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Indonesia: crackdown intensifies

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background briefing 12 May ^

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INDONESIA: CRACKDOWN INTENSIFIES This paper should be read together with Indonesia: An appeal for restraint to the Indonesian Armed Forces. ASA 21/43/98, 12 May and Indonesia: At least six students shot dead - how far will security forces go?. ASA 21/44/98, 12 May.

The human rights situation in Indonesia continues to deteriorate rapidly. A new phase of violence has emerged as six students were killed by the security forces at a demonstration in West Jakarta on 12 May - the first student fatalities in some ten weeks of daily demonstrations by students in major cities across the country.

Peaceful political activists have also been subjected to "disappearances" in recent months. A total of ten activists have "disappeared" since February this year, seven of which have now reappeared. Those who have been prepared to speak out have told of torture and ill-treatment while in detention heightening fears for the safety of those still believed to be held by the security forces.

Arrests, harassment and intimidation of activists also continues. Some 370 people have been arrested and tried on political charges since the beginning of the year. At least 20 are still in detention awaiting trial on charges including the Law Number 5/PNPS/1963 which punishes those who engage in "unapproved political activities " with up to five years imprisonment. If convicted AI would consider most, if not all of them to be prisoners of conscience.

Student demonstrations and riots

Indonesia is experiencing social unrest on a scale unprecedented since President Suharto came to power over 30 years ago. The unrest has intensified in recent weeks as the effect of IMF austerity measures begin to be felt and as demands for reform fail to yield results. Students are at the forefront of the protests and there have been almost daily demonstrations in major university cities in Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra and Bali since February during which the students have called for political and economic reform, an end to corruption and the removal of Suharto as president.

Despite overtures by senior military officials to engage the students in dialogue, appeals for them to stop their protests and warnings that the military would take stem action against them, the students have continued their protests.

The demonstrations have escalated in size and number in recent weeks and, while previously peaceful, since mid­ March there have been increasingly frequent clashes between the students and the security forces as the students try to take their protests outside of the campuses during which there have been frequent reports of the use of excessive force by the security forces. Tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets and batons have been used against students in

cities including Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Ujung Pandang and Medan resulting in injuries. In some cases students have thrown stones and molotov cocktails at the security forces also resulting in some injuries. One intelligence officer was killed by students during a demonstration in Bogor on 10 May.

On 12 May the level of violence by the security forces reached new heights when police opened fire on demonstrators at Trisakti University in West Jakarta. Thousands of students had staged a peaceful demonstration during the day, although violence broke when some students began to beat a plainclothes security officer. The police opened fire, reportedly with live ammunition and tear gas and charged the students with batons. Witnesses reported seeing police with rifles aimed directly at the fleeing students. Six students were shot dead and at least 15 injured.

Protests against the killings the following day in Jakarta and Yogyakarta were again met with force with unconfirmed reports of at least one student being shot.

At the beginning of May, following days of peaceful student demonstrations in Medan, serious rioting erupted in the North Sumatran city in response to removal of subsidies on fuel in line with IMF reforms. Houses, shops and cars were burnt and looting also took place. Most of the violence was directed against ethnic-Chinese Indonesians further reinforcing the need for the authorities to take steps to protect this vulnerable community. There were reports that up to six people had been killed during the riots and that some of them may have been shot by the security forces. These

reports remain unconfirmed.


A spate of "disappearances" of activists began in February 1998 with at least 10 people being taken and held in secret detention centres where they have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. Seven have now reappeared. Despite being warned not to talk about their experiences three of them have spoken out. The testimony of Pius Lustrilanang, who "disappeared" on 3 February and was held for two months before reappearing on 4 April, described being abducted at gun point by people that he believes were members of the security forces. During the time that he was held he was interrogated and subjected to torture including beatings and electric shocks. He was kept blindfolded and handcuffed throughout. Before his release he was threatened with death if he spoke out. Pius Lustrilanang, fearing for his safety, has now left the country.

Amnesty International remains seriously concerned for the safety of five people still believed to be in the custody of the security forces. Two of them, Rayan (also referred to as Yani Auri) and Sonny, have been missing since May 1997, their whereabouts only being discovered when Pius Lustrilanang reported having spoken to them while he was in custody.

While "disappearances" are not a new phenomena in Indonesia, having been a common feature of counter­ insurgency operations in Aceh, Irian Jay a and East Timor, the recent kidnap style arrests represents a sinister and intensified crack down on the activities of peaceful political activists. Given the resources involved in the kidnappings, it is unlikely that those responsible for disappearances are just junior officers.

