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INDONESIA/ACEH: The Military Court released 12 soldiers from torture charges

October 15, 2003

URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

15 October 2003

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UA-63-2003: INDONESIA/ACEH: The Military Court released 12 soldiers from torture charges

INDONESIA/ACEH: Torture; Unfair Trial; Rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that the Lhokseumawe Military Court in Aceh released 12 soldiers from Infantry Battalion (Yonif) 301, who had tortured the civilians, even though they had confessed their crime. In Aceh area, the military soldiers arbitrarily arrested and tortured the civilians with genuine impunity, accusing them of being rebels or in order to get information regarding the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Your urgent action is required to urge the Government of Indonesia to correct this matter.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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DETAILED INFORMATION:

On 10 October 2003, the Lhokseumawe Military Court released 12 soldiers from Batalyon Infantery (Yonif) 301, who had tortured the civilians from two villages in Aceh.

They were charged of torturing the citizens of two villages, West Gleumpang Sulu village and East Gleumpang Sulu Village in Dewantara District, North Aceh. The Military Oditur (Military prosecutor) set them free and the judges, lead by Major (Chk) E Trias Komara, acquitted the perpetrators of a charge because of lack of evidence.

Ironically, in the court, the 12 soldiers confessed that they tortured villagers to get the information about a member of Free Aceh Movement (GAM), Syaiful Bachri. But they said that they could not give exact names of the victims because it was too dark to recognize them. In their decision, the judges stated that there was not enough evidence "Because it was too dark at that time, the witnesses and the victims couldn't clearly give the name of the soldiers who assaulted them. Also, the soldiers can't tell the exact name of each victim whom were beaten by them" (Read Kompas, 11 October 2003 page 8). Moreover, even though the court defined the villagers as the victims, the court announced that they could not receive compensation according to law because the perpetrators were not found yet. The Government of Indonesia has ratified the Convention Anti Torture (CAT) however, it was not implemented into domestic law.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send a letter, fax or email to the addresses below to express your concern of this matter.

1. Mrs. Megawati Sukarnoputri
President, Republic of Indonesia
Presidential Palace, Jakarta,
Jalan Veteran 16
Jakarta
INDONESIA
Fax: +62 21 344 2223 / 345 2685
E-mail: presiden@ri.go.id

2. General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Minister of Coordinator Politics and Secure
Jalan Merdeka Barat 15
Jakarta
INDONESIA
Fax: +62 21 345 0918

3. Prof. Bagir Manan
The Chairman of the Supreme Justice
Jalan Merdeka Utara 9 - 13
Jakarta
INDONESIA
Fax: +62 21 381 2347

4. Yusril Ihza Mahendra
Menteri Hukum dan Hak Asasi Manusia (Minister of Law and Human Rights)
Jl. HR Rasuna Said Kav. 6-7
Kuningan
Jakarta-Selatan 12950
INDONESIA
Fax: +62 21 314 1625, 513095 or 5253095

5. Mr. Theo C. van Boven
Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture
OHCHR-UNOG
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Fax: +41 22 917-9016
E-mail: secrt.hchr@unog.ch


Sample letter:

Dear

RE: The Military Court released 12 soldiers from torture charge

I am very concerned by the report that the Lhokseumawe Military Court released 12 soldiers from Infantry Battalion (Yonif) 301 on 10 Octorber 2003, who had tortured the civilians of two villages, West Gleumpang Sulu village and East Gleumpang Sulu Village in Dewantara District, North Aceh. More seriously, even though they confessed their crime at the court, the Military Oditur (Military prosecutor) set the perpetuators free and the judges, lead by Major (Chk) E Trias Komara, acquitted them of a charge on the basis of lack of evidence.

Nonsensically, the judges stated in their decision, that there was not enough evidence "Because it was too dark at that time, the witnesses and the victims couldn't clearly give the name of the soldiers who assaulted them. Also, the soldiers can't tell the exact name of each victim whom were beaten by them". It clearly shows that the Government of Indonesia does not have a strong will to eliminate torture by the police and soldiers which have been frequently happening in Aceh area.

I strongly urge you to bring this case before an impartial and independent court and bring the perpetrators before justice as soon as possible. I also urge the Government of Indonesia to provide compensation to the victims according to law. I further urge the Government of Indonesia to implement CAT into domestic law and take strong action to end torture in the country. Finally, the Government of Indonesia should ensure that soldiers and police who violate people's human rights are detained and subjected to effective judicial process.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,



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Thank you.

Kim Soo A
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
UA-63-2003
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.