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Acehnese women testify to commission

Serambi Indonesia - July 29, 1998 (summarised)

Sigli, Aceh – Several women testified to a parliamentary fact-finding mission on a visit to Sigli about their experiences at the hands of the security forces. The testimony was given at a meeting attended by about one thousand people, most of them widows and orphans.

One 42-year old woman known only as CS told the fact-finding team that she had been taken into custody by the security forces in 1992 together with her husband, M. Yunus. They were placed in separate rooms so he probably never knew what had happened to her. She said she had been raped by three members of the armed forces after which she fainted. The next morning, she was kicked, then taken to a nearby river and told to wash herself. She said this had happened at the Jim Jim Sattis (military post – the abbreviation probably stands for Tactical Unit or Kesatuan Taktis).

CS who comes from Ujong Leubat, Bandar Baru, said that before being released she was tortured. Since her release, she has not seen her husband. She was told by others that he was shot dead in public, with his hands tied. The execution allegedly took place in Cibrek Village, Kembang Tanjong.

Another woman by the name of Ramlah from Simpang Jurong, Geurnpang, said she had been taken into custody when the security forces came to her home looking for her husband and children. She told the team she had been stripped naked, tortured, bitten and burnt, and one of her hands had been broken and was permanently misformed. After her husband and four children – two sons and two daughters – were found by the army, she herself was released but they were all killed and buried in a mass grave in Geunpang.

Khatijah from Cot Baroh, Giumpang Tiga told the mission that she was taken into custody in February 1998 after returning home from Malaysia where she had visited one of her children. She was beaten, tortured, stripped naked and subjected to other atrocities for fifteen days. In April she was again taken into custody after troops came to her house looking for weapons. They turned her home upside down but found nothing. She was eventually released in June this year. On both occasions she was held in Rumoh Geudong but later taken to Rancong (a notorious interrogation centre run by the elite forces, Kopassus.).

Two other women asked the mission to investigate the whereabouts of their husbands who had been taken away in March this year. The head of the mission, Hari Subarno, asked the witnesses repeatedly to explain how they knew that the perpetrators of these atrocities were from the elite corps (ie, Kopassus), to which they all replied – victims as well as witnesses – that they knew very well who the people responsible were. In most cases the atrocities had occured at the nearest "Sattis" (an abbreviation for the military command post) or at Rumoh Geudong.

Another victim named Umar Abubakar, from Jim Jim Village said that he had been shot in the thigh by a member of the armed forces in 1995. Fortunately for him, the soldier then relented and took him to hospital. He later had to have his leg amputated. He now walks on crutches and is unable to earn a living.

When a spokesperson for the local NGO, Forum of Concern for Human Rights, asked whether the team could given assurances to those who had testified that they would not suffer reprisals for doing so, a representative of the local military commander who was present at the meeting said he would give such assurances.

When Hari Subarno asked those present whether they felt under threat from the Aceh Freedom Movement (GAM) and whether it was still active, they all shouted, "No, not at all." One woman was even heard to say. "We are not afraid of the Aceh Freedom Movement, we're afraid of the army." When the member of Parliament asked what should happen if members of GAM appeared, they shouted, "Prosecute them!"

At the end of the meeting, the Pidie local legislative assembly, in whose building the meeting had taken place, gave the team the provisional findings of their own investigations and declared, with the enthusiastic support of all those present, that the military operations (DOM) in Aceh must be ended. The Pidie assembly has compiled a list of 440 cases of violence including people who have gone missing, killings, torture and the burning down of people's homes.