New military operations, old patterns of human rights abuses in Aceh
New military operations, old patterns of human rights abuses in Aceh (Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, NAD)
PART I - Human rights abuses in NAD
In May 2003 a military emergency was declared in the Indonesian province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD)(1) under which civilian government was suspended and a massive counter-insurgency operation was initiated against the armed pro-independence group, the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM). The following year marked one of the bloodiest in the 28-year conflict in NAD. In May 2004 the status of NAD was downgraded from military to civil emergency. While bringing the administration back under civilian authority, military operations continued as before and human rights abuses are still being reported.
Amnesty International recognizes that governments must respond to the threat posed by armed groups. It also takes no position on the political status of NAD, neither supporting nor opposing any demands for independence. The organization's concerns are limited purely to the human rights situation in the area in relation to which research is conducted both into human rights abuses committed by GAM as well as by the Indonesian security forces.
However, monitoring the human rights situation in NAD during the latest military campaign has been made difficult by tight restrictions on access to the province. These government-imposed restrictions have prevented Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations from undertaking research in NAD. Nevertheless, it has been possible to gather data from a variety of credible sources. For this report Amnesty International conducted interviews outside Indonesia with Acehnese human rights activists and lawyers, with some 55 refugees who have fled NAD since May 2003, as well as with independent experts and observers.
The information collected provides ample evidence of a disturbing pattern of grave abuses of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in NAD. The Indonesian security forces bear primary responsibility for these human rights violations, although GAM has also committed serious human rights abuses, most notably the taking of hostages and the use of child soldiers.
There are certain principles of international law which have risen to the level of peremptory norms meaning that they cannot be derogated from in any circumstances, including during a national emergency. They include the prohibition of the arbitrary deprivation of life and the right to be free from torture. Nevertheless, unlawful killings and torture are among the human rights abuses that have been committed during the past 15 months in NAD.
The current pattern of human rights abuses is all too familiar to the population of NAD who have suffered grave violations of human rights during previous counter-insurgency operations in the province. While dramatic changes in Indonesia's political landscape have taken place since 1998(2) and the process of democratization is proceeding, symbolised by recent parliamentary and presidential elections, it appears that little has changed in the way in which the security forces respond to both armed and civilian independence movements. It is also the case that, as in the past, little national or international attention has been given to the situation.
The human rights abuses that have taken place during the latest military operation are so pervasive that there is virtually no part of life in the province which remains untouched. As in previous military campaigns against GAM, the security of the civilian population has been paid scant regard. There has been a failure by the Indonesian military to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. Young men are frequently suspected by the security forces of GAM membership and are particularly at risk of human rights violations, including unlawful killing, torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention. Members of GAM have also been unlawfully killed after being taken prisoner. Women and girls have been subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence. Trials of individuals suspected of being members of or supporting GAM have contravened international standards for fair trials and some of those imprisoned may be prisoners of conscience.
In its efforts to sever the logistical and moral support of the population for GAM, the security forces have also forcibly displaced civilians from their homes and villages, carried out armed raids and house-to-house searches and destroyed houses and other property. Civilians, including children, have been forced to participate in military operations and other activities in support of the military operations. Disproportionate restrictions have been placed on freedom of expression and movement and the delivery of humanitarian assistance has been severely disrupted.
The military has conducted investigations into some allegations of human rights violations and a number of soldiers have been brought to trial in military tribunals. However, these processes, which have only dealt with a fraction of the total number of allegations of human rights violations, lack independence and impartiality. In the meantime, while the National Commission on Human Rights (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia, Komnas HAM) has conducted field investigations, local human rights monitors have been subjected to arrest, detention and other forms of harassment and intimidation. International human rights organizations are denied access to the province entirely.
Conditions in NAD have forced hundreds of Acehnese to flee to Malaysia as well as other countries. While the Malaysian government has shown some limited tolerance of the Acehnese and other refugee populations within its borders, officially it affords them no legal recognition or protection. Without such recognition refugees in Malaysia are at constant risk of arrest as "illegal immigrants" and can face charges under Malaysia's punitive Immigration Act, detention in the squalid conditions of an immigration detention centre, or both.
In contravention of the norm of customary international law which prohibits the return of persons to a situation where they would face serious human rights violations, Malaysia has forcibly returned Acehnese refugees to Indonesia on several occasions. The threat of prolonged detention in immigration detention camps in poor living conditions has also prompted some Acehnese refugees to "volunteer" to be returned to Indonesia. In addition to the risk of arbitrary detention and refoulement by Malaysia, the lack of formal recognition as refugees prohibits Acehnese asylum-seekers and refugees from working or accessing basic services such as healthcare and education.
The following report is divided into two parts. Part one provides details of the current human rights situation in NAD. Part two focuses on the situation for Acehnese refugees in Malaysia. Recommendations are provided to both the Indonesian and Malaysian governments, as well as to the United Nations (UN) and second governments which, if implemented, would contribute to reducing the suffering of the Acehnese people.
2. Political Background
The province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD), with a population of some 4.2 million, lies at the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, a short distance across the Straits of Malacca to Malaysia. The current conflict in the province dates back to the mid-1970s when, on 4 December 1976 the Acheh/Sumatra National Liberation Front (ASNLF), widely known as the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM), unilaterally declared independence. Support for independence in NAD is rooted in a long tradition of resistance to outside domination, including against the former Dutch colonial power. In recent times, the unequal benefits of economic development, the perceived lack of respect for cultural and religious traditions and the appalling record of human rights violations by the Indonesian security forces have fuelled the resentment of many Acehnese against the Indonesian government.