The military continues to deny any involvement in the "disappearances" and has reportedly threatened to sue members of the media who suggest that there is any link. However, under increasing domestic and international pressure the Armed Forces Chief, General Wiranto, announced on 1 May that there would be a police investigation of the "disappearances".

Amnesty International is calling for immediate, thorough and impartial investigations into all of the alleged cases of "disappearances" and for those found to be responsible to be bought to justice.

Trials of political activists

Since the beginning of the year over 370 political activist or government critics have been arrested. The frequency of the arrests has declined since the Presidential elections. However, the high numbers of arrests in the run up to the elections combined with the spate of "disappearances" and more general harassment and intimidation of activists and their supporters is contributing to a atmosphere of continuing fear in Indonesia.

At least 20 people remain in detention awaiting trial and some 149 peaceful political activists have been tried and convicted since the beginning of the year including at least 146 people from a pro-democracy group called the Red and White Front (Barisan Merah Putih) who were arrested on 11 February after staging a protest march against the government s mishandling of the economy and corruption. They were all convicted and sentenced to short terms of imprisonment or fined. They have now been released. At least another eight people may be facing charges although they are not currently detained.

Among those still in detention are five people arrested in at a pro-democracy gathering in North Jakarta in March. The five are: the leading Indonesian actress and playwright, Ratna Sarumpaet, Ging Ginanjar, Joel Thaher, Nandang Wirakusumah and Alexius Suria Tjahaja Tomu. All five have been charged under Law Number 5/PNPS/1963 while Ratna Sarumpaet has also been charged with Article 154 of the Criminal Code which punishes the public expression of "hostility, hatred or contempt" against the government of Indonesia with up to seven year s imprisonment. Six of

those arrested at the event filed a lawsuit for unlawful arrest but were not permitted to attend any of the scheduled hearings and the case was dismissed.

Another five people, all members of the independent Indonesian Prosperity Union (SBSI) who were arrested between the 8 and 10 March also remain in detention. Three of them, Wandi Nikodemus, Kuldip Singh and Widi Wahyu Widodo are facing charges including under Law Number 5/PNPS/1963 while Yudi Hermanto and Yudi Rachmat are facing charges under 160 of the Criminal Code which punishes the incitement of violent acts or any

other disobedience with up to six years imprisonment

Amnesty considers the 20 people still in detention to be prisoners of conscience and is calling for their immediate and unconditional release.

Al is calling on the Indonesian Government:

1. to give immediate instructions to avoid the use of force and firearms; 2. to issue immediate instructions to the security forces to act in accordance with international standards on the appropriate use of force in dealing with demonstrations and riots; 3. to establish an independent and public commission of inquiry into the killings and "disappearances" and

bring those found to be responsible for unlawful killings or excessive force to justice; 4. to ensure that no intimidation or harassment of victims families and individuals or groups attempting to trace any missing persons or investigating recent events; 5. to release, immediately and unconditionally any individual detained for the non-violent exercise of their


6. to allow any individual in detention immediate access to lawyers of their own choosing, to members of their families and to medical professionals; 7. to ensure that those detained are not subjected to torture or ill-treatment; 8 . to provide information on the whereabouts and fate of the disappeared.

Al is calling on Governments to use their influence:

1. to put pressure on the Indonesian authorities to establish an independent and public commission of inquiry into the killings and "disappearances" and bring those found to be responsible to justice; 2. to seek assurance that members of the security forces will act in accordance with internationally accepted standards regarding the use of force by law enforcement officials against rioters and to call on the

Indonesian armed forces to demonstrate that it has established effective procedures to ensure the accountability of military, security and police officers; 3. to refrain from the transfer of small arms, security equipment used in crowd control and training in lethal techniques given the high risk that they will be used by the Indonesian security forces in this situation with

excessive force or to commit human rights abuses 4. to ask diplomatic representatives to monitor events around the campuses where possible to ensure that there are independent witnesses to events - in particular campuses in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Ujung Pandang and Medan; 5. to publicly support the role of the National Human Rights Commission (KOMNAS HAM), pressing the

Government of Indonesia to allow KOMNAS HAM to conduct an independent inquiry and to act on its findings.

For further information in Australia, please contact Maya Catsanis on 0411 140 077 or Tony O’Connor on (073) 875 7440.

Amnesty International International Secretariat 1 Easton Street London WC1X 8DJ

United Kingdom