in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) now live in constant fear of killings, torture and arrest. One year on since the Indonesian government imposed martial law, violence has become so commonplace it is almost impossible for people to live a normal life. Amnesty International is calling on the Indonesian government to stop sacrificing human rights for the sake of security.

"Nearly all aspects of the lives of ordinary citizens are adversely affected by the military emergency," said Amnesty International. "People are terrorized by the numerous killings and the ever present threat of arrest, torture and ill-treatment. At the same time economic and social life has been severely disrupted by the intense military operations," the organization added.

Amnesty International has new testimonies from individuals who have been tortured by both the military and the police in recent months. Methods include beatings, burning with cigarettes, having plastic bags placed over their heads, and electric shocks. It has also received credible accounts of rape and other forms of sexual violence against women.

In one case, a 12-year-old girl from North Aceh is alleged to have been raped by members of the Indonesian military in August 2003. In another case, three women from East Aceh, one of whom was pregnant, are reported to have been forced to strip and been molested by soldiers. To Amnesty International's knowledge neither of these cases has been investigated.

There has been a dramatic escalation in human rights violations by the security forces under the military emergency in NAD. According to the Indonesian authorities around 2,000 people have been killed by the security forces during the last year. There is increasingly strong evidence that many of those killed were civilians, and that members of the pro-independence group Free Aceh Movement (GAM) have also been unlawfully killed.

Arrests have also been carried out on a massive scale. The security forces claim to have arrested 2,100 people. Hundreds have been brought to trial accused of membership or association with GAM. However, there is strong evidence that many have been sentenced primarily on the basis of confessions extracted under torture.

"These trials are completely politically driven," said Amnesty International. "They show that ongoing efforts to reform the judiciary, including strengthening its independence, have had little impact on the courts in the highly charged situation that exists in NAD."

Last week the Indonesian army admitted that violations had taken place and claimed that 429 cases have been brought to military courts, some involving human rights violations. The harshest sentence to date is apparently three-and-a-half years for rape. Amnesty International welcomes this acknowledgement of problems in NAD, but does not consider the military sufficiently impartial to hear cases of human rights violations by its own members. It also believes these cases make up only a small proportion of the total number of abuses.

Amnesty International calls on the Indonesian government to publicly condemn human rights violations in NAD and to take immediate action to stop them, including by establishing effective, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of violations.

The organization also emphasised the need to grant immediate access to human rights monitors, humanitarian organizations and journalists, to whom the province has been virtually closed for the past year.


A six month military emergency in NAD was declared on 19 May 2003 following the breakdown of peace talks between the Indonesian government and the armed pro-independence group, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Massive military operations against GAM have taken place under the military emergency, which was extended by a further six months in November to 19 May 2004.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in the 27-year conflict between GAM and the Indonesian government in NAD. The Indonesian security forces have carried out grave human rights violations, including unlawful killings, "disappearances" and torture during operations against GAM. GAM has also been responsible for human rights abuses including hostage taking and unlawful killings.

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