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Commission of Inquiry Needed for Aceh
from Asia Watch, Feb 19, 1992 



As the international community condemned the massacre in East Timor on November 12, 1991 and pressed the Indonesian government to account fully for the killings, other human rights abuses attributed to the Indonesian military went largely ignored. In Aceh, for example, where as many as 1,000 may have died since mid-1989 in a combination of separatist guerrilla attacks and army reprisals, disappearances remain unresolved, suspected guerrillas continue to be shot on the spot rather than taken into custody, large numbers of people are believed to remain in unacknowledged detention and trials which violate international norms of fairness continue to take place. Asia Watch also remains concerned for the well-being of the few dozen refugees who returned "voluntarily" to Aceh after fleeing to Malaysia in 1991. No international organization had access to these people before they left Malaysia to ensure that they indeed were returning of their own accord or after their arrival back in Aceh, to ensure that they faced no reprisals. 

In sharp contrast to the sacking of several army officers for failing to prevent the killings of unarmed demonstrators in East Timor, eleven Indonesian officers in Aceh, including nine members of the army special forces, Kopassus, were given special promotions in January 1992 for their role in suppressing the conflict with a ruthlessness that involved large number of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention and torture of civilians. With no significant exile population or interested external parties to focus attention on Aceh, no direct involvement of the United Nations, and no spectacular incidents in recent months to attract the local and international media, there has been no international pressure on the Indonesian government to account for deaths and disappearances over the last two years or investigate the behavior of the armed forces in Aceh. The much-needed attention to the East Timor massacre and its aftermath should not obscure other violations by the Indonesian army. In particular, a full and impartial investigation into abuses in Aceh should be set in motion. 


Disappearances

Asia Watch has received detailed information on several disappearance cases where there is strong reason to believe that the victims were tortured to death or executed. 

Mohamad Jafar bin Abdurrahman 

In October 1991, the family of a young man sought the assistance of a lawyer in Aceh to see if he could determine what happened to their son, Mohamad Jafar bin Abdurrahman. Over a year earlier, in August 1990, two men in civilian clothes, who said they were from Kopassus, came to the family's home in the village of Tengak Remba, subdistrict of Murah Mulia in the district of North Aceh. They were looking for Mohamad Jafar, then 28, apparently suspecting that he was involved with Aceh Merdeka, the armed independence organization usually referred to by the Indonesian army as "GPK", an acronym for "gang of security disturbers." The family explained that Mohamad Jafar had gone to visit relatives and was not at home, but refusing to believe that explanation, the two men ransacked the house and took away with them several letters, an air gun, and a motorcycle. 

When Mohamad Jafar came home that night, according to the family, he went with his father and the village headman to the subdistrict military commander to protest his innocence. The commander, however, first detained him, then transferred him to a Kopassus post next door to the subdistrict command, where he was interrogated and accused of having hid 100 bullets for future use by Aceh Merdeka. Mohamad Jafar denied having done so and denied as well having any involvement with the guerrillas. 

A week later, the father tried to visit Mohamad Jafar at the subdistrict command. Not only was he not given permission to do so, but the father's motorcycle was confiscated by officers there. 

In December 1990, the family complained to the local parliament for North Aceh and was able to learn that Mohamad Jafar had been moved to the GAPERTA prison in Medan. In July 1991, an Aceh Merdeka suspect released from that prison apparently told a member of the local parliament that Mohamad Jafar had died in custody in Medan. The father tried several times to meet with the regional commander responsible for operations in Aceh, Major General H.R. Pramono of Regional Command I/Bukit Barisan to seek a full explanation about the fate of his son; as of late 1991, those efforts were unsuccessful. He also sought an explanation from the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces in Jakarta, General Try Sutrisno, without result. 

At the time of his disappearance, Mohamad Jafar was married, with four children. 

Mahdi Yusuf and Four Others 

On March 4, 1991 at 20:00, Mahdi Yusuf, 34, a coffeehouse owner and deputy secretary of the local branch of the United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan or PPP) was taken from his cell in Lhoknga detention center outside Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh. Four other men were removed from their cells at the same time, including Amiruddin, a bus driver from Lambaroangan, Aceh Besar; Abdullah Ibrahim, a student from Tangse, Pidie; Idris Ishaq, a shopkeeper in Banda Aceh, originally from Reubee, Siglie; and Ibrahim Hasan, also a shopkeeper in Banda Aceh, born in Reubee. As of early 1992, all five remained missing and were feared dead. 

