Abri can’t find rape victims

Abri chief says ‘various efforts’ have been made to find victims of alleged rapes in the May riots, but to no avail.

INDONESIAN armed forces (Abri) chief General Wiranto has again cast doubt on allegations of mass rapes of ethnic Chinese women during the May riots here, saying yesterday that there was no evidence as yet to support such claims.

Speaking at a press conference on the eve of Abri’s 53rd anniversary, he underscored the seriousness with which the government viewed the allegations by saying that the military made “various efforts” to find victims but to no avail.

He said police and security personnel checked at least 20 hospitals in the capital, as well as in Singapore and Perth, Australia, where some victims had reportedly sought treatment.

“These efforts have not produced any results,” he said. “Abri has also not obtained concrete and convincing replies, data or proof from parties that have claimed to posses important information …”

Gen Wiranto, who made a similar statement last month, is not alone in casting doubt on the scale of the alleged rapes. Other government and top military officers have held the same view.

National police chief Roesmanhadi even threatened to sue human rights activists for “spreading rumours” if they failed to provide evidence to back up their rape claims.

Officials, including Gen Wiranto were strongly criticised by a government-appointed panel investigating the May riots for their remarks. Panel chairman Marzuki Darusman said there was no doubt the rapes took place. The question was the scale on which it happened.

Human rights and non-governmental organisations claim that 168 women, mostly ethnic Chinese, were raped or sexually abused. They claim that 20 of the victims died from their injuries, were murdered by their assailants or committed suicide. The findings were based on interviews with victims, their relatives and witnesses.

While some other groups concede that the initial numbers may have been on the high side, others like the London-based Human Rights Watch said attempts by Jakarta to discredit rape reports had scared off potential witnesses.

It said the victims were traumatised by the attacks and subsequent intimidation which prevented them from coming forward.

Report of the rapes triggered an international outcry. Ethnic Chinese have staged protests in China, Hongkong, Taiwan, the Philippines and the US.

President B.J. Habibie said he believed that media reports of the rapes had been exaggerated.

A senior intelligence officer said Abri had “exhausted all avenues” looking for evidence. He said: “We have yet to find the victims or culprits. This could all be a disinformation campaign. Why should there be any doubts about our findings …?”

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