The 1976 insurgency was quickly crushed by the Indonesian security forces. Those among GAM's leadership who were not killed or imprisoned, fled abroad. A self-proclaimed government in exile, led by GAM's founder, Dr Tengku Hasan di Tiro, has since been established in Sweden.
In 1989, GAM's military wing re-emerged in NAD. Following a series of attacks on police and military installations the Indonesian security forces embarked on counter-insurgency operations that became characterized by grave human rights violations.(3) At the time, NAD was a "Military Operations Zone" (Daerah Operasi Militer, DOM) which gave the military effective control of the province. The DOM status was finally lifted in August 1998, soon after former President Suharto, who had led Indonesia for 32 years, was forced to resign in the face of massive popular opposition to his authoritarian and corrupt rule.
The lifting of the DOM brought only brief respite. In January 1999, the first of a series of new military operations was launched following attacks on the security forces allegedly by GAM. Contrary to the aims, the military operations, and the human rights violations and general hardships for the civilian population that accompanied them, led to increased support among the general population for GAM, or at least its declared goal of independence. The most visible demonstration of support was in November 1999 when, according to some estimates, one million people attended a rally in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh to demand a referendum on the political status of NAD. At the same time, GAM's own strength was increasing. Hundreds of village chiefs were reported to have transferred their allegiance to GAM. By mid-2001, GAM claimed to be in control of almost 75 per cent of the province(4) and was reported to have established parallel administrative systems, including for tax collection and registering births and marriages.
Although force continued to define the response of the military and some parts of the civilian leadership to GAM, former President Abdurrahman Wahid (October 1999 – July 2001), initiated efforts to seek a political solution to resolve the situation. On the one hand a dialogue between the two parties to the conflict was mediated by the Switzerland-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.(5) At the same time, a law was drafted with a view to offering the Acehnese a greater level of autonomy in the government and administration of the province and greater control over revenues from natural resources. The law on special autonomy was regarded by observers as being intended to provide an alternative to independence and thereby undercut support for GAM's armed struggle.(6)
Law No. 18 on Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, which provides the legal basis for special autonomy in NAD, was signed by the newly appointed President Megawati Sukarnoputri in August 2001, but was considered seriously deficient in key areas, particularly in relation to human rights and justice.(7) It was never fully implemented and was effectively superseded by the military emergency declared in May 2003.
In the meantime, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue had some success in bringing the two sides to the negotiating table. On 12 May 2000, the "Joint Understanding on a Humanitarian Pause for Aceh" was signed, the first of a series of agreements between the Indonesian government and GAM. The three month "humanitarian pause" was intended to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and reduce levels of violence. Initially it met with some success, but within a few months levels of violence began escalating once again. Nevertheless, talks continued intermittently over the next two years, culminating in the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) in Geneva, Switzerland on 9 December 2002.
The CoHA, which was a framework for peace talks, rather than a peace settlement, was ambitious, involving international monitors,(8) the establishment of "peace zones", disarmament of GAM and a limited withdrawal of Indonesian troops.
However, within months the CoHA had begun to unravel as both sides contested the interpretation of the agreement; levels of general violence and human rights abuses increased; and members of the international monitoring teams came under attack from vigilante groups, widely believed to be proxies for the Indonesian military.
By April 2003, the military had begun deploying additional troops to NAD in preparation for a new campaign against GAM and at midnight on 18 May 2003 a six-month military emergency was declared.(9) In contrast to DOM, which was a purely military response, the government described the new campaign against GAM as an "integrated operation" with military, humanitarian, law enforcement and local governance components. However, in reality the emphasis of this latest campaign has also been on the military operations, as a reported 48,000 troops were deployed against GAM which, it was claimed by the Indonesian authorities, had some 5,000 troops under arms.
In November 2003, the military emergency was extended by a further six months. In May 2004 it was downgraded to the status of civil emergency and authority was transferred back to the provincial civilian administration under the Provincial Governor.(10)
3. A well-established pattern of human rights violations
"Of course, it's alright to think about human rights but
the more important thing is to think about the territorial integrity of the
Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, NKRI" Minister of Defence,
Matori Abdul Djalil.(11)
From the period of the DOM to the latest military campaign, the various military operations pursued against GAM in NAD have in common an almost total disregard for human rights norms and standards. During the first four years alone of DOM it is estimated that 2,000 civilians, including children and the elderly, were unlawfully killed by the Indonesian security forces. By the time the DOM status was lifted in 1998, many hundreds and possibly thousands more civilians had been killed. Several thousand people were arbitrarily arrested during these years on suspicion of supporting GAM. Many of those detained were subjected to extensive periods of incommunicado detention and torture and ill-treatment. Others "disappeared" in police or military custody.