The five were reported to have been severely tortured in detention, with the two shopkeepers partially paralyzed as a result. Ibrahim Hasan, Idris Ishaq and Mahdi Yusuf were supposed to have testified for the prosecution in the case of Marwan, a young man sentenced to eight years in March 1991 by the Banda Aceh district court. Instead of appearing in court, however, their written statements were read aloud. A fellow detainee said the day before they were taken from their cells, the three were vomiting blood as a result of torture. 

Asia Watch has received more detailed information on Mahdi Yusuf, suggesting that he was arrested after he refused to let his wife be questioned regarding the activities of her employer, Abdullah Hussein, who ran a sewing shop in Banda Aceh, PT Kuta Alam Tailor, where several meetings of suspected Aceh Merdeka partisans reportedly took place. On February 7, 1991, around 14:00, two men, including one lieutenant in the intelligence section of KOSTRAD, the strategic army reserve, who was then working with the internal security apparatus, came to Mahdi Yusuf's house in Darussalam, Banda Aceh, and said the wife was needed to give testimony. Mahdi Yusuf refused to let his wife go with the two men, saying they had a sick child, but that he would go in her place. The two officers agreed and promised the wife that her husband would be back home by 16:00. She never saw him again. 

After he failed to return, relatives went to the internal security office (BAKORSTANAS) in Lampineung in Banda Aceh, where a junior officer first admitted having seen him, then denied it after his superiors told the relatives that they had never heard of Mahdi Yusuf. Relatives then visited the Lhoknga detention center three times, where they learned that Mahdi Yusuf had at one time shared cell No.10 with a suspect named Hasbi Abdullah, now serving a 17-year term and that he had needed medication for malaria. At the time he was taken from his cell there, his clothes and shoes were left behind, according to fellow detainees. 

In June 1991, relatives learned that sometime around March, Mahdi Yusuf may have been seen in the notorious camp run by Kopassus in Rancong. The regional (KOREM) military commander, when approached by the family at his home and office, said he did not want to hear any more about this case. If Mahdi Yusuf is alive, the family wants to know where he is. If he is dead, they want to know the circumstances of his death and the body returned for a proper burial. 


Possible Extrajudicial Executions

A string of deaths of alleged Aceh Merdeka leaders suggests that the government has been pursuing a policy of shoot to kill and may have deliberately shot suspected leaders rather than taking them into custody. That likelihood is reinforced by the fact that in none of the cases listed below was any member of the security forces wounded or killed in the alleged "ambushes" by suspected guerrillas or in the reported efforts of the latter to "resist arrest." 

On September 25, 1991, the army announced that three Aceh Merdeka members with military training in Libya had been killed in an ambush, including Mohamad Nasir Hagu, 29; Armia Usman, 35; and Mansurni Thalib. On September 29, in the subdistrict of Tanah Jambo Aye, North Aceh, at 6:30, two suspected Aceh Merdeka guerrillas, Tengku Machmud Hassan Ibrahim alias Ayah Pase, 62, and a bodyguard named Abubakar, 27, were killed in an army attack. An army press release said the two chose death rather than surrender. 

On October 11, an army spokesman reported the death of Amri Al Zaini, 25, in the forest around Buloh Blang Ara, North Aceh in a "fence of legs" operation. These operations, known in Indonesian as pagar betis, are characteristic of Indonesian counterinsurgency operations and involve the forced participation of villagers in manhunts for suspected guerrillas. The spokesman said the army was forced to shoot Amri because he failed to heed appeals to surrender and resisted arrest. He also suggested the shooting was in reprisal for an attack on a police post in Buloh Blang Ara on May 28, 1990 in which Amri Al Zaini had allegedly participated. A separate report received by Asia Watch, however, said that Amri al Zaini, a native of Kreung Batee, East Aceh, had been captured by a combined force of Kopassus, soldiers from Infantry Battalion 132 and the mobile police brigade (Brimob) two days earlier and had in fact been in custody when he was shot. 

