Fear over dozens of 'missing' protesters

Indonesia: The weekend riots have lit a fuse under a regime which holds together one of the world's most populous countries

Three days after the army broke up riots and pro-democracy demonstrations in Jakarta, at least 78 people are missing in what human rights workers fear may be a new round of politically-inspired "disappearances" by the Indonesian government.

As many as 10,000 people took to the streets on Saturday after police raided the offices of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) where pro- democracy demonstrators had been conducting a sit-in. After throwing stones at police who who had sealed off the streets around the PDI, angry crowds rioted in a nearby business district, setting fire to cars, buses and buildings, including banks, car showrooms and a government ministry. Hundreds of people were arrested, many of them injured by police batons, but discrepancies between govern- ment figures and those gathered by human rights groups are raising fears that the government may be resorting to illegal means to dispose of its political opponents.

According to figures supplied by the police and army to the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (ILAF), 178 people have been charged with crimes committed during the riots, and 28 more remain in custody without charge, while 158 people are known to be receiving hospital treatment for injuries sustained during the disturbances.

A military spokesman yesterday claimed that only two people had died, but at 9pm on Sunday three ambulance hearses were seen leaving a Jakarta hospital escorted by police and army vehicles. The PDI claims that as many as 54 people died, and by yesterday evening 78 political activists remained unaccounted for.

"Today 78 families came to this office asking for help in finding their relatives who hadn't come home," the operations secretary of the ILAF, Mr Munir, told the Independent. "Some of them saw their family members being arrested, and they are very worried about them." The ILAF believes that 500 people disappeared in 1984 after a battle between Muslim demonstrators and soldiers at Tanjung Priok in Jakarta. "We are also very concerned that this is following a similar pattern," said Mr Munir.

The government-sponsored National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) yesterday launched an investigation into the disturbances. "They constituted clear violations of human rights, including the right to freedom from fear and property rights," said the vice-chairman of the NCHR, Marzuki Darusman. "These things happened because violence was used in trying to resolve matters by people with political objectives. It comes down to the skills ... of politicians and ministers in handling these things."

Officials of the NCHR were yesterday turned away from hospitals where some of the wounded are being treated. The Legal Aid Foundation believes that many of those in custody have been denied access to lawyers.

The Indonesian government and armed forces have repeatedly been accused of perpetrating the "disappearances" of political opponents. In East Timor, a former Portuguese colony which was annexed by Indonesia in 1976, as many 200,000 people are believed by human rights organisations to have been killed or to have died of starvation or disease after the invasion. In 1991, 270 people were killed and some 200 disappeared after troops fired on unarmed mourners at a funeral in the former East Timorese capital, Dili.

A statement on the weekend's events was issued by Amnesty International. "As on previous occasions when the security forces have moved to suppress public opposition, the raid was characterised by the use of excessive force," it said. "Amnesty International is gravely concerned for the safety of those individuals currently in detention".

In a statement to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation last week, Amnesty International criticised cited "reports of extra-judicial killings, 'disappear- ances', arbitrary arrests, torture, beatings and unfair political trials throughout the year."

Indonesia: country profile

Geography: Indonesia is the world's largest island group consisting of five large islands (Java, Sumatra, two thirds of Borneo, Sulawesi and Irian Jaya) and 14,000 smaller islands (6,000 inhabited) covering 735,000 square miles. It is the world's fourth largest country with an estimated 192 million people, 87 per cent of whom are Muslim.

History: Indian and Persian traders introduced Islam in the 14th century. Dutch control, as the Dutch East Indies, lasted from the18th century to Japanese conquest in 1942. After a brief war, independence was granted in 1949. Indonesia seized the former Dutch territory of East Timor in 1975 but this has never been recognised internationally.

Politics: From 1949 to 1967, Indonesia was dominated by the President Sukarno, who adopted a broadly anti-Western and pro-Maoist foreign policy. He was replaced by former General Suharto in 1968, who switched to a pro-western approach but imposed de facto one party rule. Riots last weekend were sparked, in part, by the government's ousting of Megawati Sukarnoputri - daughter of Sukarno - from the leadership of the main opposition party, the Indonesian Democratic party (PDI).

Economy: Growing industrialisation in recent years but oil and gas from Borneo and Sumatra still provide 60 per cent of the national income.The GDP in 1994 was $190bn (pounds 126bn) or $1,000 a head.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen