Violations of Human Rights and the Rights to
Self-Determination of the People of Acheh

A Remark by Yusuf Daud
Vice Chairman
Acheh-Sumatra National Liberation Front
at Palais Des Nations, Geneva, March 14, 2014


Mr. Moderator, Ladies and Gentlemen:

First of all I would like to express my genuine appreciation for your presence here today. Also to the UNPO and the Nonviolent Radical Party for having organized this conference.

My name is Yusuf Daud, vice chairman of the Acheh - Sumatra National Liberation Front or ASNLF, an Achehnese liberation organisation founded by Dr. Tengku Hasan di Tiro in 1976, to secure Achehnese rights to self determination and independence from Indonesia.

Before discussing about Human rights situation in Indonesia, especially in Acheh, South Moluccas and West Papua, I would like to refresh our memories by citing some quotes from renown human rights organisation pertaining to thirty years of armed conflicts between Acheh and Indonesia.

“Violence is certainly an important part of the short history of Indonesia. The Indonesian government has systematically violated fundamental human rights for over 20 years and continues to do so with impunity.” (Asia Watch Report 1990, twenty four years ago)

Amnesty International, Focus on Acheh, July 1993, twenty one years ago, wrote.“.....Disregard for human life is an integral part of the Indonesian security forces' approach to its work. Killings, “disappearances”, arbitrary arrests, and torture have been institutionalised as the normal response to political dissent and other perceived threats to national security.”

British Human Rights Campaigner, TAPOL reported (Bulletin no. 163, Okt. 2001, fourteen years ago) that: ”Aceh is the worst war zone in Asia. No part of the province is untouched by the tragedy and no family is unscathed by the toll in lives lost, disappearances and the associated trauma”.

The above formulations are just a few samples of the situation prevailing in Acheh during the era of DOM (Daerah Operasi Militer), Military Operational Zone, between 1989-1998. And this also show us the true characteristics of Indonesia, as a hoodlum empire, in dealing with the political and legal problems of Acheh, West Papua, South Moluccas et cetera.

The atrocities perpetrated through these years have no equal in the history of Acheh fighting against any colonial powers in the past. Arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, routine torture and disappearances of thousands of civilians, had become common place. An estimation of over 40,000 innocent Achehnese lost their lives in military custody, in hidden mass graves, or in secret concentration camps.

After a decade of these brutalities and the downfall of Suharto in May 1998, the abominable DOM was lifted. President BJ. Habibie and General Wiranto took the helm of the country and came to Acheh to appologize for the excesess commited by their soldiers. At long last, democracy came to Indonesia in 1999 and the era of reformation began. But unfortunately these changes did not extend to Acheh. For the people of Acheh, the year 1999 was the worst year in our history, the year of massacres. The reformist regim then introduced ”Operasi Wibawa 99”, Assert Authority Operation, a joint military police operation. Its brutalities surpassed those of the DOM.

Throughout this year a number of massacres had been taken place in Acheh: Kandang Massacre in North Acheh, January 3; Idi Cut Massacre in East Acheh, February 3; Dewantara Massacre at Simpang KKA, North Acheh, May 3; Beutong Ateueh Massacre, West Acheh, July 23; and many other unlawful killings that had cost over a thousand of Achehnese lives just in one single year.

These military operations continued unabetted with the same intensity and brutality, until Acheh was devastated by the Indian Ocean deadly tsunami on the boxing day of 2004, which had swept with it over two hundred thousand Achehnese lives. This tragic catastrophe had brought the warring parties, Republic of Indonesia and the Free Acheh Movement (GAM), sign a peace deal called a Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) in Helsinki, Finland. One of the many provisions in the MoU is the establishment of two human rights institutions: Human Rights Court (HRC) and Trust and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Sixteen years later since the lifting of DOM and fifteen years after the 1999 massacres, not a single perpetrator of these flagrant violations of human rights against innocent Achehnese has been brought to justice, signalling that such violations are allowed to be violated in Acheh with
impunity. Almost nine years after Helsinki accord signed, nothing has changed with regard to protecting of human rights and resolving the past abuses by security forces.

Last month, Acheh's House of Representatives enacted a bylaw in regard to TRC, and Jakarta has yet to approve it. But Human Rights Watch already stated that the ”violations in Aceh were too serious to be addressed only by the truth commission, which cannot impose criminal penalties. States have an obligation under international law to prosecute serious abuses of human rights and war crimes”.

Amnesty International in its latest extensive report on Acheh (Time to Face The Past, April 2013) said: ”The conflict remains an open wound — the fate of many of those killed is still unknown, perpetrators of human rights abuses walk free”.

Former Asia director at Human Rights Watch Brad Adams, pointed out in May report 2006:
”The military leaders who committed crimes in Aceh have been rewarded, not punished,” he said. “It is time to end this – individuals on both sides who committed serious abuses must be held accountable...The international community has pursued justice for past abuses in East Timor, as well as in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the former Yugoslavia,”. “Why should Aceh be treated any differently?” he wondered.

Something must be terribly wrong with this mismanaged country called Indonesia and one
wonders how and why this brutal regim has been able to perpetrate such heinous crimes and escape justice for the last 64 years?

To answer this question, one has to go back to its roots, to the history as how this farflung Malay archipelago became a country. I hope, ladies and gentlemen, you would bear with me for a few minutes, to examine objectively how this tragedy has been played and performed.