On October 31, in Sawang, North Aceh, two suspected Aceh Merdeka members were shot dead, Yahya, 28, from Kandang Muara Dua, and Bukhari, 25, from Buloh Blang Ara, North Aceh. Both were said to have received overseas training; the military said that guns found on them were those seized in the Aceh Merdeka raid in Buloh Blang Ara in May 1990. 

On November 4, in a report from Aceh Merdeka sources which Asia Watch has not been able to confirm, Jamaluddin Hasan, 34, and Harun, 43, both residents of Metareum, subdistrict Mila, in Pidie, Aceh were shot dead in a military operation. 

On November 9, 1991, the corpse of a former policeman named Zainuddin, once stationed at the North Aceh Police Command, was found in a wooded area near Beureunuen, Pidie. On the same day, soldiers in the subdistrict of Bandar Baru, killed three suspected members of the GPK. A young man named Munandar, believed to have received military training overseas, was also killed together with five others on November 15, around 21:35. All of the deaths were reported in a press release issued by KODAM 1 (Bukit Barisan) on November 16. The military also reported that it had killed three other suspected members, "with full cooperation of local residents" on November 16 outside the subdistrict of Tiro at about noon. The army said their identity was still being investigated. 

On December 28, a suspected and long-sought leader of Aceh Merdeka, Yusuf Ali, 46, was shot dead in an army operation in Kreung Gunci, subdistrict Peusangan, North Aceh. The military said he was shot resisting capture. Five other suspected guerrillas were captured. The military press release announcing his death, in a burst of hyperbole, said that local residents followed behind his body singing the Indonesian national anthem to express their joy. A military spokesman also said his death was a "New Year's present" to the military. 

On January 21, 1992 in Padang Tiji, Pidie, yet another suspected Aceh Merdeka member named Sofian was shot dead after he refused, in the words of an army spokesman, to heed calls to surrender. 

There are few reported arrests of suspected guerrilla leaders during this period. In one case, a man named Abdullah Bagok alias Dul Gundol, who had fled Aceh and was living in Air Haji village in West Sumatra, was variously reported in three different newspapers as has having been ambushed, arrested and shot dead on October 17. He was reported to have been involved in an Aceh Merdeka attack in Kreung Tuan. Other reported arrests include Geuchik Yusuf, 52; Abdul Jalil Bugis, 48; and Sulaiman bin Abdul Rauf, 32, from Beureueh Dua, subdistrict Mutiara, Sigli, all reported to be detained in the Lamuelo prison, and Abdullah Pari, captured in subdistrict Nurussalam, East Aceh, on January 22. In all cases of arrest in Aceh, Asia Watch is concerned that torture may be used during interrogation. 


Releases

The release of 112 "rebels" in Lhokseumawe, North Aceh on January 11, 1992, gives some indication of the extent of arbitrary arrest in Aceh in the context of the counterinsurgency campaign there. The regional military commander, Major General H.R. Pramono, apparently decided that there was insufficient evidence to continue holding the detainees, most of whom had been detained for between six months and one year. The releases brought to over 700 the number of people arrested, held incommunicado and released in Aceh since the first such release "ceremony" took place on September 2, 1990 when 142 detainees in Lhokseumawe were set free with great fanfare. On April 11, 1991, 71 detainees were released in Langsa; on June 21 in Medan, 57 were freed; on August 16, 226 were released in Lhokseumawe; and on October 10, 1991, 127 were released, including 48 from East Aceh, 40 each from Pidie, 21 from North Aceh, six from Central Aceh, five from the city of Banda Aceh, one person from South Aceh and six people from central Tapanuli in North Sumatra. 

These releases of people, detained without charge or trial for such long periods and against whom there had been little or no evidence in the first place, took place in each case before a full panoply of military and civilian officials. Those released were obliged to take a loyalty oath, accept Pancasila as the national ideology, and swear to help the army in its efforts to crush the "GPK." 


Trials

In an earlier report, Asia Watch expressed concern over the way in which trials of Aceh Merdeka suspects were conducted. Among other things, interrogation depositions used as evidence in the trials had been extracted under torture and other forms of duress, defendants in some cases were not allowed to communicate with their lawyers until the opening session of their trials, they had no choice of counsel, and the defense strategy was worked out with the prosecutor and military authorities before the trial began. 

