Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Crisis in Aceh ~ Working for Peace

Following is a letter from KAIROS to Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC) regarding working for peace in Aceh—submitted last Friday after FAC-NGO human rights consultation in Ottawa. KAIROS has been one of CAGI's (Canadian Advocacy Group on Indonesia) driving force that focus on human rights advocacy in Indonesia. It also has "Proposed Elements for A Successful Peace Process" by Kontras Aceh and a press release by Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC).

Working for Peace, Democracy
and Effective Aid and Reconstruction in Aceh:
Recommendations for the Government of Canada

Submitted to Foreign Affairs Canada
by KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
February 4, 2005

Peace is urgently needed in Aceh: Ending the war is a necessary precondition for human rights, democratic governance and genuine reconstruction in the region.

Canada—should should work for peace in Aceh by supporting elements that advocate a non-militaristic approach to resolving the region's long-standing conflict. Toward this end, Canada should press for ceasefire negotiations and a longer term peace process that involve civil society representatives.

Canada must also channel its material and political support for peacebuilding, democratic and military reform, and civilian-led emergency aid and reconstruction efforts. Specific recommendations are outlined below:

Canada needs to continue pressing the Indonesian government (GOI) for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Aceh. The GOI’s military approach over the past 29 years has not succeeded in bringing a lasting peace to the region.

Canada should:
  • Increase diplomatic pressure for an immediate ceasefire that is formalized, upheld and permanent. It should support elements within Indonesia's civilian government that are genuinely committed to a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

  • Press for cease fire negotiations and peace talks that involve civil society representation (not just GAM and GOI) under some form of international guarantee

  • Support peace process proposals put forward by Achenese and Indonesian civil society organizations such as KAIROS partners, Kontras Aceh (see below) and the Aceh Working Group

Canada needs to support Indonesian efforts at strengthening civilian democratic governance and military reform. Ending impunity and fostering civil society development are essential elements in ensuring civilian supremacy over the military in Indonesia.

In Aceh, this means, Canada should press the Indonesian government to:
  • lift the state of civil emergency

  • strengthen civil society by giving them the political space and financial support to rebuild (Canada is also encouraged to provide direct financial support to civil society organizations)

  • demilitarize the region (SBY has recently affirmed the need to strengthen the TNI and retain a presence in Aceh)

  • investigate all human rights abuses committed during the DOM, Martial Law and Civilian Emergency periods and bring perpetrators to justice

Canada can also take measures at the 61st Session of the UNCHR to ensure accountability for the serious human rights violations that have been committed in Aceh. These include:
  • requesting that the GOI allow UN Special Rapporteurs to carry out investigations and monitoring in Aceh. Requests for visits have been hitherto refused, but as Chair of UNCHR 61, it is incumbent on Indonesia to cooperate with the UNCHR's special procedures.

  • expressing grave concern with the ongoing military operations and resulting human rights violations in Aceh in Canada's Item 9 statement

The Canadian government has said that it wants “safe and unhindered access for international humanitarian aid workers” in Aceh. To ensure this, Canada needs to support civilian-led emergency and reconstruction efforts. This is critical for fair and safe humanitarian access, accountability, and the security of both locals and internationals. The Indonesian military, which is leading the aid effort, has a record of brutality and corruption and militant groups helping with relief operations have a documented history of violence against both local and international civilians.

