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Journalist groups are calling for an independent investigation into the killing by Indonesian troops of reporter Ersa Siregar in Acheh. Lord Avebury, a key mediator in the US-EU-Japan sponsored negotiations between Acheh and Indonesian government in Tokyo, comments that GAM has explicitly stated that they are willing to return to the negotiation table. This is clear. But this willingness to return is not without conditions. GAM's participation will be dependent on whether the safety of negotiators are guaranteed.
Inside the Secrete War

Response and Turmoil under Martial Law

 
Jan 01, 2004 —— The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Acheh wishes to respond to the recommendations made by the Human Rights Watch in its recent report entitled "Acheh Under Martial Law: Inside the Secrete War".
 
 

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'Such incidents were isolated actions by field soldiers who have subsequently been told not to continue as their actions impose hardship on our own people.'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landmark Agreement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Now that the ICRC is back in Acheh, we do hope that they could intervene to facilitate the safe release of the two journalists as soon as possible.'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'UK equipment (Scorpion tanks, Saracen armoured personnel carriers, and Hawk aircraft) are being used in the war in Acheh.'

 

rom its latest report, it is evident that HRW continues to try to monitor the situation in Acheh despite all the attempts by the Indonesian authorities to block such efforts. For this the State of Acheh wishes to express its appreciation.

The current report contains recommendations to us, the Free Acheh Movement (GAM) that we present below along with our responses:

To the Free Acheh Movement (GAM)

1. Publicly state GAM's commitment to abide by international humanitarian law. Ensure that all forces abide by international humanitarian law. Refrain from taking actions that place civilians at special risk, such as the confiscation of identification cards.

Our response: We have done this several times, in fact on every occasion that we have had to speak on the matter. When the Swiss Ambassador came to deliver the letter from his government to our Head of State, HH. Tengku Hasan M. di Tiro in his Office in Stockholm in May this year, after Indonesia declared Martial Law in Acheh, our Government in-exile in Stockholm gave our official commitment to the Swiss Government as High Holder of Geneva Conventions to respect all the stipulations of the relevant Geneva Conventions in the conflict.

In the matter of the alleged confiscation of identification cards, we have to point out that the issuance of these cards only to Achehnese is in itself a violation of the rights of Achehnese, a blatant form of racial discrimination and ethnic branding by the Indonesian Government. There have indeed been several incidents when our soldiers confiscated and destroyed these cards. However, such incidents were isolated actions by field soldiers who have subsequently been told not to continue as their actions impose hardship on our own people.

More from NY Times, HRW, Wash.Post, Guardian, BBC and CNN

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2. Ensure that all commanders, at every level, receive basic training in the fundamental principles of humanitarian law, particularly the protection of civilians and non-combatants. All combatants should be trained and drilled in the proper treatment of civilians and non-combatants, including captured fighters.

Our response: Indeed, we have in fact asked the ICRC in Geneva to provide our field commanders with such training last year when it was still possible in that we controlled many liberated areas where such training could take place. We also asked for brochures in Malay language similar to those provided for Indonesian troops serving in East Timor. But until today, our requests have not been entertained. We are willing to cooperate with any international agencies willing to provide such training to our forces, in Acheh or abroad.

3. Take measures to ensure that enforceable mechanisms are put in place to hold members of their forces individually accountable for abuses, including summary executions, torture, kidnappings, and forced displacement. Release all detainees held in violation of international law, including the two journalists currently in GAM custody.

Our response: We have always asked our accusers to provide specific information on the alleged violations by our forces. Our Prime Minister, Malik Mahmud has, for example, in an interview with the BBC, pledged to take personal responsibility for any such violations if they could be proven by an independent international agency. We have also called for thorough investigations of human rights violations by both sides, by an independent international agency. We are ready to surrender any of our men who might be proven to be responsible for such violations, for trial in an international human rights court. We would like to repeat that such violations on our side are isolated actions and the result of lack of discipline among the few lower ranking soldiers who committed them. They are not a State Policy as compared with the violations committed by the Indonesian Armed Forces. Most of the times, violations attributed to our forces were in fact carried out by Indonesian troops masquerading as our soldiers.

