Foreign pressure over crackdown

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 August, 1996, 12:00am

Foreign governments piled pressure on Indonesia yesterday over its treatment of detainees rounded up as part of a crackdown on alleged instigators of riots in Jakarta late last month.

But so far only the United States has issued outright condemnation of the crackdown, warning it would take further steps if 'human rights violations' continued.

The round-up follows riots on July 27 in which at least three people died, scores were injured and, according to some reports, 236 people were initially detained.

The European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada, Britain and Norway have all expressed concern that the detainees, now said by the Army to number about 170, be treated correctly under Indonesian law.

The authorities are hunting members of an obscure activist group, the People's Democratic Party (PRD), and have charged the head of the independent Labour Welfare Union, Muchtar Pakpahan, with subversion.

They are understood to have alleged that Pakpahan was associated with the fugitive leader of the PRD, Budiman Sudjatmiko. The Army says Sudjatmiko is a leftist who used free speech forums held at the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party headquarters in June and July to incite the riots.

White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta has warned that the US will take unspecified measures if the situation does not improve.

He would not confirm whether Washington would scrap the sale of nine F-16 fighter jets as a US senator, Claiborne Pell, has suggested.

But he said: 'Obviously, if that [an improvement in the situation] doesn't happen, then more significant steps will have to be taken. We have, in the past, seen that when we have expressed our serious concerns about what's happened there, that we have had steps taken to try to minimise the human rights violations that occur there,' Mr Panetta said.

The European Union's charge d'affairs in Jakarta, Dick den Haas, said particularly worrying were stories that people had gone missing. 'The EU also wants to be informed about the police procedures for [the detainees].' Mr den Haas said the organisation wanted to see normal legal processes applied to all detainees, including allowing them access to their families as well as to lawyers.

A spokesman for the Canadian Embassy said Toronto had sought similar assurances and had urged the Government against using undue force in the case of further unrest.

The Australian Government said those arrested should be given full rights 'under Indonesia's criminal law and in accordance with accepted international standards'. Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer has instructed the embassy in Jakarta to monitor the situation of Mr Pakpahan and others under detention, and keep him informed,' an Australian embassy spokesman said.

The Japanese Embassy refused to comment, saying that the figures on the numbers missing and those detained were still not complete enough.

The statements follow a briefing of foreign diplomats by army socio-political affairs chief Syarwan Hamid on Monday.