Human rights violations, albeit at times at a reduced level, continued to be reported throughout the period of the peace negotiations and other political initiatives. In 1999, locally-based human rights groups estimated that over 421 people had been unlawfully killed in NAD. By 2001 the figure had more than doubled to 1,014 and in 2002 it increased again to 1,307.(12)
GAM has also committed human rights abuses both during and after the DOM period. According to official Indonesian sources and local media reports, GAM has been responsible for the targeted killing of suspected informers, government officials, civil servants and others with links to the Indonesian administration. It has also taken hostages and is alleged to have been involved in the burning of schools and other public buildings, and in intimidating, harassing and possible unlawful killings of non-Acehnese or "transmigrants."(13)
Data collected by Amnesty International about the human rights situation under the current military operations demonstrates a pattern of grave abuses of human rights that closely match both the pattern and the intensity of the human rights abuses committed during the height of the DOM period. Indeed, many of those interviewed by Amnesty International described the recent military emergency as "DOM 2".
The stated objective of the latest military campaign is to "crush" GAM and restore security to NAD. The methods employed to achieve this, in common with methods employed in previous operations, have frequently been in contravention of international humanitarian and human rights law which forbid the derogation of certain basic rights, including the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture and ill-treatment. Such methods include unlawful killings, "disappearances", arbitrary detention, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. GAM has retaliated with the taking of hostages, unlawful killings and other abuses.
A strategy of civil-military cooperation has been employed in which the civilian population is enlisted to provide support to the military operations. Measures have also been put in place, which have had the effect of controlling the population, restricting access to the province and preventing the gathering and dissemination of information about the human rights situation.
These strategies have resulted in considerable hardship for the population, including internal displacement, disruption to economic activity, denial of access to humanitarian assistance, and disproportionate restrictions on movement and freedom of expression.
Under the civil emergency, which has been in place since May 2004, military operations are continuing as before and civilian casualties are still being reported. Indeed, unlawful killings appear to have been sanctioned by the Head of the Regional Civil Emergency Authority (who is also the Provincial Governor), who stated in June 2004 that "unidentified, suspicious looking people" will be shot on sight.(14) In the meantime, many hundreds of political prisoners, tried in unfair trials and in many cases convicted primarily on the basis of evidence obtained under torture, remain in prison. Arrests of "GAM suspects" are still continuing and those detained are at grave risk of torture and ill-treatment. Moreover, an existing ban on access to NAD by foreigners has been extended, with the result that international humanitarian and human rights agencies are still unable to carry out their work in the province.
3.1 Militias and civilian defence
Counter-insurgency operations in Indonesia have historically made extensive use of civilians, including as militia, civilian defence groups and military auxiliary units. The current military operations in NAD are no different in this respect. Vigilante and militia groups are reported to have been set up in several areas and there are reports that they have carried out human rights violations with impunity. All adult males must participate in compulsory night guard duty and there are reports of civilians, including women and children, being used during military operations as scouts and spies.
The concept of civilian defence is well-established in military doctrine in Indonesia where the use of military and police auxiliary units and other civil defence groups have been integral to military operations in the past in NAD, in East Timor (now named the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste) and elsewhere. The legal basis of this concept is found in Indonesia's 1945 Constitution that states that civilians have both the right and the duty to participate in the defence of their country.(15) Moreover, Law 23/1959 on States of Emergency, also provides the military with authority to instruct inhabitants of a region under a military emergency to perform compulsory labour in the interests of security and defence.(16)
However, Indonesia must comply with its obligations under International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 29 on forced labour which forbids forced or compulsory labour(17) and ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour, which specifically protects children from forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment for use in armed conflict. Amnesty International is concerned that in some cases civilians have been used for counter-insurgency in a manner that may have violated these obligations. Amnesty International is also concerned by cases where children have been used by the military in contravention of Indonesia's obligations under the ILO conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
The capacity of militia for violence came to international attention in Timor-Leste in 1999 at the time of the UN-sponsored ballot on independence. In the months leading up to the ballot new militia groups were set up and old ones activated. Equipped, trained and supported by the Indonesian military, with the support of the civilian authorities, they were at the forefront of the campaign to intimidate the population into rejecting independence. When this failed, they participated in a massive wave of violence in which hundreds of people were unlawfully killed, thousands forcibly displaced and much of the territory reduced to ashes. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, the Indonesian military continues to deny that it had any connection to the militia.(18)
There is no evidence that militia in NAD have carried out human rights violations on the scale seen in Timor-Leste, but given the history of the use of militia by the Indonesian military, the lack of clarity of their command and control structures and absence of accountability mechanisms, their existence in NAD is a cause for serious concern.
In June 2003, a member of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia, Komnas HAM) publicly stated that militias were being recruited in Central Aceh District and that they were receiving military training, including in the use of firearms.(19) The allegation was denied the next day by the Army Chief of Staff, General Ryamizard Ryacudu.(20) Since then though, provincial level military commanders have acknowledged the presence of such groups, but describe them as having been spontaneously formed for the purpose of self-defence against attacks by GAM. However, detailed reports both from local human rights activists and in the media indicate that support for these groups is being provided both by the military and civilian authorities.
