Mon, 17 Jan 2000

Human rights groups urge an end to Aceh violence

BANDA ACEH, Aceh (JP): Representatives of 15 international non-government organizations concluded their two-day meeting here on Sunday putting more pressure on the Indonesian government to soon end the violence in the restive province.

Held at Syah Kuala State University, the meeting was organized by the Support Committee for Human Rights in Aceh (SCHRA) and focused on the actions needed to help the victims of violence, particularly women, children and refugees, who have been living in poor conditions.

The event's coordinator, Radhi Darmansyah, said among the participants were the Washington-based Non-Violence International, the New York-based International Commission of Jurists, the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR), Forum Asia, Thailand's Thamasat University, the Japanese rights group NINDJA, the Solidarity Forum for Peace in East Timor (Solidamor) and the International Forum for Aceh (IFA).

He said the session also sought efforts to promote human rights advocacy to "peacefully campaign in the international community for human rights in Aceh".

"The campaign is expected to place international pressure on Indonesia to cope with the Aceh problem", Radhi told Antara.

The meeting follows an international conference held in Bangkok in July in which representatives of 21 international human rights groups agreed to set up the SCHRA.

President Abdurrahman Wahid disclosed on Saturday that he would go to Aceh this month to attend a ceremony to settle the dispute between police and a group of proindepedence students, the Taleban.

"I will attend the pasejuk, ceremony sometime this month," the President said while addressing a gathering of the Maluku community in Jakarta.

Abdurrahman said his decision was made after meeting with several Aceh leaders on Saturday, although he did not elaborate further.

It is not clear whether the President means to attend a dialogue between the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the government in Langsa, East Aceh, on Jan. 25.

Violence continued on Sunday as separatist rebels and a group of military officers were involved in an exchange fire in Pidie district, killing at least 12 military soldiers, Reuters reported.

No immediate casualties were reported as parties involved in the fray gave different versions of the incident.

GAM's Ismail Syahputra claimed the military tried to raid the camp of GAM's commander Tengku Abdullah Syafi'ie in Pidie, and that 20 military officers were killed. Witnesses put the death toll at 12 while the military denied fatalities on its side.

Earlier on Saturday, in North Aceh, an Army soldier identified as Pvt. Suardiman was killed when an armed group threw a grenade at a security post of PT Kertas Kraft Aceh in Jamuan village of Nisam district, North Aceh military chief Lt. Col. Suyatno said.

Four more bodies were found on Saturday in Peuribu village in West Aceh, in the Idi river in East Aceh and in Muara Dua village in North Aceh, near the PT Arun gas plantation. (50/edt/prb)