Since the current round of trials began on March 16, 1991, over 30 men have been convicted, including eight soldiers. (A list of those convicted is attached as Appendix A.) Six more trials got underway in December and January, and some 50 people, whose cases had not yet come to trial, were known to be held in various military detention centers in Aceh and Medan. The full extent of detention in Aceh is not known. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been able to visit detainees and prisoners in Aceh twice, once in July 1991 and once in January 1992. 

The eight members of the military tried and convicted for supporting Aceh Merdeka efforts indicate that while the army and police have failed to discipline any of their members for human rights abuses in Aceh, they have little hesitation in court-martialling soldiers for support of the guerrillas. The trials, in Military Court I-01 in Banda Aceh, have been open to the public. Most of those convicted have been found guilty of violating the Anti-Subversion Law (Presidential Decree 11/1963) as well as the military offense of "providing aid to the enemy in time of war." The use of the latter provision indicates that the army does not view the counterinsurgency efforts in Aceh as an internal law and order problem but as tantamount to a war against an external enemy. 

Asia Watch fully recognizes the right of the Indonesian government to arrest and bring to trial those it suspects of taking up arms against the state, but it insists that all those arrested be treated humanely and judged fairly. The three cases described below are of interest because they indicate the nature of the alleged linkages between individual members of the armed forces and the independence movement. Asia Watch has not been able to obtain documents from the courts-martial as it did for many of the civilian trials; the accounts therefore reflect the prosecution's side of the case as presented in the Indonesian press. By summarizing those press accounts, Asia Watch is not suggesting that the individuals are innocent or should be released. But it is important to ask how these prisoners were treated after their arrest, whether they were subjected to the same interrogation methods as civilian prisoners, whether the same irregularities characterized their trials as characterized the civilian ones, and whether they are held under conditions that meet the United Nations Standard Minimum 
Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. 

In one case, Corporal Nasri Rasyid, 33, of Batee, Pidie, was detained on July 25, 1990 and only came to trial over a year later on October 28, 1991. A soldier assigned to the regional command Korem 012/Teuku Umar in Banda Aceh, he had gone back to him home in Batee on July 2, 1990 and there encountered a childhood friend from the same village named Arjuna, according to press accounts. The prosecution said Arjuna was an Aceh Merdeka member who had just returned from military training in Libya. Corporal Nasri agreed to give him a lift on his motorcycle back to Banda Aceh, and let him stay overnight at the army barracks Neusu Jaya in Banda Aceh. When the military was searching for Arjuna, Nasri helped him escape, according to the press, and he remains at large. 

In another, Lieutenant (Police) Ibnu Hasan, former head of the police station in Batee, Pidie was sentenced on November 11, 1991 to 15 years in prison and dismissed from the armed forces/police. The military prosecutor said while Ibnu Hasan was in command in 1989/90, he had been lax in his duties and though he knew a leading GPK member was in his area, he had done nothing about it. On August 25, 1990, he had taken an oath to join the GPK as the GPK commander for the Batee area held a Quran over his head. On September 2, 1990, according to the prosecutor, he was approached by four GPK and told that his police station was going to be attacked. The accused reportedly pleaded with the four to wait, but the plan went ahead. A few minutes later, another GPK member came with drugged coffee which was drunk by two policemen, Sgt. Arinus and Sgt. Razali. Arinus complained of a headache, but Ibnu Hasan told him it was nothing to worry about. The latter then left the station with the GPK members and about 15 minutes later, it was attacked, Arinus was killed together with his pregnant wife. Two other soldiers were wounded and a number of weapons were stolen. One of the GPK, named Marzuki, was shot and wounded; he was one of the witnesses for the prosecution against the former police chief. He said there had been three meetings to discuss the attack on the police station but that Ibnu Hasan had not attended because he feared that others might find out he had done so. 

Also sentenced in November to 14 years in prison was Private Samidon of Infantry Battalion 111 based in Tualang Cut, East Aceh who was accused of giving weapons to the GPK. According to the military prosecutor, Samidon, who lived at the Battalion's barracks (asrama yonif) was told if he donated his weapons, he would be given the job of head of operations for the Aceh Merdeka. He was accused of deserting his post in time of war and giving arms to the enemy. 