One report from April 2004 written by an Acehnese human rights defender in exile, describes the establishment of at least seven different militia groups in Central and East Aceh Districts since 2001 which, it is claimed, are supported to varying degrees by local government officials and the military. Funding is also said to be provided by local businessmen. Militia members are said to be recruited predominantly from transmigrants and from the Gayo ethnic-group, which is based mainly in the central and southern areas of the province, although some of the newer groups are said to have Acehnese members. Equipment varies, but according to reports, can include military-style uniforms, assault rifles and two-way radios as well as home-made guns, knives and machetes. In some cases equipment is reported to have been provided by the military and ammunition purchased from them. Training and in some cases supervision is alleged to have been provided by a variety of military units, including, within the territorial command structure, the District Military Command (Komando Distrik Militer, Kodim) and Sub-district Military Commands (Komando Resor Militer, Koramil); as well as from specialised units such as the Army Strategic Reserve (Komando Strategis Angkatan Darat, Kostrad); the Combined Intelligence Task Force (Satuan Gabungan Intelijen, SGI); and the Police Mobile Brigade (Brigade Mobil, Brimob).(21)
According to this report and other reports in the media, militia groups have carried out patrols, identified GAM suspects to the military and in some cases carried out arrests and arson attacks. In a more recent report, militia in Central Aceh District are accused of killing 20 people during the course of an operation to search for GAM near the town of Takengon in June 2004. According to the report, which Amnesty International cannot verify, those killed were alleged by the militia to have been members of GAM, or were individuals who refused to provide information on the whereabouts of GAM.(22) Militia are also reported to have participated in joint operations with the military.(23)
A wide range of other anti-GAM civil defence-style groups have also been formed more widely throughout the province. Equipped with bamboo spears and curved swords, their primary duties appear to be to assist the security forces in identifying GAM members and participating in loyalty ceremonies. Membership of these groups is not in all cases voluntary. Village heads have been required to provide members for these groups. In other cases, it appears that young men have been instructed, directly by the military, to join. One man from Nisam Sub-district, North Aceh District described to Amnesty International how soldiers came to the market place and picked out young men whom they wanted to recruit for these civil defence groups.
Amnesty International has also received reports of the forced participation of civilians in military operations as scouts and human shields in violation of fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. A man from Lhoksuemawe in North Aceh told Amnesty International that at the beginning of the military emergency 10 young men from his village were forcibly taken to the jungle by the military on an operation. In September 2003 it was reported that 1,000 villagers from Leupang in Aceh Besar District had been drafted by the military to assist them in searching for GAM members.(24)
There have been reports that families of GAM members are among those who have been forced to act as human shields during military operations. In May 2004, for example, a credible source told Amnesty International that villagers, including wives, children and other relatives of suspected members of GAM, from three different villages in Nisam Sub-district, North Aceh had been instructed by the military to take two kilos of rice each and accompany them to the forest. They are alleged to have been ordered to walk in front of the soldiers, effectively acting as shields, as the military searched for GAM. Prior to being taken to the forest, the GAM family members were reported to have been separated out and beaten. The operation is reported to have lasted for three days from 16-18 May 2004.
Although forbidden by military regulations, children under the age of 18 have also been used by the Indonesian military for functions such as cooking, cleaning, spying and communications. According to informed sources, this practice does not take place systematically, but rather is on the initiative of individual soldiers. As a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Indonesia has an obligation to ensure that children are protected against exploitation when performing labour, and as a signatory to the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, the Indonesian government must not act in a way that is contrary to the Optional Protocol. In this instance Article 2 of the Optional Protocol prohibits the compulsory recruitment of children into the armed forces.
In addition, since the second week of the military emergency all adult males, throughout the province, have been obliged to participate in compulsory, unpaid night guard duty (known as "jaga malam"). The system of civilian night guards exists elsewhere in Indonesia and has previously been used in NAD, but never so intensely. In NAD it is organized by village leaders under the direction of the Sub-district head (Camat), police and military. The night guards are unarmed and do not receive any training. The frequency with which an individual must participate depends on the number of men in the village or community, but seems to vary between twice-a-week to once every few weeks. Generally it appears that only men over the age of 18 are required to participate, although some interviewees from smaller communities told Amnesty International that boys of 16 and 17 years old are also involved.
While civilians may be required to provide services in cases of emergency,(25) Amnesty International is concerned that the current system of compulsory night guard duty for all adult males in NAD may be a form of harassment of the general population. This is most obviously the case in situations such as that described to an Amnesty International delegate by a market vendor from a village in Muara Dua Sub-district near the town of Lhokseumawe. According to him, in the run-up to the April 2004 parliamentary elections he and the other men in his village were required to perform night guard duty for 20 nights in a row. Individuals who fail to turn up for duty, or do not perform their duties to the satisfaction of the authorities, have been subjected to various forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
3.2 Internal displacement
Although the numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) never reached the governments' projected figure of 200,000,(26) tens of thousands of people have been displaced, the majority during the first months of the military emergency. In some cases the displacement was under threat of force. Several people interviewed by Amnesty International described how the military or police came to their village and ordered them to leave, sometimes without giving sufficient time to pack their belongings. One man from Juli Sub-district in Bireun District said that the military had come to his village in August 2003 and told all the villagers to leave or they would be considered to be members of GAM. They had to leave within 24 hours and were only permitted to take a small bag of clothes with them.
IDP numbers have decreased during 2004. The official figure for IDPs in NAD as of June 2004 was 6,946. Some of those who have returned to their villages are reported to have found their homes and other property looted or destroyed and their livestock stolen or killed. The man from Juli Sub-district told an Amnesty International delegate that residents from his village were permitted to return after three months in an IDP camp. On his return his father's house, in which he also lived, had been damaged, possessions destroyed and livestock and electrical goods stolen.
