Sat, 09 Dec 2000

Forum data shows 841 people killed in Aceh this year

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): The number of people killed in the strife-torn province of Aceh reached 841 from Jan. 1 to Dec. 7 this year, much more than last year's toll of 'only' 393, the Aceh Human Rights Care Forum revealed.

The forum executive director, Syaifuddin Bantasyam, told a breaking of the fast gathering at a restaurant in Banda Aceh on Friday that 676 of the 841 deceased were civilians, 124 police/ Army officers and 41 members of the separatists' Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

From the 393 victims in 1999, 278 were civilians, 74 police/Army officers, and 41 GAM members, Syaifuddin said.

The revelations regarding the number of victims were part of the Forum's "political" statements on Aceh.

According to the Forum, which is based in Banda Aceh, the Indonesian government had been ignorant by allowing human rights violations to occur in Aceh for years.

"Knowing that the current truce agreed to by GAM and the government of Indonesia has resulted in no decrease in the number of fatalities, we want both sides to disarm their forces," Syaifuddin said.

The Forum also condemned Wednesday's killing of activists from the Rehabilitation Council for Tortured Victims (IRCTI).

Sources said on Thursday that an IRCT field assistant, Idris, and two nurses, Ersita and Bachtiar, were driving a car bearing the IRCT emblem to collect sick and injured people in the Tanah Pasir and Blang Mangan districts in North Aceh, when security personnel intercepted the vehicle and shot them. One of the three activists survived the shooting.

Indonesian authorities have yet to clarify the incident.

In an effort to ease tension in Aceh, GAM and the Indonesian government agreed to sign a three-month humanitarian pause last May during talks in Switzerland. The cease-fire was extended in September, however killings continued with both sides blaming each other for the violence.

Further talks were planned on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6, but GAM asked for a delay, until between Dec. 10 and Dec. 15, following the commemoration of its 24th anniversary on Dec. 4.


The Acehnese' hatred for the "oppressor", Indonesia, nowadays is as fierce as their hatred for the Dutch colonialists a century ago, Syaifuddin said.

"Acehnese just want justice and proper law enforcement. Jakarta must pay more attention and prioritize Aceh for development and aid programs."

"On Aug. 7, 1998 Wiranto (the then Indonesian Armed Forces chief) promised to have those involved in rights violations in Aceh brought to court. He has never kept his word."

The forum also suggested that political dialog be enhanced to achieve peace in Aceh.

"There are at least 350,000 people in Aceh who have had to seek refuge due to the prolonged unrest. The Indonesian government has been too slow in handling the refugees. If Indonesia is not capable of dealing with them, why don't we ask the United Nation's High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to handle this," Syaifuddin said. "So far the UNHCR cannot interfere as the refugees are all locals and the government of Indonesia has never given UNHCR permission to step into the matter."

Meanwhile, Abusyeh, GAM spokesman in the regency of Pidie, said that GAM had identified 43 local people, 12 of whom were women, who were being hired by the Indonesian Police and military to spy on GAM activities.

"We've been pursuing them," Abusyeh said, refusing to identify the 43 informants. (50/sur)