2000-2009 | Arms exports | Backing repressive regimes | Blair's crimes | Indonesia

BRITISH HAWK FIGHTER JETS USED AGAINST FREE ACEH MOVEMENT

A British Aerospace Hawk Jet –
Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia.

19 May 2003

On 19th May 2003, Indonesia deployed Hawk-200 fighter jets, supplied and made by the U.K., to front its assault on the Free Aceh Movement.  The Guardian’s John Aglionby observed that ‘ the Hawks were used primarily to scare and intimidate people on the ground by flying low over targets already attacked with rockets by other aircraft, and then over terrain in advance of parachute drops by 600 troops.’1

Indonesian newspapers reported that Indonesian Air force Chief Marshal, Chappy Hakim, had obtained clearance from the British ambassador two months prior to their deployment in the assault on Aceh.2 This was immediately countered by a reassurance from a Foreign Office spokeswoman that, although journalists might have seen Hawks flying overhead, ‘senior members of the Indonesian government and the military have repeatedly promised that British supplied equipment would not be used offensively or in violation of human rights anywhere in Indonesia.’3 However, on 21 May, the Commander-in-Chief of Indonesia’s armed forces, General Endriartono Sutarto, insisted that no such promises had been made and that ‘ in order to cover the whole region and complete the job, I am going to use what I have. After all, I have paid already.’4 

Three days later, the Free Aceh Movement reported that Hawk Jets had been used in bombing operations against villages in North Aceh and the following month, an Indonesian Foreign Office spokesman denied that any formal promises had been made as to how British Hawk jets were used in military operations and that any ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that might exist with Britain only applied to East Timor and not to Aceh.5 A Human Rights Watch report in December 2003 noted that the invasion of Aceh was followed by ‘extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, beatings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and drastic limits on freedom of movement.’ It added that ‘witnesses had told Human Rights Watch about killings of civilians during village sweeps, some while being questioned or detained, others while fleeing in fear of mistreatment.6

FOOTNOTES

  1. John Aglionby, ‘Indonesia Uses Hawk Jets in Aceh Offensive’, The Guardian, 20 May 2003 accessed online at url https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/may/20/politics.indonesia
  2. Mark Curtis, Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses, Vintage, London, 2004, p. 187.
  3. Foreign Office spokeswoman cited in John Aglionby, op. cit.
  4. Mark Curtis, op. cit., p. 187 and ‘The Use of British Military Equipment in Aceh,’ Workers’ Daily Internet Edition, Year 2003 No 119, December 11, 2003.
  5. ‘The Use of British Military Equipment in Aceh,’ Workers’ Daily Internet Edition, Year 2003 No 119, December 11, 2003
  6. Human Rights Watch, Aceh Under Martial Law: Inside the Secret War, December 2003, Vol 15, No 10 (C).

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