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Jakarta admits to rape cases in May riots

Agence France Presse - December 21, 1998

Jakarta – The Indonesian government, following up on the results of a government-set probe team into the violent May riots, Monday admitted 76 rapes had been committed, but denied they were organized, a minister said.

State Secretary Akbar Tanjung told journalists at the Merdeka palace the government's own checks had found 52 cases of rape, the same number as reported by the team, and 24 others that had been accompanied by violence, compared to the 14 found by the team. The government also found four cases of sexual harrassment, the same number as found by the team, Tanjung said.

It was the first time the government, which first sought to deny the rapes, most of them of ethnic-Chinese women and girls, had commented on findings of the quasi-government team released last month.

"According to our investigation, there was no evidence of rapes that were done in an organized way," Tanjung said. "And the victims were from various ethnic groups," he added. Tanjung said the figures were results of "a follow up by the government on the recommendation of the Joint Fact Finding Team."

Following an international furore over the savagery against ethnic-Chinese during the May riots the government in July commissioned the joint fact finding team to check rape allegations. It was comprised of representatives from the government, the attorney general's office, the police and non-governmental organisations.

Tanjung spoke after Habibie met with seven senior officials – five ministers, the attorney general and the national police chief – who officially commissioned the team.

Major General Marwan Paris, an assistant to the defence minister, who spoke on the same occassion, said rape cases had been reported in the cities of Jakarta, Surabaya in East Java, Solo in central Java, Medan in North Sumatra, Palembang in South Sumatra and in Lampung province in southern Sumatra.

"From the 52 rape victims, the cases of 15 have been processed ... while the rest are still under investigation," Paris said. He said of 15 cases which are currently being processed in view of the possibility of building a legal case, three were based on the victims' direct testimony, nine according to testimonies of medical doctors who had treated the victims and three from the testimony of the victims' parents.

The fact finding team in November said it had directly or indirectly verified 52 victims of simple rape, another 14 victims of rape accompanied by violence and a further 10 victims of sexual attacks and four of sexual harrassment.

The team had also pointed to possible involvement of an army unit headed by a son-in-law of former president Suharto, now retired lieutenant general Prabowo Subianto.

"Based on the recommendation of the Joint Fact Finding Team, the government deems it necessary for a further investigation of the members of the Kopassus who were involved in the abductions to see how far Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto was involved," Tanjung said.

He was referring to the abduction of at least 24 activists earlier this year when Prabowo, who is married to a daughter of fallen president Suharto, commanded the Kopassus elite special forces. Nine of those abducted have resurfaced and have spoken of torture. One has been found dead while the rest are still missing. A military council in September found members of Kopassus were implicated in the abductions.

Armed Forces Chief General Wiranto later that month said Prabowo would be given an early retirement while two other senior officers of the unit will not be given "operational" postings. The team also found the May the unrest was linked to a meeting held at Kostrad, the army strategic command headquarters on May 14. Kostrad was then under the command of Prabowo.

"On the recommendation regarding the meeting at the Kostrad headquarters, there is a need for information to be sought from those who were present there," Tanjung said.

The riots in Jakarta, one of the most violent the city has witnessed, took place on May 13-15. They left massive devastation and over 1,000 people dead, mostly looters caught by fires in buildings.