In the matter of the detained journalists, we wish to stress once again, they have been cleared of all suspicions after our regional military commander Ishak Daud managed to interrogate them just two days after their arrest. But the Indonesian military authorities have been frustrating their safe release to an intermediary. We are not ready to let them go just like that and face the risk of their being killed by Indonesian security forces who would then place the blame on our forces. This sort of thing almost happened to the American journalist Billy Wanessan. Our unit sent to accompany him to a rendezvous with the Indonesian military was attacked, killing two of our men and 15 of the attackers. Billy was only able to leave the jungle with the intervention of the American Embassy.

Now that the ICRC is back in Acheh, we do hope that they could intervene to facilitate the safe release of the two journalists as soon as possible. Such a demand has also been made by the the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to President Megawati herself in an open letter dated 18th December. IFJ President, Christopher Warren said in a press statement: "…despite representations by international human rights organizations and an agreement with GAM to release the journalists, the obstacles have still not been removed. The Government's delay in facilitating these journalists' release is inexcusable and inexplicable…".

Thanking HRW again for its continued efforts to monitor the human rights condition in Acheh despite the tremendous difficulty it is facing in performing its tasks, I remain at its disposal to respond to any other queries it may have.

Dr. Zaini Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs, The State of Acheh; In Exile, Stockholm - Sweden

 

Legal action launched against UK Government's arms to Indonesia policy

The following press release was issued jointly by TAPOL and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)

human rights activist has launched proceedings against the UK Government challenging by Judicial Review the legality of the UK's supply of arms to Indonesia. Mr. Aguswandi claims the continued licensing of military exports to Indonesia breaks UK and EU export control laws which clearly state that export licences for weapons should be refused if there is a risk of the equipment being used for internal repression.

Although since 1997 the Labour Government has introduced new criteria governing the licensing of arms exports, the Government has continued to license the sale of lethal equipment to the Indonesian military. This is despite the repeated use by the Indonesian Army of UK-supplied equipment to commit human rights violations.

UK-supplied tanks (Scorpions and Saladins), armoured personnel carriers (Saracens) and tactical fighter aircraft (Hawk) have been used in conflict situations in East Timor, Acheh, West Papua and the Moluccas in the last four years, despite Indonesian and UK Government assurances that UK equipment would not be used for internal repression. The financial value of arms exports to Indonesia licensed by the UK Government has leapt from £2 million in 2000 to £41 million in 2002.

Currently UK equipment (Scorpion tanks, Saracen armoured personnel carriers, and Hawk aircraft) are being used in the war in Acheh. The Indonesian military have launched several offensives in the last few years in response to the Free Acheh Movement’s (GAM) fight for independence, with violence escalating dramatically since May 2003 when martial law was declared. The operation is causing widespread civilian loss of life, the destruction of Acheh’s public infrastructure, and a grave humanitarian crisis. Despite the violence, the Government in August 2002 relaxed the conditions under which licences to Indonesia were granted, allowing UK equipment to be used in Acheh.

CAAT spokesman Nicholas Gilby said "CAAT and TAPOL fully support this legal action. We are sick of the Government's hypocrisy in licensing weapons sales to a military with one of the worst human rights records in the world, while proclaiming to be a liberator of the oppressed. The Indonesian military in recent years has committed crimes against humanity in East Timor, defied UN Security Council resolutions and slaughtered its own people with impunity. The Government are fully aware of this and that Indonesian assurances on the use of UK weapons are worthless. CAAT and TAPOL therefore demand the Government respect the law and stop licensing the sale of weapons which are used to abuse the human rights of innocent civilians."

For more information on this report, please contact Free Acheh Movement: Tel: +46 (0) 8 531 83833, +46 (0) 8 531 91275, +46 (0) 70 699 3982. Sofyan Dawod; Spokesman: TNA_Spokesman@spl.at

 

Paul Barber (TAPOL London) on 01420 80153 or 0776 180 8095 or the CAAT office on 020 7281 0297 or 07957 120469 (out of office hours only).

 

   

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