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Human rights of minorities and civilians under threat in Aceh

19 May 2003

The threat of human rights violations against minorities and other members of the civilian population in Aceh increases as conflict reignites and martial law is instituted, warns Minority Rights Group International. The decision to launch the latest government offensive, commenced after peace talks broke down over the weekend, represents a victory for Indonesian military leaders, many of whom have profited from the continuing conflict.

Over twenty years of armed struggle between the Indonesian army and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has been disastrous for the civilian population. Thousands have been killed, tortured or disappeared by the military, and GAM has been responsible for killings, intimidation and cases of arson in homes and schools. Non-Acehnese minorities (mostly Javanese transmigrants) have been targeted by both sides, and many have fled to North Sumatra or Java. Tens of thousands of people have been uprooted from their homes and forced to live in make-shift camps where malnutrition is rampant.

Whilst support for GAM is not universal in Aceh, all Acehnese hold the Indonesian government responsible for their suffering. The government must show a real commitment to fulfilling the Acehnese’s basic demands for justice, human and economic rights, whilst protecting the rights of all those in the territory. The redress of past and ongoing abuses, including trials and sentences of offenders from the military, is imperative.

‘Moderate and democratic voices which could re-establish a dialogue for peace have been silenced and intimidated by the military and GAM,’ said MRG today. ‘Efforts should be made to create a climate for democratic debate, but the government’s current intensified military action and the on-going armed attacks by GAM serve to intensify fears and further endanger the human rights of the civilian population. The absence of independent monitors is cause for serious concern.’

Notes for editors

  • Click here to download MRG’s briefing on Aceh.
  • For further information and interviews, contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].