Canada should make every effort to:
  • Expedite the transfer to civilian-led humanitarian operations and ensure that the Indonesian military plays a limited, non-managerial role in relief efforts. The primacy of civilian oversight and coordination of humanitarian operations in conflict zones is one of the important Principles and Practices of Good Humanitarian Donorship, which Canada has endorsed. Indonesian military logistical infrastructure should only be used under the direction of local civilian government and Indonesian and international humanitarian organizations.
  • Press the Indonesian government to allow international organizations to provide assistance outside of military channels and to distribute aid and provide long-term reconstruction directly and through local NGOs. Specifically, this includes lifting current regulations requiring military escorts and permission for travel and outside of Banda Aceh and Meulaboh. This also means allowing aid organizations to deliver assistance according to the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality. As per these principles, members and family of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) should be allowed to receive relief aid (which is not the case at the moment because the Indonesian military prohibition).
  • Press the Indonesian government to allow unrestricted access to the entire province by international and Indonesian civil society organizations to allow for international monitoring and media reporting on relief efforts and human rights conditions.
  • Take rigorous steps to ensure that aid efforts are not compromised by military and government corruption by putting into place adequate monitoring and accountability mechanisms.
  • Protest the entrance of militia and militants into Aceh with documented histories of violence against local and international civilians (eg. MMI- Islamic Defenders Front, PPM etc). It should be of great concern to Canada that these groups receive support from the Indonesian military. As stated in a 2002 Congressional Research Service study for the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, "the Indonesian army has become a "major facilitator of terrorism [due to] the radical Muslim militias they…organized, trained and financed." It is these groups, and not GAM (with no history of targeting foreigners), as the Indonesian military insists, that pose a real threat to the safety international humanitarian aid workers.
  • Guarantee that Canadian aid is not used for military purposes.

Proposed elements of a successful Peace Process
by KONTRAS Aceh**

  • An immediate ceasefire, and an end to all military operations in Aceh. Ceasefire negotiations should include civil society participation.

  • Lifting of the Civil Emergency in Aceh.

  • Support for the rebuilding of civil society so that it can be an active participant in peace negotiations and a longer term reconstruction process. This includes granting local civil society and human rights organizations the freedom and safety to carryout their work.

  • Full access to international monitors, humanitarian aid, Indonesian and foreign journalists.

  • Evaluation the military operation during both martial law and civil emergency in order to ensure accountability for human rights abuses.

**Kontras Aceh asserts that its role is not to define the peace process but to foster and support the strengthening of civil society so that it can be its own voice at the negotiating table. Civil society participation in the peace process is key, as its absence led to the failure of previous negotiations.

For Immediate Release
Aceh Peace Process Needs to be Encouraged

In the aftermath of the tsunami disaster that made Aceh the hardest hit area in the region, the situation served as a catalyst to renew peace talks between the government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh movement, GAM. The resumption of talks between the two parties after negotiations collapsed following the declaration of martial law in the province in May 2003 is a positive development in the search for a just and lasting solution to the conflict.

It is disheartening to note however that the recently held talks between the Republic of Indonesia (RI) and GAM in the Finnish capital, Helsinki ended inconclusively due to very hard positions taken by the Indonesian government that rejected Acehnese rebels offer to shelve independence claims in exchange for an eventual referendum on self-determination of the Acehnese people. Jakarta is very firm about its offer of a wide-ranging autonomy which the separatists rebels objected to on several occasions.

The international solidarity movement is alarmed by this seeming trend of intransigence of both parties that does not seem to allow any room for flexibility and accommodation. Both parties seemed to have lost sight of the fact that the people need respite from war and trauma and should be allowed to recover and rehabilitate peacefully from the worst disaster that has hit them.

The urgent call of the international community is for an effective ceasefire to immediately take place and an honest-to-goodness humanitarian relief and rehabilitation work be implemented. Indonesia should allow international aid agencies unhampered operations and allow civilian instead of military personnel in the delivery of relief aid. GAM on the other hand should take advantage of the goodwill at the moment given the international concern over the tsunami victims and enter into a ceasefire agreement with the view of resuming formal talks to explore options, that will finally result to a just and principled solution to the Aceh conflict.

It is also hoped that the next round of talks between the two parties tentatively set on February 21, 2005 will push through to signal the willingness of both the government of Indonesia and the separatist rebels to end their dispute and manifest their genuine concern for the Acehnese people who have been suffering from both human-made and natural disasters in recent history.

We urge the international community to continue to support the Aceh peace process and exert all efforts at convincing both negotiating parties on the value of pursuing the path to peace.

Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC AdHoc Secretariat)
4 February 2005

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