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600 raped in Aceh over past seven years

Straits Times - July 29, 1998

Banda Aceh – Non-governmental organisations (NGO) have told a parliamentary group investigating violence in this autonomous Indonesian region that some 600 women had been raped over the past seven years, many allegedly by the military.

Mr Abdurrahman Yakub, an executive at the Banda Aceh Legal Aid Foundation, said 625 women in Aceh were raped and tortured between 1990 and last year and that some cases involved military personnel, a source said yesterday.

A victim identified as Ms Nurhayati told the investigating team at the Aceh Ulemas (Muslim religious teachers) Assembly: "I was stripped naked and given the electric shock treatment by Kopassus members." Kopassus refers to the military's special forces unit.

An NGO member identified as Soraya, 38, referring to riots in Jakarta in which hundreds of ethnic-Chinese women were gang-raped, said: "Don't just look at the May 13-14 incident in Jakarta alone. The cases that went on in Aceh are graver and greater."

The seven-man fact-finding team headed by Mr Hari Sabarno is charged with investigating the situation in areas under military operational control, the official Antara News Agency said.

The army has been deployed for decades in Aceh, home of the separatist "Free Aceh" drive for a Muslim state. The greatest number of rape cases occurred in 1990 and continued until April, the NGOs said, adding that the rapes had involved soldiers from various units. Victims in Aceh who met the team on Monday urged the government to pay more attention to human-rights abuses in Aceh.

A joint report by NGOs, the administration and the military showed that some of the 1,670 people listed as missing between 1990 and last year had turned up dead.

[On August 1 AFP reported that the governor of Aceh, Syamsuddin Mahmud, has requested the withdrawal of troops and a lifting of the region's status as a military operational area (DOM). The request was made in a letter sent to Habibie and a number of government officials dated July 29. In the letter he said the DOM status had been abused by the military to commit "excesses" and that "If this situation continues, the Acehnese people would always be haunted by fear and insecurity" - James Balowski.]