Indonesia: Paper Industry Threatens Human Rights, Donors Urged to Act at Bali Conference
(New York, January 7, 2003)
Indonesian police and company security forces are responsible for persistent human rights
indigenous communities involved in the massive pulp and paper industry in Sumatra, Human Rights Watch said
in a new report released today.
Abuses include land seizures without compensation and brutal attacks on local demonstrators.
Human Rights Watch said Indonesia donors should call for action to end abuses and urgently needed forestry reforms
at a key upcoming donor meeting. The Consultative Group on Indonesia (GGI), a major donor meeting convened by the World Bank,
is scheduled for January 21-22, 2003, in Bali, Indonesia.
Without Remedy: Human Rights Abuse and Indonesia Pulp and
Paper Industry, a 90-page report, extensively documents the underlying links between disregard for human rights and unsound
Donors should urge President Megawati and her government to take immediate steps to end these
abuses,?said Mike Jendrzejczyk, Washington Director of Human Rights Watch Asia Division. They should also call for longer
term measures to curb the problems of impunity and land confiscation underlying conflicts in the paper industry.
pulp and paper industry has rapidly expanded since the late 1980s to become one of the world top ten producers. But the industry
has accumulated debts of more than U.S.$20 billion, and expanding demand consumes wide swathes of Sumatra lowland tropical
forests. This land is claimed by indigenous communities, who depend on them for rice farming and rubber tapping. The loss
of access to
forests, together with companies?hiring from outside the province, has been devastating to local livelihoods,
leading to violent conflicts.
Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) is Indonesia leading paper producer, and owner of one of
the largest stand-alone pulp mills in the world, the Indah Kiat mill in Riau, Sumatra. The mill primary fiber supplier, Arara
Abadi, established its pulpwood plantation in the 1980s-90s, under then President Soeharto. Arara Abadi, backed by state security
forces, routinely seized land for the plantations from indigenous communities without due process and with little or no
Since the fall of Soeharto in May 1998, local residents have attempted to press their claims, but have
met with unresponsive law enforcement. With no remedy for their grievances, communities have increasingly turned to vigilantism.
Arara Abadi has responded with
violence and arrests.
In its new report, Human Rights Watch details three cases
in 2001 in which local villagers in Mandiangin, Betung, and Angkasa/ Belam Merah, frustrated by unresolved disputes with Arara
Abadi, set up blockades or began logging plantation trees. Hundreds of club-wielding company
militia attacked residents,
seriously injuring nine and detaining sixty-three. Indonesian police, who trained the civilian militias and also were present
during the attacks, were complicit in all three cases. Incidents of ongoing violence against villagers refusing to give up
their land to APP suppliers continued to be reported in Riau
Out of hundreds of assailants, Human Rights
Watch is aware of only two who were brought to trial, and those two, convicted of assault and battery, were released after
thirty days?time served. Human Rights Watch does not condone illegal actions by protesting villagers, and
company need to protect personnel and property. But the use of excessive force by company-funded militia cannot be justified,
and impunity for those responsible for the beatings is directly fuelling the cycle of vigilante justice. Further abuses are
likely to continue under current conditions of impunity, financial
pressure, and lack of internal corporate guidelines
for security, Human Rights Watch warned.
The acquiescence of state security forces and, sometimes, their direct assistance
in the company militia attacks has meant that villagers have nowhere to go for help,?said Jendrzejczyk. The lack of rule of
law and spiraling rural violence threatens not only the well-being of rural communities, but also foreign investment and national
The majority of police and military spending (70 percent) comes from off-budget business ventures, many
of which are in the forestry sector. These business ties set up an economic conflict of interest in law enforcement. In addition,
Arara Abadi security personnel have no guidelines for the use of force and are not held accountable for violations of the
rights of local people.
Human Rights Watch urged the donors, at their upcoming Bali meeting, to call for a complete
and transparent audit of all military and police businesses, and firm steps by the Indonesian government to address tenure
disputes on state forest land, fulfilling commitments Jakarta has made to the International Monetary Fund and to previous
CGI forums. For example, the Indonesian government should appoint an independent land claims board or ombudsman to deal with
compensation disputes over seized forestry land.
Donors should also urge immediate action to investigate and prosecute
those involved in incidents of violence in the pulp and paper industry, to clarify guidelines for the police in company operations,
and improve civilian oversight of the police.
Human Rights Watch also recommended that huge pulp and paper companies
such as APP establish and effectively enforce performance standards for both private and state security personnel, using the
Voluntary Guidelines on Security and Human Rights developed by the U.S. State
Department and the British government as
Until Tuesday, January 7, 2003, the report will be available online at http://docs.hrw.org/embargo/indon0103/index.htm#TopOfPage,
using the username: rwreports?and the password ub2k2? Beginning January 7, the report will be online at
For more information contact:
In Washington, Mike Jendrzejczyk: +1 202 612 4341
In New York, Joe Saunders:
+1 212 216 1216
In London, Charmain Mohamed: + 44 207 713 1995
In London, Urmi Shah: +44 207 713 2788
Associate, Asia Division
Human Rights Watch
1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009