The Ministry of Social Welfare provides returnees with funds to assist their return. However, as is frequently the case with government funding in NAD, recipients may not necessarily receive their full entitlement. According to one local NGO which works with IDPs and which monitored the return of some 215 families to Bandar Sub-district in Central Aceh District in August 2003, they only received two million rupiah (US$220) rather than the seven million rupiah (US$780) that they had been promised.
Under international humanitarian law forcible relocation of civilians is only allowed for their own safety or for valid military reasons.(27) If forced relocation occurs for a legitimate reason under international law, the security forces are obliged to ensure an orderly evacuation, humane conditions in transit and adequate alternative accommodation. The duty of the authorities to assist IDPs to return, voluntarily, safely and in dignity to their homes, or to be resettled voluntarily in another part of the country is contained in the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Principle 29.2 of the Guiding Principles states that:
"Competent authorities have the duty and responsibility to assist returned and/or resettled internally displaced persons to recover, to the extent possible, their property and possessions which they left behind or were dispossessed of upon displacement. When recovery of such property and possessions is not possible, competent authorities shall provide or assist these persons in obtaining appropriate compensation or another form of just reparation."
Amnesty International is concerned that the Indonesian authorities are not fulfilling this duty in all cases.
3.3 Isolating GAM from the population
A range of measures directed at identifying GAM members within and isolating GAM from the general population were taken during the military emergency. The population has also been forced to take part in various public demonstrations of support for military operations against GAM. Amnesty International is concerned that some of these measures have been disproportionate and have violated the rights to freedom of expression and movement.
In its effort to remove GAM members from the local bureaucracy and general population, new identity cards (known as "Red and White" identity cards) were introduced in the first weeks of the military emergency.(28) The process of obtaining a new identity card entailed registering at four different local government, military and police offices, undergoing questioning and proclaiming loyalty to the unitary state of Indonesia. Frequent identity checks are carried out by the Indonesian security forces and anyone not in possession of the "Red and White" identity card risks being labelled as GAM.
Acehnese refugees interviewed by Amnesty International who did not have the new identity cards expressed anxiety that if deported back to NAD, they would automatically be suspected of being members of GAM. A number of them explained that they had not dared to apply for a new identity card because they had been detained in the past and are therefore already suspected of being members of GAM.
In addition, beginning in July 2003, NAD's civil servants, who are reported to number over 85,000 people including local government officials and school teachers, were required to undergo a screening process to prove their loyalty to the state.(29) Some civil servants were reported in the local media to have been dismissed for refusing to make the pledge of loyalty.(30) Others reportedly resigned because they feared retaliation by GAM for participating in loyalty ceremonies.(31) Civil servants are also among the many hundreds of people who have been detained under the military emergency.
The civilian population has also been required to show its support for the military operation through participation in loyalty ceremonies. These ceremonies have taken place across the province at strategic moments. For example, within the first weeks of the military emergency there were reports in the local media of large crowds assembling to pledge their loyalty to the Indonesian state. Similar ceremonies were held in advance of the six-month and one-year anniversaries of the military emergency. Individuals interviewed by Amnesty International were among the thousands of people who were ordered by the military to attend such events. They described how all the inhabitants of their village, including children and the elderly, were required to travel, in some cases in trucks provided by the military, to football fields, stadiums or other locations, where they were provided with t-shirts or banners and told to shout slogans such as: "Don't leave Aceh" and "We the people of Aceh demand the extension of the military emergency."
Participation in the parliamentary elections that took place in April 2004 was obligatory in NAD, although voting in Indonesia is not compulsory by law. Interviewees told Amnesty International that those eligible to vote were instructed by the military, via village heads or other community leaders, to cast their votes. As in the case of the ceremonies in support of the military emergency, threats were more frequently implied rather than made explicit, but it was widely understood that refusal to vote would result in being labelled as a member or supporter of GAM, with the associated risk this brings. No one reported being told for which party they had to vote, merely that they must cast their votes. There has been speculation that the intention was not to influence the outcome of the election, but rather to demonstrate that an election could be held in NAD under emergency conditions.
3.4 Restrictions on access to humanitarian and human rights actors
The civilian population in NAD has been almost entirely cut off for over one year from the assistance and protection afforded by the presence of independent human rights monitors and humanitarian workers. Mirroring the tactics so effectively employed in Timor-Leste, the Indonesian authorities have also attempted, in large part successfully, to close down all other channels of independent information about the situation in NAD, including by restricting the access of journalists to the province.
Statements by military officials, in which human rights organizations were publicly accused of links with GAM, quickly forced local human rights defenders into hiding or to flee the province and in some instances, the country. Those that have remained have been unable to carry out their work effectively due to fear of human rights violations. At least 24 NAD-based human rights defenders have been detained since the beginning of the military emergency, six of whom are on trial or have already been sentenced to terms of imprisonment. Amnesty International believes that the motivation for some, if not all, of these detentions is to discourage human rights defenders from carrying out their legitimate activities in NAD.
