Wed, 13 Aug 2003

Komnas HAM team to return to Bulukumba

JAKARTA: A team from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) will soon return to Bulukumba regency in South Sulawesi to resume its investigation of alleged human rights abuse by police, a member said here on Tuesday.

M.M. Billah said the team would leave shortly after it completed another probe in Aceh province. "I will chair the team myself, and its membership will include Hasballah M. Saad, Mansour Fakih and Hasto Atmojo," he said.

He said the investigation was a follow-up of the team's findings at the scene last with indications of human rights violations when police shot dead at least two people and injured dozens of others in Bulukumba during a labor dispute last month.

Non-governmental organizations have put the death toll at five.

Police said they fired shots to disperse the villagers who were holding a rally in front of rubber plantation firm PT London Sumatra (Lonsum) on July 21.

"Our team concluded that some of the police may have committed human rights violations during the protest. They (protesters) also received harsh treatment from the police during their interrogations. They were intimidated and forced to leave their homes," Billah said.

The angry villagers were expressing a decades-long grievance in which they allege that their land had been illegally occupied by the company.--JP