Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Comments on the U.S. Department of State Country reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009

Full post here

East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)

West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT)

Comments on the U.S. Department of State Country reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009

  • Police Violations
  • Timor-Leste
  • Transmigration
  • West Papua
  • Aceh
  • Munir
 The bulk of the U.S. State Department's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices on Indonesia (covering 2009) catalogs continuing human rights violations in Indonesia, offering a generally useful and fairly-detailed chronicle of those abuses and the continuing impunity extended to those violating rights, principally the Indonesian military and police. However, the report's overview mischaracterizes the reports contents and some key developments are ignored. While we do not examine the Timor-Leste  report in detail, except as noted below, some of the errors we and La'o Hamutuk noted last time have either been corrected or were not repeated. However, several of the criticisms we made last year still apply.

As in the past, the State Department, in both its summary and the main body of the report, pulls its punches when addressing security force human rights violations, obstruction of justice and other crimes. The police and the military remain largely unaccountable to a judicial system that is deeply corrupt and cowed by the power of the security forces. The military continues to evade civilian control. Militias, established by the military in Aceh, West Papua and elsewhere are similarly unaccountable. Their role is ignored in the report.

Indonesia's official National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) questioned the report's overall tone, calling the document "too optimistic." The chair of the commission Ifdhal Kasim told the Jakarta Globe "There has been practically no improvement in the handling human rights violations in Indonesia." He told the newspaper that "the country's mechanisms for tackling human rights violations had failed, pointing out that no cases of human rights abuse were brought to the courts in 2009."

The report's overview wrongly contends that "civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces." The statement is partially qualified with an acknowledgement that "the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) continued to be partly self-financed weakened this control," but the those few elements of the military's business empire that were purportedly placed under "civilian" control were in fact turned over to the Ministry of Defense, which is populated principally by active duty and retired senior military personnel. A member of Indonesian Parliament who sits on the commission overseeing defense and foreign affairs has noted that only 13 percent of the millions of acres owned by the military has been certified. Military involvement in illegal business activities and overall impunity further limit civilian control.

In one of the most important oversights, the report leave out the severe and repeated human rights violations in Merauke and Keerom, in West Papua at the hands of a unit of Indonesia's Special Forces (Kopassus). A June 2009 Human Rights Watch report What Did I Do Wrong? - based on interviews documents how Kopassus soldiers "arrest Papuans without legal authority, and beat and mistreat those they take back to their barracks," underscoring that the Kopassus personnel continue to violate rights with impunity even as the U.S. government considers resuming training Kopassus after 12 years. In the fall, six Kopassus officers met with a Human Rights Watch official to deny the abuses detailed in the report. These denials lacked credibility. The Kopassus officers also sought to identify the report's author in a not too subtle effort at intimidation. The State Department's failure to take note of this important human rights reports is inexplicable.

In its substantive paragraphs, the State Department report notes that the military continues to be involved in people trafficking and, as during the Suharto era, to collude with "developers" in forcing farmers and others off their land. However, the report leaves out the systematic failure of the government to prosecute these crimes.

The introduction to the report also contends that "The government or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings; however, security force personnel committed a number of killings in the course of apprehending alleged criminals and terrorists." This claim ignores accounts that military personnel (belonging to the Special Forces or "Kopassus") likely-assassinated civilian activists in Aceh in 2009 because of their political advocacy (confirmed in part after the report came out). The report acknowledges only three killings in Aceh - there were at least 29 mysterious killings and assaults - and fails to report on the background of security force violence that provides context to understand the nature of those killings.

The State Department report fails to identify Article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code which criminalizes peaceful political dissent. The article, which dates to the Dutch colonial era and which was used extensively by during the Suharto dictatorship to punish dissenters, remains a tool of prosecutors, particularly in West Papua. Article 106 criminalizes dissent as constituting rebellion and/or treason and is not compatible with Indonesia's obligations to protect free speech under terms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 19-21). Indonesia signed the convention in 2006.

Read the full post here

Monday, April 12, 2010

NGOs speak at donor's meeting in Timor-Leste

Statement on behalf of NGOs at the 2010 Timor-Leste Development Partners Meeting (TLDPM) . Many of the documents form the meeting are posted by La'o Hamutuk here.

The full NGO forum statement - which elaborates on and adds points to the shortened statement delivered below - can be found here (PDF).

Timor-Leste NGO Forum
 Kaikoli Street, Dili-East Timor/742 2821/732 8620/

Statement by NGOs
Timor-Leste and Development Partners Meeting

7 April 2010

We thank the Ministry of Finance for allowing NGOs to participate at this forum and in the national priorities process. We encourage you to read our complete statement, which is available in the meeting packs. With no opportunity for bilateral meetings this week, we hope to meet with individual agencies, ministries and donors over the coming months. Today, I will just read a brief synopsis of our statement.

We welcome the Governments upcoming unveiling of the Strategic Development Plan - bringing a longer term vision to post-crisis Timor-Leste. We urge the government to make this truly a national plan, with input from a variety of people and sectors before it is implemented, and we hope that a timetable and process for consultation and Parliamentary approval will be made available soon.