Although access by the media to NAD during the first week of the military emergency was relatively open, a succession of reports on human rights violations committed by the military, including the unlawful killing of children, quickly resulted in the introduction of restrictions. Since then Indonesian journalists have come under intense pressure to report the official version of events, while international journalists have faced considerable difficulty in obtaining permits to travel to NAD.(32)
Access to humanitarian assistance has also been severely disrupted by the restrictions placed on the work of international humanitarian organizations. Under a decree issued at the end of June 2003, a system was introduced, under which international staff are required to apply to the government for permits (or "blue books" as they are known) in order to travel to the provincial capital, Banda Aceh. An additional permit is then required from the provincial authorities (previously the military, now the civil administration) for permission to travel outside Banda Aceh. Since the imposition of the military emergency, "blue books" have only been issued infrequently. The process of applying for them has been described by those that have to go through it as "a bureaucratic nightmare". Even with the permits, access to international humanitarian workers has been restricted both in the time that they can spend in the province (usually a few weeks only) and the places that can be visited.(33)
Although some improvement in access since the early days of the military emergency has been reported, at least for UN agencies, it remains far from the full, unimpeded access required for humanitarian organizations to implement their programs. The Provincial Governor, shortly after taking over as head of the Civil Emergency Authority, stated that the existing restrictions on international humanitarian agencies would be extended and access is reported to be particularly poor in areas regarded as GAM strongholds which are designated "black areas" by the military authorities. In some of these areas there is believed to have been no access by independent humanitarian actors since May 2003.
In the absence of qualified and independent humanitarian actors in NAD it is not possible to make a meaningful assessment of the humanitarian situation in the province, although some impression can be gained through media reports which indicate that economic activity has improved in recent months. However, Amnesty International was told by some Acehnese refugees that their communities had on occasions faced food shortages. Such shortages were typically reported to occur in rural areas during times of intense military operations when villagers were prevented from tending to their paddy fields, gardens, or from going to the forest to gather food. On some occasions the restrictions were reported to last for several weeks. Some complained that on returning to their fields or gardens they found crops destroyed or stolen.
Extortion by the security forces, although not unique to the current military operations, has also placed an additional burden on individuals and businesses. Much of the extortion is reported to be small-scale – typically in the form of requests for "cigarette money" or non-payment of restaurant bills. However, owners of larger businesses have reported being forced to enter into formal protection agreements with the military. GAM is also responsible for extortion, although their capacity to engage in such practices is likely to have been much reduced under the current military campaign.
The military operations may also have adversely affected access by the general population to health care and education. A number of the refugees in Malaysia told Amnesty International that the primary health clinics in their villages had closed down since the beginning of the military emergency. According to one unverified report from Peureulak in East Aceh District, in January 2004 nurses and midwives had been prevented from working in health centres in rural areas of the district because they were suspected of providing medical assistance to GAM.
While there appear to have been no further arson attacks on schools since some 600 were burnt down in the first weeks of the military emergency,(34) and schools in many areas appear to be operating, several interviewees noted that economic hardship resulting from the military emergency had made school fees prohibitively expensive for some families.
4. Extrajudicial executions under the military emergency
"Hunt them down and exterminate them", The Commander of the Armed Forces, General Endriatono Sutarto talking about GAM at a briefing of military officers in Jakarta in May 2003.(35)
"It won't do any damage to Indonesia to lose several people,
rather than jeopardizing 220 million other people", President Megawati
Sukarnoputri at the beginning of the military emergency.(36)
"We will not tolerate people in this territory who join the separatist celebration. No matter who they are, we will shoot them on sight for supporting the movement," the Military Commander for the Lilawangsa Military Resort (Korem 011/Lilawangsa) in advance of the anniversary of GAM's declaration of independence.(37)
"…unidentified, suspicious looking people will be shot on sight", the Governor of NAD on taking over authority in NAD from the military in May 2004.(38)
Statements such as these have set the tone for the behaviour of troops during the current military operations and leave little doubt as to the message from their superiors - that they should shoot first and ask questions later. Not surprisingly there have been frequent allegations of unlawful killings by members of the security forces, both of civilians and of members of GAM.
Various and often inconsistent figures have been issued of the number of people killed during the military operations. According to figures issued by the military in September 2004, 2,879 members of GAM have been killed since May 2003. Of this figure, 2,409 are said to have been killed during the military emergency and 440 since.(39) A military spokesman had previously put the number of GAM deaths at 400 in the first six weeks of the civil emergency.(40) The police have stated that 230 GAM members were killed in the first eight weeks of the civil emergency.(41)
The military has acknowledged that there have been civilian casualties. In mid-August 2004, according to media reports, the military said that 147 civilians had been killed during the past 10 months.(42) However, according to figures from the military information centre published in September 2004 the number of civilian fatalities is much higher. According to these figures 662 civilians have been killed; 579 during the military emergency period, and 83 since the beginning of the civil emergency.(43)
The military has not said who is responsible for these deaths, although in the past it has blamed GAM for civilian causalities, yet at the same time, it has also admitted that it has difficulty in distinguishing between GAM and civilians.(44)
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), which has been permitted to carry out investigations in NAD, has confirmed that unlawful killings have been carried out by both sides, but has not published the results of its investigations. Local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) believe that hundreds of civilians have been killed by the security forces.
Amnesty International is in possession of several testimonies from individuals who witnessed extrajudicial executions of civilians by the military. These cases are described below. The names of the interviewees and their home villages have been withheld to protect them or their families from possible reprisals.
