Amnesty International accused the Indonesian government yesterday of holding more political prisoners without benefit of trial than any other country in the world and called for their immediate release.
The human rights monitoring organization, recipient of the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize, charged the Indonesians with holding as many as 100,000 prisoners, many of whom, it said, have been held since an abortive coup in 1965. The majority of the prisoners are being held because of their membership in organizations tied to the coup, the group said.
Huang Wen-hsien, who heads the London based agency's Asian research department, said, "More than half a million people were killed after they were taken captive, and at least as many were imprisoned." He criticized Indonesian claims that many of the prisoners have been released because, he said, they are often re-arrested.
"Fresh arrests continue, and the total number of untried prisoners has not changed significantly in the last four years," Huang said.
In its 146-page report on the Indonesian situation, Amnesty International said it also wanted to know why the Carter administration has not singled out Indonesia's "massive" human rights violations. David Hinkley, who is the coordinator for a worldwide campaign to seek the release of the prisoners, said the United States accepts the official Indonesian prisoner count of 31,500.
In an apparent effort to head off criticism from the Amnesty report, the Indonesian govenment recently reconfirmed its intention to release 10,000 prisoners at the end of the year.
At the same time, however, it also revealed details about new "resttlement camps" being built in remote island and jungle locations to house former detainess, a move that has led to doubts about the sincerity of the planned release.
Many Western observers believe that the prisoners, the government has promised to release would be forced to settle in the new camps, and human rights organizations say the prisoners could not be considered free under that program.
In December, the Indonesian government announced a plan to complete all trials for the prisoners and to begin releasing teem at the rate of 10,000 each year. At the same time, it announced the immediate release of 2,500 prisoners from the camps as a sign of good faith.