Timor-Leste government photo.

 Pakote Referendum We hope that the 2009 Pakote Referendum will be used as a learning experience that unplanned, off-budget, unspecified, poorly-overseen small projects cannot substitute for a plan which identifies priority infrastructure needs and projects and integrates them into Timor-Lestes national requirements.

Food security and nutrition are linked. Food security should be achieved with more attention to nutrition. This is not automatic, and often nutritious food is sold to obtain money to purchase less healthy food such as noodles, candy, rice and non food items. Linking nutrition to food security programs would ensure that children are eating locally-produced, quality food.

Early Childhood Development is critical. Most of the few pre-primary schools in Timor-Leste are concentrated in cities, and children more remote areas rarely have access. This affects their retention and repetition of grades when they enter basic schools. We urge the Government to work proactively with the Church and NGOs to give rural children the best start by allocating sufficient human and financial resources to pre-primary education.

Justice for past human rights violations. We are very concerned about accountability for past human rights. When Timor Leste surrendered to pressure from Indonesia and released Maternus Bere, it signaled that our government accepts impunity for serious crimes. Executive interference in this case undermined Timor-Lestes national sovereignty, constitutional separation of powers and the rule of law. We urge development partners, especially the United Nations, to implement the often-repeated promise that impunity can never be tolerated for crimes against humanity.

Nairn interviewed

Allan Nairn was interviewed in the Jakarta Post today about his reporting on targeted assasinations in Aceh last year. Here is an excerpt:
Critics say that because you refuse to reveal your source, you may have made it all up.

Well, I have two answers for that. One, if I’m making it up, the TNI should follow through on their own announcement to arrest me and try me publicly for libel. If they believe their denial, if they believe I’m lying, go ahead. In fact, they had a chance to arrest me last week when I made a TV appearance.

Two, why don’t they check and see if I’m also making up the names of those 10 people who were secretly detained for killing Tumijan? Was Gen. Aditya also making up the facts of those people? Was Gen. Sunarko also making them up?

The bottom line is, if you believe what you’re saying, try me publicly. I will stand before the judges and announce the details. Don’t take the cowardly way out by arresting me privately or simply deporting me. That would be a tacit admission that I’m right. And I think they already did that, since the TNI was apparently afraid to face me, not only in court but also on TV, at least so far. If they’re so confident about my facts being wrong, they should welcome the opportunity to appear on TV. It’s only logical. 
Nairn has recently done a number of radio interviews in the U.S. and Australia, here are links to a few:

Worldview (WBEZ Chicago): Journalist Uncovers Indonesian Militarys Links to Civilian Killings (April 6) (with Northwestern University's Jeffrey Winters)

Asia Pacific Forum (WBAI, New York) Indonesia: Military Assassinations and a Journalist Under Fire
(April 6) (with ETAN's John M. Miller)

The Wire (Australia): Indonesian military threatens to sue journalist (March 25)

Sjafrie Appointment Goes to Court

A suit calling for the annulling of a presidential decree appointing Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsuddin as deputy defense minister was filed in a Jakarta court last week. The action was brought by survivors and families of human rights violations from the 1998 riots and the kidnapping of student and political activists in 1997 and 1998. Sjafrie was Jakarta military commander at the time. According to the Jakarta Post, the plaintiffs are "represented by several rights groups, including the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute and the Setara Institute."

Usman Hamid, coordinator of KontraS said Sjafrie's appointment
“could hamper future attempts to investigate his role in alleged rights violations....Even when he was still a military commander he ignored a subpoena from the National Commission on Human Rights [investigating the May riots], so imagine how much more impunity this new position will afford him.”
The National Commission team’s report
"highlighted the gravity of the rights violations during the riots and “indicated that the military leadership was responsible for those incidents, including Wiranto, Prabowo, Sjafrie and others”, said Abdul Hakim, the commission chairman at the time."
According to Kompas
There are two grounds for the suit according to Kontras coordinator Usman Hamid. The first is that the presidential decree violates the law because it appointed Sjamsoeddin -- who is still an active Indonesian military (TNI) officer -- to a civilian and political post. "This shows that that President Yudhoyono has no commitment to implementing civil supremacy," said Hamid.

The second reason is that based on input from the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), Sjamsoeddin should be examined by an ad hoc human rights court for human rights violations. The results of Komnas HAM's investigation clearly states that Sjamsoeddin is in part responsible for the abduction of 13 activists who disappeared in 1997-1998, the Trisakti shootings in 1998 and the Semanggi shootings in 1998 and 1999. 
In January, ETAN said Sjafrie's appointment "undermines human rights accountability and civilian control of the military," calling it "This is Suharto redux, leaving the military in charge of itself."

General Sjamsuddin has spent most of his career in Indonesian military's brutal Kopassus special forces. Trained in the U.S. in 1985 and Australia in 1993, he is accused of coordinating several of the most notorious events in East Timor, including the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre and the post-referendum violence in 1999. Sjamsuddin was refused a visa to accompany President Yudhoyono on his visit the United States in October 2009.