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Numerous atrocities coming to light in Aceh

Tapol - August 1, 1998

Many hundreds of people in Aceh are now coming forward to give evidence of disappearances, killings and torture during the time the region has been designated as a 'military operational district'. The following information is taken from a report in an Acehnese daily, Serambi Indonesia, 29 July 1998:

In one particular region of Aceh, the number of missing persons, victims of violence and discovery of corpes has now reached 1,679. No fewer than 359 cases were reported in a single day this week. Many of the complaints have been presented to a local human rights organisation, Forum of Concern for Human Rights, FP HAM, which has a team of volunteers touring in the area to gather information.

The Forum was quoted as saying said that they had received 213 complaints from Panton Labu, Jambo Aye in North Aceh alone. The local legal aid institute also received 100 complaints while 24 cases were reported to the East Aceh legislative assembly.

104 of the 213 complaints received by FP HAM were of disappearances, 54 were of the discovery of bodies of people who had been taken away by the security forces and 55 were of people who had been subjected to torture. All told, the Forum has so far received 466 complaints of disappearances and the use of violence. The team has said that it will continue to visit districts where many atrocities are believed to have occurred. It said that many people had been terrified of speaking about the cases because they feared for their personal safety, particular in the district of Tiro. Syaifuddin Bantasyam said that the mood has now changed and many people are coming forward to testify.

The newspaper also reported that five local NGOs including Walhi, the environmental organisation, the local legal aid institute and the local branch of KONTRAS (Committee for Disappearances and Against Acts of Violence) have issued a five-point statement calling for those responsible for the atrocities be called to account, for the local military commanders to be called to account and for a Military Honour Council to be set up to investigate the matter.

They also demanded that former governor of Aceh, Ibrahim Hasan, be put on trial for being the person who asked the armed forces to increase their presence in the region, thus establishing the designation of 'military operational district' in 1991.

[On August 1 AFX-ASIA reported that KONTRAS has urged the military to investigate whether 14 bodies discovered floating in a South Sumatran river may be those of still-missing activists. KONTRAS Deputy Chairperson Munir said the bodies were found in Way Umpu river in Lampung between July 6 and 18. "The bodies, all were male adults with no identification, showed signs of torture", he said, adding that police had been "somewhat hesitant and not accommodative" in the investigation - James Balowski.]