The majority of those killed appear to be men, particularly young men who are more likely to be suspected of being members of GAM and have therefore been disproportionately targeted during the operations. However, there are also reports in the media of the unlawful killing of women and children. Among the testimonies received by Amnesty International are accounts of young men who have been shot dead while at work in the paddy fields or on shrimp farms. Others, including children, have been killed or injured during indiscriminate shootings. There is also evidence that suspected members of GAM have been unlawfully killed after being taken prisoner. In some cases their bodies, sometimes bearing marks of torture, have been found or returned to their families.
4.1 Illustrative cases of extrajudicial executions
A farmer from Samalanga Sub-district in Bireun District told Amnesty International that his 25-year-old brother, Ilhami, was shot by soldiers as he was cutting grass for his livestock on 9 April 2004. The farmer believes that his brother died instantly, although his body was taken away by soldiers and only sent back to the village four days later. The two brothers had lost their father in 1990, at the height of the DOM period, when he was taken away by soldiers and never returned. Following the killing of his brother in 2004, the young farmer fled the country fearing that he might also be at risk.
A grocery shop owner from Nisam Sub-district in North Aceh District recalled how, following an exchange of fire between soldiers and GAM in the early weeks of the military emergency, the military had come to his village and shot dead three men called Fadli, Rosmani and Lukman, who were working in the paddy fields.
Another interviewee from Samalanga Sub-district told Amnesty International that a mentally ill man, Muhammad Hussain, from his village was shot dead in his paddy field by members of the marines after being accused of having a cache of weapons. A second man was allegedly shot in the leg, but escaped. Following the incident around 30 villagers were lined up by the marines and some, including the interviewee, were beaten. The interviewee, could not recall the exact date, but claimed that the incident had taken place within the first six months of the military emergency.
A 25-year-old farmer from Kuala Simpang Sub-district in East Aceh explained to Amnesty International that the reason he had fled Indonesia in January 2004 was because two men from his village had been killed by the military that month. The first was a former schoolfriend of the farmer called Ilyas who had been mistakenly taken by the military because he shared the same name as a member of GAM for whom they were searching. Ilyas's body was found in a paddy field three days later. The interviewee, who claimed to have seen the corpse, said he could hardly recognize Ilyas because his body was so badly mutilated. The second person to be killed was a man called Mayu. He was said to be a sympathiser, although not a member of GAM, who had previously surrendered to the security forces and undergone "re-education".(45) He was taken away during military operations to search for GAM in January 2004 and subsequently "disappeared". His family, the local imam and other villagers reportedly pleaded with a local military commander to return his body if he was dead, in order that he could receive a proper burial. The body was subsequently returned to them.
An eyewitness account was also received by Amnesty International of the shooting of a 16-year-old boy called Muliadi while he was working in the paddy fields in Samalanga Sub-district, Bireun District in October 2003. According to the account the boy attempted to flee after being summoned by the soldier, but was shot in the ankle as he ran and subsequently captured. The boy is believed to have survived the shooting, but there is no further information on his whereabouts.
5. Arbitrary detention and unfair trials under the military emergency
As of mid-July 2004, the authorities claimed to have arrested some 2,200 members of GAM. Hundreds, and possibly more than one thousand, of those detained have been or are in the process of being tried.(46) The vast majority of those put on trial are accused of membership or support for GAM and have been charged under Articles 106 and 108 of Indonesia's Criminal Code (Kitab Undang-Undang Hukum Pidana, KUHP) with "rebellion", which carries up to 20 years' imprisonment or, under some provisions, the death penalty. The district courts in NAD, most of which have not been functioning for the past few years, are now reported to be operating at full capacity, staffed by judges and prosecutors drafted in from North Sumatra Province and other areas on six-month contracts.
From the dozens of cases on which Amnesty International has data, it is apparent that the detentions and trials have manifestly contravened international norms relating to the right to fair trial. As such these detentions must be considered arbitrary. It is of particular concern that some of those accused of membership or links with GAM and who have sentenced to terms of imprisonment after unfair trials are children under the age of 18. While Amnesty International condemns the use of child soldiers by GAM it believes that priority should be given to prosecuting those who have recruited the children as soldiers and not the children themselves.
Arrests and detentions, usually a policing function under Indonesia's Code of Criminal Procedure (Kitab Undang-Undang Hukum Acara Pidana, KUHAP), may be carried out by the military during a military emergency under Law 23/1959 on States of Emergency. So, although in reality the military has frequently carried out arrests in NAD in the past, it is only during the one-year period of the military emergency that it had the legal authority to do so.
Under Law 23/1959, the military has the authority to detain suspects for up to 70 days. However, Law 23/1959 contains no provisions to safeguard the rights of detainees except that arrests shall be carried out with a warrant (Article 32(4)). The extensive, although not exhaustive, safeguards contained in KUHAP are interpreted by the military not to apply. For example, lawyers who have attempted to gain access to detainees during the first days of detention have been told that they have no right to see them. In the meantime, the safeguards in KUHAP have been universally ignored by the police in NAD.(47)
The result is a protection vacuum which has been exploited by both the military and the police to deny detainees their most basic rights. Prosecutors, judges and lawyers in NAD have also failed to exercise their responsibilities to ensure the effectiveness, impartiality and fairness of trial proceedings and are often complicit in, or directly responsible for, violating the rights of suspects.