The prosecutor said that Private Samidon, born in Kutacane on July 5, 1952, was assigned in February 1990 to PT Gruti Krueng Tuan (a private company) to help eliminate the remnants of the GPK. He went on rounds with four colleagues, each equipped with a rifle and ammunition. On or about February 27, the accused, who had previously been sentenced to four months in 1988 for theft, was approached by another soldier, a member of the GPK whom he had known from their time together in prison. The soldier told him if he could get two rifles, he would become head of Aceh Merdeka operations with a salary five times larger than his present one. He persuaded his colleague, Private Danau Bangun, to go with him to get a payoff (uang rokok) from an illegal logger. Without permission from their squad leader, the two left their post in camouflage gear, carrying their guns. They went into the forest where Samidon had allegedly arranged a meeting with GPK, unbeknownst to Private Danau. The soldier with whom Samidon had been in contact was waiting for them and faked an ambush; Samidon, according to press accounts, gave up his gun without protest, but Danau, not knowing the plan, resisted until he was knocked unconscious. The accused left him there and ran back to his post to report to his commander about the "ambush." Danau later died. 

As of the end of 1991, Indonesian authorities were still refusing to let lawyers from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation defend civilian Aceh Merdeka suspects. In a letter to the Supreme Court dated August 26, 1991, the director of the Legal Aid Foundation noted that the families of several of the accused had asked the Foundation to represent them, including the families of Abdul Rachman Toyo, M. Thaib Abdullah, Adnan Beuransyah, Geuchik M. Nuh, Abdullah Ismail, Surya bin Umar, Ibrahim Moh. Jali alias Ibrahim Gayo, and Umar Miyah bin Hamzah. On June 5, 1991, the Foundation's office in Medan had actually received a letter from the district court in Medan, authorizing Foundation lawyers to act as counsel for Moh. Thaib Abdullah. The next day, when the team from the Medan branch appeared in court for the beginning of the trial, they were told by the chief judge that a lawyer from the Indonesian Bar Association had been chosen instead, and that the letter had been a mistake. The district court sent a letter to the Medan branch on June 7, apologizing for the mistake, and canceling the authorization given on June 5. Such efforts and others like them to prevent Foundation lawyers from defending clients suspected of involvement in Aceh Merdeka violate the internationally-recognized right of suspect to counsel of their choice. 


Refugees

A final word should be said about some refugees from Aceh who fled to Malaysia in mid-1991. Neither the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees nor any other international organization has had access to the refugees in Malaysia to determine their reason for fleeing. There have been periodic reports about the Malaysian government's plan to deport them, reports which were particularly prevalent in October 1991 after the meeting of a joint Malaysian-Indonesian Commission established to resolve various bilateral problems, including that of the refugees. As of December 1991, the Indonesian press had reported that over 40 had "voluntarily" returned home, though some of the 40 apparently consisted of Acehnese sent by the Indonesian government to Malaysia to convince the others to return. No international organization on the Indonesian side has been able to obtain a list of names of all of those who did return and check on their safety and well-being. 


Conclusions

Asia Watch calls for a full and impartial investigation into allegations of human rights abuses in Aceh, with particular attention to cases of disappearances and extrajudicial executions. The investigation should focus, among other things, on which agencies have had power of arrest in Aceh over the last two years, as it is clear that the use of different military units to arrest suspected Aceh Merdeka suspects has contributed to the problem. As a recent report of the United Nations Working Group on Disappearances noted, 

"When a large number of people can arrest a large number of other people for offences that are hardly circumscribed, merely on the basis of a suspicion with political underpinnings, abuses are almost bound to occur."

Any soldiers found by the investigation to have engaged in human rights abuses should be prosecuted in a court of law, not just transferred to a different command. All possible efforts should be undertaken to determine what happened to the missing and dead and inform the relatives accordingly. All detention centers, permanent or temporary, run by the military should keep registers of arrests which in turn provide data for a central register to which families and other interested parties should have access. The problem of disappearances in Aceh and other areas of civil strife might be substantially reduced if Indonesia had effective habeas corpus procedures. The procedure of pre-trial hearings, called praperadilan, provided for in the Criminal Procedure Code is clearly inadequate, as the Code in practice does not apply to those arrested by the military. 

