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Human rights commission's office attacked

Straits Times - June 25, 2000

Jakarta – About 200 Islamic protesters attacked and damaged a restaurant in a well-to-do Jakarta neighbourhood after throwing rocks at offices occupied by Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission on Friday.

Members of the group, calling itself the Islamic Defenders' Front, accused the state-appointed organisation of bias and said it should be dismantled. Several windows were smashed. But there were no reports of injuries.

The group, many of its members wearing white Islamic uniforms, later paraded through Kemang, a suburb popular with expatriates and middle class Indonesians. They attacked the Jimbani restaurant and smashed its windows with wooden poles.

Jimbani's manager Rabin Iman Sutejo said: "I couldn't do anything as it was carried out by the masses." The group also broke signs advertising beer along the suburb's main street.

They were angered by a report released last week by the human rights commission that found no evidence to support claims that soldiers deliberately massacred dozens of Muslim protesters in Jakarta's Tanjung Priok port district in 1984.

The commission accused the military of some human rights abuses, but said troops shot 24 people to death only after mobs had attacked them. Nine other people were killed by crowds.

The Islamic Defenders' Front also complained that the commission was not properly investigating current human rights violations against Muslims in the restive province of Aceh and in the Maluku islands, where Muslims and Christians have been fighting a bloody sectarian conflict for 18 months. They demanded that the commission be abolished.

Commission official Bambang Suharto condemned Friday's protest and urged groups with grievances to approach the commission peacefully. He denied the claims of bias.

The bloody Tanjung Priok shootings claimed the lives of 33 civilians with as many as 24 people killed by security officers. Another nine died at the hands of angry masses. However, it is believed that the number of people killed by security officers is much greater than the official count.