Among the extensive and serious contraventions of international standards relating to arrest and detention documented by Amnesty International are: the failure to present warrants on arrest; failure to inform detainees of the reason for arrest or detention and inform them promptly of any charges against them; failure to promptly notify detainee's family members of their arrest or whereabouts; denial of access to legal counsel, particularly during the first days of detention; failure to provide competent and effective legal counsel in cases where lawyers are provided by the state; denial of adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence and of the right to confidential communication with legal counsel; denial of adequate medical assistance; the absence of judicial oversight of detention and of opportunities to challenge the lawfulness of detention; the absence of safeguards during interrogation, including the presence of a lawyer; and the extensive use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment to extract confessions.(48)
Rights at the actual trial are similarly denied. Despite the efforts towards judicial reform that have been carried out by the Indonesian authorities in recent years, including measures to strengthen the independence and improve the professionalism of the judiciary and related institutions, the trials in NAD demonstrate the considerable potential for political interference and the scope for other forms of improper influence. There is also an apparent lack of awareness among judicial officials of their role in ensuring that judicial proceedings are conducted fairly and that the rights of the parties are respected.
Many detainees do not have access to adequate legal representation. There are estimated to be only 13 human rights lawyers in the province who can handle only a fraction of the total number of cases. The majority of suspects are therefore defended by state appointed lawyers who human rights activists claim show little rigour in defending their clients. There have been reports that some of these lawyers have not accompanied their clients during interrogations and that, while they may appear in court, do not actually mount a defence on behalf of the suspect.
Some trials appear to be conducted in a fashion that human rights lawyers have labelled "instant trials". In one case, that of a woman from Pidie District who was accused of providing logistical support to GAM, the trial was completed in a single day. She was found guilty and sentenced to one year in prison. A teacher who was accused of collecting rice from villagers to raise funds for GAM was quoted in the media as saying: "I blinked and the judges banged the gavel to end the trial." There were reported to have been no defence witnesses at his trial. He claimed that many people from his village had wanted to testify that he was raising funds for his school, but that they were too afraid to appear in court.(49)
Typical examples of other problems that have arisen during the trials have included the use of confessions elicited as a result of torture as primary evidence against suspects. Evidence is also reported to have been fabricated in some cases. Amnesty International was informed by human rights lawyers of individuals being forced to hold a gun and stand in front of a GAM flag to be photographed – the photograph was subsequently used as evidence of their membership of GAM. In two cases reported to the organization by a credible source, GAM symbols (in one case the GAM flag and in the second the word "GAM") was scored with a knife or other sharp instrument on to the chest or back of the suspects by police officers as proof of their GAM membership.
The right to call and examine witnesses is frequently denied. It is common for prosecution witnesses, who are generally from the police or military, not to appear in court in person, thereby denying the defence an opportunity to cross-examine them. In the absence of a victim and witness protection programme, witnesses for the defence are reluctant to testify in these politically sensitive trials. A lawyer with a legal aid organization in NAD said that, from the nearly one hundred cases handled by his organization, in only two did defence witnesses agree to appear.
Attempts by defence lawyers to challenge procedural violations or complain about the torture or ill-treatment of their clients have met with threats of longer sentences by judges. In many cases, people do not appeal their sentences, either because they are not informed of their right to do so, or because they fear that their sentence will be increased on appeal.
From information gathered by Amnesty International, corruption appears to be rife at each step of the process. Amnesty International has been informed that detainees have been able to purchase their freedom from detention; to buy less serious charges from the prosecution; and to bribe judges to reduce their sentence. In this situation, where the judicial process is so thoroughly subverted by corruption, individuals without financial resources are particularly disadvantaged.
5.1 The case of the GAM negotiators
The most prominent of the many hundreds of NAD political prisoners are Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba, Teungku Kamaruzzaman, Amni Bin Ahmad Marzuki, Teungku Muhammad Usman Lampoh Awe and Nashiruddin Bin Ahmed. The five men were all negotiators on behalf of GAM during the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue mediated talks with the Indonesian authorities. They were arrested in May 2003 on their way to the airport in Banda Aceh to catch a flight to Tokyo, Japan for the talks on 18 May 2003 which had been called to try and prevent the break-down of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA). They were released briefly, but never reached Tokyo. In the meantime, the CoHA collapsed, the military emergency was declared, and the five were rearrested.
Despite the high profile of the five negotiators, their trials were riddled with irregularities among which were the denial of access to legal representation, the lack of witnesses, retroactive application of legislation and the criminalization of the act of participating in the negotiations. There have also been allegations that some of the defendants were subjected to torture and ill-treatment during and subsequent to the pre-trial detention period.
The trials took place between July and October 2003 in Banda Aceh. All five men were found guilty of "terrorism" and "rebellion" and sentenced to prison terms of between 12 and 15 years. Their appeals to the High Court and Supreme Court were rejected in January and June 2004 respectively.
Amnesty International considers the trials to have breached international standards for fair trials and calls on the Indonesian authorities to set aside the convictions and ensure that they are retried on recognizably criminal offences in trials that conform to international standards of fairness, or release them.
Compliance of legislation to international law and retroactive application of legislation
The five negotiators were charged under provisions contained in Articles 106 and 108 of Indonesia's Criminal Code with attempting to separate the region of NAD from the state and of leading a rebellion which carry maximum prison sentences of 20 years and life respectively. In addition, and uniquely in the current wave of political trials in NAD, they were also charged under Indonesia's "anti-terrorism" law with provisions that relate to "assisting and facil