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Hawks involved in military operations in Aceh

2 July 2002

Mike O'Brien,
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State,
Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
London SW1A 2AH

Hawks involved in military operations in Aceh

We have just learnt with profound dismay that British-supplied Hawk aircraft are being used in a special operation recently launched by the Indonesian Air Force in Aceh. The operation, which bears the name Rencong Terbang, was launched, according the The Jakarta Post [22 June 2002], on the orders of military headquarters in Jakarta and commenced on 29 May. The aircraft involved 'include ten Hawk jet fighters, one Puma helicopter and one Cessna aircraft'. The Hawks thus account for all the combat aircraft being used in the operation.

The commander of the Medan Air Base, Colonel Djubaedi, is quoted as saying that the operation would 'help restore order in Aceh'. This makes it clear that the Hawks are being used as part of the ongoing military operations in Aceh.

Past letters from the Foreign Office have repeatedly referred to commitments from the Indonesian authorities about the use of British-made equipment in Aceh. A letter dated 8 June 2001 to Campaign Against Arms Trade said: 'There is no evidence that UK supplied Hawk aircraft or UK-supplied military equipment of any sort have been used for counter-insurgency or internal repression in Indonesia.' It went on to say that senior figures in the Indonesian government have repeatedly stated that in no circumstances will UK supplied military equipment be used against civilians to prevent the exercise of their rights'. The Rencong Terbang operation is in blatant violation of this undertaking.

Military operations in Aceh have continued at a high level of intensity, in accordance with several presidential instructions issued by former president, Abdurrahman Wahid and President Megawati Sukarnoputri. This is so despite the holding of peace talks, the most recent of which, held in May, led to an agreement to work towards a ceasefire. By continuing with these military operations, the Indonesian Government is clearly acting contrary to the content and spirit of these talks.

Moreover, these operations result in a high daily death toll, with the brunt being borne by civilians. The death toll in 2001 is estimated to have reached 1,700, mostly civilians, and in the current year, figures are believed to be in the region of one hundred deaths a month. Alongside these casualties, the Acehnese have suffered many other forms of repression while economic activities have been seriously damaged.

The British Government has repeatedly told us that it has made known to the Indonesian authorities that the solution to Aceh's problems can be achieved only through political negotiations. But this is clearly not the path being pursued by the Indonesian Government.

We wish to protest most strongly at the fact that Hawk aircraft are being used in Aceh and call on the British Government to protest to the Indonesian authorities about this breach of past commitments and to demand that the Hawks are immediately withdrawn from use in this operation.

We also call on the British Government to urge the Indonesian Government to order a halt to the ongoing military operations in Aceh and to devote its energies to resolving the conflict in Aceh by peaceful means, through negotiation. This is essential in order to halt the intolerable death toll and the related sufferings that have been the lot of the Acehnese people for so many years.

Yours sincerely,
Carmel Budiardjo
Director, TAPOL

Attached, article from Jakarta Post of 22 June 2002: Air Force launches operation in Aceh Ibnu Mat Noor, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh

In the wake of violence in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province, the Indonesian Air Force launched a 60-day military operation in the troubled territory to quash the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which has been fighting for independence since 1976.

The operation dubbed Rencong Terbang (Flying Dagger) is also aimed at maintaining security at vital sites, including Arun and ExxonMobil oil and gas complex.

"The Rencong Terbang operation is an order from military headquarters," said chief of the Jakarta-based Air Force Western Fleet Operation Rear Marshal T. Syahrial here.

The military operation is also designed to monitor foreign aircraft in Indonesian airspace over Aceh or North Sumatra.

Although it is an annual operation by the Air Force, Syahrial said, the operation was improved this year to secure the western part of the country.

The military operation includes 10 Hawk jet fighters, five from the Pontianak squadron in West Kalimantan and five from the Pekanbaru squadron in Riau.

One Puma helicopter and one Cessna aircraft will also carry paratroops.

Syahrial claimed the operation had commenced on May 29 and the command would be handled from Medan, North Sumatra.

Commander of the Medan Air Base Col. Djubaedi expected that the operation would help restore order in Aceh.

"We are concerned with the escalation of violence in Aceh. People die every day. This must end," Djubaedi told The Jakarta Post on Thursday evening after seeing the body of Pvt. Gunawan Siahaan at the Air Force Hospital in Medan.

Gunawan was one of six servicemen killed on Wednesday in an ambush by members of GAM.

From TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign,

East Timor / Indonesia - updates index     Arms trade and military aid


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