Thursday, June 09, 2005

Comment: Over 3,300 rebels killed in Aceh

General Endriartono Sutarto, Indonesia's armed forces commander, claims that over the last two years, Indonesian troops have killed over 3,300 rebels in Aceh.

In Dec 2001, Sutarto repeated a message by then President Megawati, "that as long as you keep within the law, you should do your duty without worrying about being involved in human rights abuses".

He endorsed this message in 2002, telling troops of the Jakarta military command, "Never hesitate, don't be afraid of human rights".

Two years ago, M.M. Billah, Chair of the Ad Hoc Peace Observer Team, stated that since the declaration of the military operation in Aceh, there had been violations of humanitarian laws. "The military operation has opened up a space for violations of civilian’s human rights in Aceh. Violations of humanitarian laws that have been discovered by the Human Rights Commission include sexual harassment, torture, forced detention and strong indications that extra judicial killings have taken place".

The Human Rights Commission also disclosed findings on the victims of the conflict. Mass graves and the arbitrary killing of seven civilians, including children, and on rapes.

Sutarto who received military training in the U.S., recently gave a speech in Singapore attended by the chairman of the US Joints Chief of Staff, General Richard Myers.

In the speech he called for normalisation of US-Indonesia military ties to help democracy. Washington announced on May 26, it had lifted a ban on the US government selling nonlethal defence equipment to Indonesia as part of a process to restore full military links.