The first violation of the UN principles took place during the post World War II decolonization period, as far as the vast Malay Archipelago was concerned. Whereas all Western colonial empires were decolonized by returning each colonial territory to its indigenous peoples and became independent, the Dutch East Indies has never been returned to the respective indigenous peoples from whom the Dutch had confiscated the territories. On December 27, 1949, the Dutch gave their entire colonial empire of the Dutch Indies – not to the respected rightful owners of the separate territories, as required by the decolonization rule and principles, but to the new entity, the Jakarta based ”Republic of Indonesia”. Thus, Indonesia became the only successorstate to the colonial empire of Dutch East Indies, with colonial territories as large as continental Europe, from Moscow to Lissabon. There is no getting away from the fact that a successor state of a colonial empire is also a colonial empire by definition.

As a neo-colonialist of such magnitude and with the support of Western democracies and the US, Indonesia has managed to survive and has lasted that long by shedding the bloods of our peoples from Acheh in the most Northern part of Sumatra to West Papua in the Eastern part of the archipelago, with the South Moluccas and the Celebes in between, and at the cost of an estimated 3 million dead, killed unlawfully by the indonesian security forces.

Our country Acheh Sumatra happened to be an internationally recognized independent state
and was the centre of a powerful empire for several centuries before the arrival of the European powers to South East Asia. And with over 6 million inhabitants, Acheh is also abundantly rich in natural resources: oil, gas, gold, platinum, tin, rubber etc.

Larouse Grand Dictionnaire Universelle described the Kingdom of Acheh as ”the most dominant nation in the East Indies towards the end of the sixteenth and until the first half of the seventeenth century.” (Volume 1, p.70, Paris 1886).

Three hundred years after the Dutch had established themselves as the colonial master in the island of Java and over the rest of the East Indies now called 'Indonesia'. Acheh was still an internationally recognized independent state having diplomatic relations with the rest of the world.

Prof. M.C. Ricklefs, wrote in his book, A History of Modern Indonesia: ”Acheh was emerging as a major power, the most powerful, wealthy, and cultivated state of the area.” (Bloomington, 1981).

When most part of the Malay archipelago were incorporated into the Dutch colonial empire, Acheh happened to be one of the most difficult areas for the Dutch to subdue. After the Japanese capitulation to the allied forces in August 1945, the Dutch attempted to restore their former colonial empire but Acheh was the only place where they did not even try to return. On December 27, 1949, seven years after their withdrawal from Acheh, the Dutch signed a treaty with the newly fabricated ”Indonesia” and transferred their nonexistence sovereignty over Acheh to Indonesia, without referendum and consultation with the people of Acheh, and against all principles of decolonization of the UN. This is how Acheh was illegally made part of Indonesia.

On the basis of the abovementioned historical status of Acheh as an independent state, and on the basis of the Dutch illegal annexation of Acheh to Indonesia, Acheh-Sumatra National Liberation Front (ASNLF) was then established in 1976, and the redeclaration of an independent Acheh was issued on December 4 in the same year. The reestablishment of Acheh as the successor state is supported by a number of UN Resolutions, among others are the Resolution 1514 that stipulated: a. sovereignty in a colony does not lie in the hands of the colonial power, but in the hands of the people of a given colony. b. sovereignty over a colonial territory is not transferable by one colonial power to another. c. all powers must be returned by the colonialist to the native people of each colony. And UN Resolution 2621 (XXV) further affirmed that colonialism is considered an “international crime” and it is an inherent right of all colonized peoples to fight against the colonialists.

The Acheh conflict and the just struggle of our people is merely political. It is a struggle of self determination; it is a struggle of the survival of Achehnese as a people – as a nation; and it is a struggle borne by centuries of colonialism and decades of repression and injustices under indonesian regime. Thus, adressing the human rights violations in Acheh must be preceded by resolving the political issue first, by unravelling the Acheh status vis a vis Jakarta, which should be squarely based on the right to selfdetermination of the Achehnese to decide their own future.

About sixty two years ago the United Nations adopted a resolution (UN Resolution 637A, 18 Dec. 1952) with regard to solving human rights issue: “The right of peoples and nations for self determination is a preliminary condition of full realization of human rights”. Here again, the essence of the right to self determination is such that without prioritising this fundamental right, all other rights including the human rights cannot be fully and accountably realized.

The UN Special Rapporteur stressed that ”the effective exercise of a people's Right of Self determination is an assential condition… for the genuine existence of other human rights and freedom”. (The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to self determination Doc.E/CN.4/Sub.2/405/Rev.1/1991)

Despotic and colonial regims of 21st century, such as Indonesia, often deem human rights and the rights to self determination as antithesis of the territorial integrity of a state. It is undeniable that the territorial integrity of a state is recognized by international law, but human rights, including the right to selfdetermination, are also an integral part of international law and by definition must be the legitimate concern of the international community. It is also a cardinal principle of international law that the legitimacy of a state's control over a territory depends on how it acquired that territory. In the case of Acheh, the territory was unlawfully occupied by the Dutch and then handed over to the newly created Republic of Indonesia after World War II, without due process of international law and the laws on decolonization.

The right of Acheh to be restored as an independent state again is further affirmed by the UNESCO doc. 23, 1990, para. 42, as follow: ”It is widely accepted that a group of people that is presently subjected to military occupation that traditionally has formed a nation of its own or has been part of a different nation than the one which occupies it, is entitled to assert or to restore its self determination.”

Given the tragic fact that the once independent Achehnese have been subjected to centuries of oppression by Dutch, Japanese and Indonesian colonialists, it is not difficult to understand why the Achehnese firmly believe that independence is the only way forward and a free referendum is one of democratic ways to resolve the conflict. Therefore it is the responsibility of the international community, including the UN, to support and uphold the rights of the Achehnese. And it is also the duty of the UN to prevent the political and human rights of the Achehnese from being usurped by Indonesia on the grounds of "territorial integrity" and the "internal affairs" of the Republic of Indonesia.

Thank you for your participation.


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