Asia Watch strongly urges the Indonesian government to invite a team from the UN Working Group on Disappearances to visit Aceh. 

APPENDIX A 

Prisoners Tried in Connection with Aceh Merdeka 

NOTE: As noted in its earlier reports on Aceh, Asia Watch recognizes that some of the prisoners listed below have been arrested for violent crimes while others appear to have been arrested solely for non-violent political activities. It believes, however, that virtually all have been the victims of torture, illegal detention or unfair trials, or all three. For further biographical details on these and other detainees, see Asia Watch, "Continuing Human Rights Violations in Aceh," June 19, 1991. 

Name and Age Sentence/Sentence (After Appeal)

1. Drs. Nurdin Abdurrahman, 41 ; 9 years ; 13 years 
2. Ridwan Ibas, 31 ; 7 years ; 8 years 
3. Azhar Rafsah bin Razali, 37 ; 8 years ; 6 years 
4. Drs. Tengku Effendi, 32 ; 5 years ; 5 years 
5. Amir Syam, SH, 34 ; 6 years ; 5 years 
6. Mulkan Usman, SH, 38 ; 12 years ; 15 years
7. Drs. Adnan Beuransyah, 32 ; 8 years ; 9 years 
8. Drs. Hasbi Abdullah, 44 ; 14 years ; 17 years 
9. Teuku Muhammad Said, 44 ; 10 years 
10. Marwan Yunus, SH, 29 ; 8 years ; 6 years
11. Sergeant Ahmad Saidi, 53 ; 20 years 
12. Usman Irsyadi, 57 ; 10 years 
13. Bahtiar Ismail, 33 ; 20 years 
14. Drs. M. Amin Ansar, 49 ; 7 years 
15. M. Thaib bin Abdullah, 29 ; 20 years 
16. A. Rahman bin Samad, 35 ; 17.5 years 
17. Ibrahim bin Jalil (Gayo), 36 ; 16 years 
18. Umar Miyah bin Hamzah, 35 ; 20 years 
19. Surya bin Umar, 30 ; 8 years 
20. Abdul Jalil bin Muda Sali, 37 ; 10 years 
21. Mohamad Thaib Abdullah, 53 ; 10 years 
22. Mohamad Nazar Abdullah, 28 ; 14 years 
23. Drs. Jauhar bin Saleh, 36 ; 10 years 
24. Corporal Nasri Rasyid, 33 ; 7 years 
25. Captain (Pol.) Achmad Adamy, 55 ; 9 years 
26. Sergeant Abdul Aziz Bagini ; 10 years 
27. Lieutenant Ibnu Hasan, 52 ; 15 years 
28. Private Samidon, 29 ; 14 years 
29. Corporal Mahmudi, 32 ; 3 years 
30. Private Ridwan, 24 ; 2 years, 8 months 
31. Private Tuharmin, 26 ; 1 year 
32. Azwani Wan bin Jalil, 44 ; 13 years 
33. Abdullah Hussein, 47 

Currently on Trial as of February 1992: 

34. Teungku Armia Muhamad Ali, 49 

Prosecutor in Banda Aceh District Court demanded a sentence of 10 years on February 3, 1992. A graduate of the faculty of Islamic law of al-Azhar University in 1974, Teungku Armia was a religious teacher at the State Islamic Institute (IAIN) in Banda Aceh. He is accused of taking part in Aceh Merdeka meetings at the Kuta Alam Tailor shop in Banda Aceh in 1990 and is charged with participating in a seven-month training course in Libya. 

35. Jailani Hasan, 34 

A coffee-seller in a fishing area of Banda Aceh, he is charged with hosting Aceh Merdeka meetings at his house in Lampulo in July 1990 at which Aceh Merdeka leaders were present. He is reported to have been tortured after his arrested by the regional military command, KOREM 012/Teuku Umar in Banda Aceh. 

* * * *

Asia Watch was founded in 1985 to monitor and promote internationally recognized human rights in Asia. 
Asia Watch is part of Human Rights Watch, which also includes Africa Watch, Americas Watch, Helsinki Watch, Middle East Watch and the Fund for Free Expression. 

 

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