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Open letter to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
President of Indonesia
Istana Merdeka
Jakarta 10110

20 October 2004

Open letter

Dear Mr President,

We congratulate you on your inauguration as President of Indonesia and would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to a number of issues we believe should be addressed to ensure that Indonesia's difficult transition to democracy is based on respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Aceh and West Papua

The military approach adopted in the three years of the Megawati presidency to resolve the conflicts in Aceh and West Papua has only worsened the social and human conditions on the ground. The use of force to deal with alleged separatists has failed to resolve the conflicts. In addition to being counter-productive, it has involved widespread violations of fundamental rights.

We urge you to seek comprehensive and peaceful solutions to the conflicts. Negotiations should start immediately with all sections of society to find solutions to the social and political problems and to ensure that human rights are upheld and are actively promoted at all times.

In particular we call upon you to:

  • Halt the current military operations in Aceh and the security operations in West Papua and lift the civil emergency status in Aceh.
  • Withdraw all non-organic troops from both territories.
  • Ensure that the peoples of Aceh and West Papua are peacefully able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression (including the right to express support for self-determination), freedom of association, freedom of assembly and other fundamental rights and that they are protected from extra-judicial execution, torture and arbitrary detention.
  • Facilitate the conduct of independent investigations into human rights violations in both territories, facilitate the return of human rights and humanitarian agencies, and invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to visit and report in accordance with their mandates.
  • Ensure that members of the armed forces and police observe international human rights and humanitarian laws, especially in relation to civilians and other non-combatants.
  • Ensure that both domestic and international human rights defenders have full and unhindered access to both areas and are able to carry out their work free from threats and intimidation.
  • Lift all restrictions on journalists visiting Aceh and West Papua.
  • Continue the process of building a civilian police force which will protect civilians, and avoid the use of repressive measures against legitimate social or political protest.
  • End divide-and-rule policies aimed at splitting up the two provinces.
  • Ending Impunity

    Ending impunity has always been one of the main objectives of the pro-democracy movement in general and the human rights community in particular. The high hopes generated by the end of the Suharto dictatorship in May 1998 were regrettably dashed during the three years of the Megawati presidency.

    Although the post-dictatorship period has produced new laws and judicial mechanisms, law enforcement has been fundamentally flawed due to weaknesses in the judiciary, the prosecution service and the police force.

    Another major stumbling block is the continuing role of military and intelligence bodies in determining the political agenda. Despite institutional support for the establishment of two ad hoc courts for gross human rights violations committed in Tanjung Priok (1984) and East Timor (1999), the end result was the acquittal of almost all the main suspects, most of whom were senior military officers.

    We urge you to co-operate fully with the serious crimes process in East Timor and with any proposals by the UN aimed at bringing to justice the perpetrators of gross violations in East Timor.

    We further urge you to facilitate the conduct of credible investigations and prosecutions, according to international standards, of the following cases so that those responsible - including those with political and military command responsibility - are brought to justice:

  • the massacres perpetrated in the months following the seizure of power by former President Suharto in 1965.
  • the numerous atrocities and human rights abuses committed in Aceh and West Papua since the 1960s.
  • other grave incidents such as the Lampung killings in 1987; the attack on the PDI office in July 1996; the disappearances of activists in 1998; and the Trisakti/Semanggi student killings in 1998/1999.
  • We call upon you to review the Law on the TNI, in particular its provision for the continuation of the TNI's territorial structure.

    The Draft Law on Intelligence as it now stands gives excessive power to the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) and will put civil liberties in peril. A thoroughgoing discussion should take place in parliament and with human rights groups regarding the position of the Indonesian armed forces in society and the role of intelligence units, to safeguard the security of the population.

    Political Prisoners

    The number of political prisoners fell sharply in the two years following the downfall of former President Suharto. During the short presidencies of Habibie and Abdurrachman Wahid most political prisoners were released but the number has risen steeply in the last three years under President Megawati. At present, more than 2,000 persons are in jail because of their alleged political beliefs, allegiances or activities.

    The majority of the prisoners are Acehnese with a smaller number from West Papua, Maluku and Java. Most of them were convicted following unfair trials which did not meet international standards, including cases where confessions were obtained through torture.

    Most of the Acehnese prisoners were tried under an emergency procedure which did not comply with the established Indonesian legal procedures. Most of the defendants were not assisted by a defence lawyer. The trials were completed in record time and in many cases the verdicts were handed down after brief court hearings. In addition, around 400 prisoners have been transferred to 26 prisons scattered across Java. Transferring prisoners from Aceh to locations far from home is in flagrant breach of international standards concerning the treatment of prisoners.

    We urge you to:

  • Press for an independent judicial review of the cases of all persons arrested and detained following the establishment of martial law in Aceh and all others from West Papua, Maluku and elsewhere who may have been detained for political or arbitrary reasons.
  • Ensure that all those subject to arbitrary detention and all those imprisoned as a result of unfair trials are immediately released.
  • Ensure that international standards concerning the treatment of prisoners are fully respected.
  • Legal and judicial reform

    Whatever improvements are made to Indonesia's laws and legal procedures, the rule of law cannot prevail unless professional, independent and impartial legal personnel are available to carry out investigations, prosecutions and trials.

    Corruption within the judiciary is rampant and should be given highest priority.

    We urge you to:

  • Set up an independent judicial commission as an external watch-dog for the courts. A similar body should be established for the prosecution and the police.
  • Facilitate the intensive training in international human rights law and practice of judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers.
  • Ensure that all laws, regulations and practices relating to the function and conduct of the legal profession are consistent with the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, the Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors and the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
  • Restore confidence in society by immediately prosecuting the more blatant corruption cases. The newly-established KPK (Commission for the Eradication of Corruption) should be strengthened by providing it with the necessary authority, qualified personnel and sufficient funds.
  • We are most grateful to you for your attention to these matters.

    Yours sincerely,
    Carmel Budiardjo
    TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign

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