Thu, 20 Nov 2003

Priok witness describes abuse at hands of soldiers

Urip Hudiono, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A witness testifying in the Tanjung Priok rights trial told the court on Wednesday that she was abducted and stripped naked by military personnel during her detention following the bloody 1984 shooting incident.

Aminatun, the only female witness from among the victims testifying in the trial of Maj. Gen. (ret) Rudolph Butar-Butar, alleged that she was abducted from her home by five military personnel and was stripped naked by female Army personnel during her interrogation at the Central Jakarta military district command.

She also alleged that the five military personnel who arrested her at her home in Cempaka Putih, Central Jakarta, stole her belongings.

"They stormed into my house looking for evidence, and at the same time took away all my books and my Singer sewing machine," said Aminatun, one of two witnesses who gave evidence to the ad hoc human rights tribunal on Wednesday. The other witness was identified as Hendriyana, a trader who lived around three kilometers away from the scene of the shootings.

Aminatun said she and six others were taken away without an arrest warrant in the early hours of Sept. 14, 1984, two days after the shootings.

Aminatun also said she had not participated in the protest at the Tanjung Priok police headquarters that led to the 1984 massacre. According to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), at least 33 civilians were killed and 55 others injured in the incident. However, the military insists that only nine were killed.

Aminatun and six others were taken to the Central Jakarta military district command, where Aminatun's brother, Abdul Basir, was already being held for being among the crowd of Muslim protesters demonstrating at the police state, who were subsequently fired upon by the military.

At the district military command, Aminatun was continually interrogated by the military on whether she had ever attended allegedly "provocative" sermons in mosques in Tanjung Priok and why she wore a Muslim head scarf. She was never given any clear explanations as to why she had been detained.

"Nobody answered me when I asked them what I had been arrested for. Instead, I was slapped in the face when -- out of fear -- I didn't answer their questions," she said, adding that she never attended the sermons and that the wearing of a head scarf was required of Muslim women.

But Aminatun's greatest ordeal had yet to come, when during one of the interrogation sessions, female Army personnel removed her head cover and stripped her naked.

"That was the most vile act they did to me. I felt so humiliated. Eventually I suffered a mental breakdown," she said. She became so emotional at this stage in her testimony that the panel of judges had give her time to calm her down.

After her detention at the military district command, she was then transferred to the military detention center in Cimanggis, Bogor regency, West Java, where she claims she was the only female detainee and was also mistreated.

"I was finally released after 45 days of detention, and after that I was told to promise that never to reveal what I had suffered or witnessed in Cimanggis," she said, adding that some of her fellow detainees had been tortured to a state of paralysis.

Aminatun also said that she was among the Priok victims who attended the islah (Islamic reconciliation agreement) with the military officers involved in the incident -- including Butar- Butar and Gen. (ret) Try Sutrisno, who was at the time of the incident the Jakarta military chief -- but was disappointed with its results, and no longer believed in Try's own words that he was the person "that should bear all responsibility".

"I am therefore hoping that justice can be served through these trials, your honors," Aminatun told the panel of judges in concluding her testimony.

Butar-Butar, who was the Tanjung Priok military district commander in North Jakarta at the time of incident, is the 13th of 14 military officers to stand trial for violations against human rights during the incident.

Butar-Butar's trial was adjourned until Dec. 10, when the panel will hear further testimony from witnesses.