BY JAMES BALOWSKI
JAKARTA — As many as 100 women have been raped since martial law was declared in Indonesia's northern-most province of Aceh on May 19. A report, evaluating the first 100 days of Jakarta's so-called "integrated operation" to restore "security and order" and crush the Free Aceh Movement, was presented to the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) on August 28 by the Friends of Aceh (FOA).
The report said most of the victims were too frightened to take legal action; only 21 cases of rape or sexual harassment have been reported to police. Last July, three solders in Aceh were convicted of rape and given short jail terms by a military court.
FOA is a coalition of non-government organisations, which includes the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association, Solidarity Without Borders, the Kotaraja Forum, Daughters of Aceh for Justice, the Purple Institute, National Solidarity for Papua and the National Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence.
In one particular case, FOA cited the gang rape of a 16-year-old woman by five Indonesian military (TNI) personnel in the sub-district of Keramat in North Aceh. Following the incident, the victim and her family were threatened by members of the district military command (Koramil) and warned not to report the attack to police.
The Lhokseumawe military command in North Aceh rejected FOA's account of the incident. TNI spokesperson Bambang Darmono was quoted by the Jakarta daily Kompas on September 2 as saying that the "perpetrators were all civilians" and called the report a "cheap shot" intended to "damage TNI's image" and create a "pretext" to call for an end to the military operation in Aceh. Darmono also said that he was opposed to any attempt by FOA to come to Lhokseumawe to gather evidence to support its findings.
However, Darmono admitted to Kompas that the incident was reported to Koramil. He said a member of Koramil proposed to the victim that she seek a "peaceful resolution" to the case. The woman was then struck by a Koramil member, Sargent Bakhtiar, who was annoyed because the victim declared that a junior officer had joined in the rape. He said that the case is now being processed by North Aceh district police.
In response to the report, Komnas HAM chairperson Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara told Kompas that, if the report is correct, it represents a gross violation of human rights and that Komnas HAM will be sending its Ad Hoc Team for Aceh to investigate.
Nusantara added that, regardless of who the perpetrators were, the attacks must be given serious attention as women often become the victims in armed conflicts. He said the general picture being painted in Aceh was one of ongoing and widespread violence against civilians.
From Green Left Weekly, September 10, 2003.
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