INDONESIA: Attacks on human rights defenders, destruction of property, public use of weapons with impunity


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-11-2002
ISSUES: Human rights defenders,

Munir and Warda attacked by Jakarta militias
INDONESIA: Attacks on human rights defenders, destruction of property, public use of weapons with impunity

AHRC has visited the offices of two highly regarded Indonesian human rights defenders targeted by civil militia groups in separate violent attacks occurring on the same day: March 13, 2002.
The Urban Poor Consortium (UPC), led by Wardah Hafidz was attacked by a group of Betawi people at 10.15am in an attempt to stop them protesting against Governor Sutiyoso’s mishandling of the flood crisis. The group wielded daggers and swords, physically threatened Wardah, and chased the protestors away. Then at 1.30pm, in a separate incident, the office of KontraS (Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence) was virtually demolished by a gang of hundreds of Ambonese people who arrived in a series of buses. Munir, the founder of Kontras, was personally attacked in the bathroom of the office by 5 or 6 people, but managed to escape with minor injuries. The attackers demanded that he call off investigations into the killing of students by the military in 1998 and 1999. Three others suffered injuries in the attack.
Details of the two attacks are provided below. We are asking you to make a special effort to push for justice in this case. Both UPC and Kontras have vowed to continue their fight for the victims of state violence and corruption in spite of these brazen attacks, but they deserve international support. If two of the most prominent human rights defenders in Indonesia can be attacked with impunity by gangs supported by the government, then there is little hope for democracy and human rights in Indonesia. Enough human rights defenders have been attacked, disappeared, killed and intimidated. Both Munir and Wardah have asserted that international action is vital in this case so that enough pressure can be brought to ensure these rampaging civilian militia groups are shut down.

The first attack, at 10.15am, was on the urban poor and their advocates calling for the city governor, Sutiyoso, to take responsibility for the floods that devastated their communities. The protest was organised by Wardah Hafidz of the Urban Poor Consortium and took place in front of City Hall on Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan, Central Jakarta. They were demanding the President, Governor Sutiyoso and the West Java Governor pay Rp 2.7 billion (US$270,000) compensation to the 365,000 people forced to flee to temporary shelter during the floods because of government mismanagement and ineptitude.
The protestors unfurled a 1km banner with the signatures of victims of the floods, but almost immediately a group of Sutiyoso’s supporters dressed in black and calling itself the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR) arrived on dozens of motorcycles and cars and grabbed the banner. They demanded that the protestors leave, pointed a sword at Wardah and beat up one of the protestors who was trying to protect her. They delivered a statement to Wardah saying the FBR was ready to attack Wardah and the UPC for ‘causing chaos’.

The true agenda of the FBR was farcically highlighted by the events that followed the attack. Wearing black clothes and hats supplied to them by an unknown organiser, Sutiyoso’s supporters continued their rally to the nearby City Council building on Jl. Kebon Sirih. City Council chairman Edy Waluyo, who was presiding an internal meeting with council leaders on the building’s second floor, was shocked when FBR members knocked on the door. He asked them to leave immediately. Edy finally met supporters in the council’s lobby to receive their demands, which included a demand for the administration to provide them with jobs. One of the supporters personally admitted that he was promised Rp 50,000 to join the rally.

At 1.30pm, as many as 9 buses arrived at the Kontras office filled with between 100 and 300 unidentified Ambonese people. They smashed all of the windows and many of the desks of the office and all but one of their computer terminals, as well as raiding food supplies meant for flood victims and stealing vital documents related to human rights abuses around Indonesia – in particular those related to the killing of Theys Eluay (Papuan independence leader) and the engineering of the communal violence in Maluku and Central Sulawesi. They claimed to be demanding that Kontras investigate the deaths of some Muslim people killed at the same time as numerous students were killed by the military during the Trisakti and Semanggi incidents in 1998 and 1999. But the real agenda was made clear by Munir: “When they were attacking me, I told them that if they felt there was a case of discrimination or human rights violation that they should give me the information and I will take this case up as well. But they said ‘No, we just want you to stop investigating the student deaths.’” Two days previously, Kontras had organised a protest with the relatives of the victims at the house of General Wiranto (who is suspected to have organised the killing of the students at Trisakti and Semanggi), calling for him to cooperate with an inquiry into the incident. Then the day before the attack on the office, three Ambonese people came to the Kontras office and demanded that they stop this action against Wiranto, which Kontras refused to do. This ended in a scuffle and a threat that they would destroy the office and beat up the staff. It was not an unusual threat for the Kontras staff, but unfortunately this one was acted upon.
Seven of the hundreds of attackers were arrested, but given the track record of police in bringing these groups to justice, it is considered highly likely charges against them will be dropped.

By now it should be clear to all observers that the armed forces and the old guard of the New Order are using civilian militia gangs to prevent any moves towards bringing perpetrators of human rights to justice or calling state officials to account. This is the same strategy previously used in East Timor. Though it cost many lives and massive destruction, this strategy ultimately failed because the East Timorese won their right to self-determination, and now international pressure is seeing the first perpetrators of this violence brought to trial in Jakarta. But what about the human rights defenders who have to suffer the threats, destruction and beatings of ethnic or religious militia groups who enjoy the support of the armed forces? It is highly likely, for instance, that the group of Ambonese who attacked Kontras are the same as those known as ‘Pamswakarsa’ – a group involved in sparking off the mass burnings, rapes and killings in Greater Jakarta in May 1998. They may also have been involved in engineering the inter-religious violence that has cost 6,000 lives in Maluku.
Of course we know that the military and the elite of the Suharto era are behind these civilian militia and that many of them are driven into this action by unemployment or poverty. But there is no chance for democracy or human rights while there is complete impunity for the violence of groups like Pamswakarsa, Laskar Jihad, Laskar Kristus, Eurico Gutteres’ militia groups (which are still operating despite his direct involvement in the pre- and post-referendum massacres), the Anti-Communist Alliance, the FBR, Golkar’s Pemuda Pancasila, Front Pembila Islam and countless other formal and informal groups whose members are often referred to as ‘preman’.

We urge the entire international community to send one letter to the following officials: President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso, Minister for Justice and Human Rights, Chief of Police and the Attorney General, with copies to Komnas HAM and the UN Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders to demand legal action against the criminals who have attacked these human rights defenders, and to further investigate into who is behind the attacks and bring these persons to justice. You may use the following demands in your letter – they include demands being made by UPC and Kontras that angered the elite enough to organise the terror attacks.

1. Arrest, charge and bring to court the perpetrators of the attacks;

2. Launch an independent inquiry into the funders and organisers of the attacks;

3. Recover the stolen files and file suit to award damages compensation to the human rights defenders;

4. Bring General Wiranto to the human rights inquiry into allegations of his involvement in the Trisakti and Semanggi incidents;

5. Launch an independent inquiry into the mishandling of the floods by Governor Sutiyoso and allegations of corruption in the distribution of government emergency relief funds;

6. Guarantee that urban poor will not be victimised by non-consultative and violent evictions in the name of flood prevention;

7. Initiate a special police unit to investigate and gather evidence on the illegal activities of civilian militia groups in Indonesia; and

8. Invite the UN Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani, to visit and advise on strategies for protecting human rights defenders in future



Governor Sutiyoso

Gedung Balaikota,

21st Floor, Jl. Medan Merdeka

Selatan No. 8-9, Jakarta 10110


PH: (62-21) 344-7005 or 345-6058

FAX: (62-21) 384-8653

SALUTATION: Dear Governor Sutiyoso

Mrs. Megawati Sukarnoputri

President, Republic of Indonesia

Presidential Palace, Jakarta

Istana Negara, Indonesia.

Fax: (62 21) 345 7782

SALUTATION: Your Excellency

Marsillam Simandjuntak, SH

Attorney General of Indonesia

Attorney General’s Office


FAX: (62 21) 720 8557

SALUTATION: Dear Attorney General

Mr. Ihza Mahendra YUSRIL

Minister of Justice and Human Rights

Uahi Utoyo Usman S.H., Menteri Kehkiman,

JI. H.R. Rosuna Said Kav. 6-7,

Kuningan, Jakarta Selatan, Indonesia

Fax: 62-21- 525 3095

SALUTATION: Dear Minister

Gen. Surojo Bimantoro

National Chief of Police

Jl. Trunojoyo

No. 3 Kebayoran Baru

Jakart Selatan


Tel: +(6221) 721 8001

Fax: +(6221) 720 7277

SALUTATION: Dear Gen. Bimantoro


Mr. Asmara Nababan

Secretary General

Komnas HAM (National Commission for Human Rights)

Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng

Jakarta Pusat INDONESIA

FAX: (62 21) 392 5227


SALUTATION: Dear Mr. Nababan

Ms. Hina Jilani

Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders

c/o OHCHR-UNOG, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Fax: (41 22) 917 9006


Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-11-2002
Countries : Indonesia,
Issues : Human rights defenders,