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Indonesia: ICRC operations in Nangroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) province

01-07-2004 Operational Update

The ICRC resumed its activities in the troubled Indonesian province of Aceh in December 2003 and has two expatriate staff permanently based there. In collaboration with the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), the ICRC is engaged in a wide range of activities from visiting detainees to dissemination.

The ICRC's resumption of activities at the end of last year came after a four-month break during the government's declaration of a military emergency. The authorities downgraded the situation to a civil emergency in mid-May.

ICRC delegates and the PMI have achieved the following in the last six months:

A PMI volunteer registers two men held by GAM before their transfer.©ICRC/Hadi Kuswoyo 
  • Detention: The ICRC is currently in the process of resuming its visits throughout the province to all persons detained as a result of armed conflict. Since February, ICRC delegates visited 143 of the 314 sentenced Free Aceh Movement (GAM) detainees transferred from NAD to several detention centres on Central and East Java. The delegates, including an ICRC doctor, conducted a thorough assessment of their detention conditions and conveyed their observations to the authorities responsible.  
  • Restoring family links: The well established cooperation between the ICRC and the PMI in the field of restoring family links enabled the quick exchange of Red Cross messages between ICRC registered Acehnese detainees held in prisons in Java and their families. Additionally, the ICRC will financially sponsor travel costs for destitute Acehnese family members who wish to visit their relatives detained in Java prisons. In mid-June the ICRC facilitated a three-day training course on the re-establishment of family links for 20 staff and volunteers of several branches of the NAD chapter of the PMI to further strengthen capacity in this field.
  • Facilitation of release of civilians held by GAM: In mid-May, following a failed attempt in January this year, the ICRC and the PMI were able to facilitate the transfer of 151 people under the control of the GAM in NAD province. Among the people freed was the TV cameraman Ferry Santoro who had been held by GAM for over ten months.
  • Assistance distribution: The ICRC, in cooperation with the PMI has distributed hygiene material to families in displaced camps as well as shelter material to a small number of families whose houses have been burned down. Furthermore the ICRC has stocks at its central warehousing facilities in Aceh and Surabaya for the water and sanitation needs of 30'000 people and materials to assist a further 35'000 people with hygiene and household items.
PMI volunteers unload a truck of family kits prior to distribution.©ICRC/Izaac Tulalessy 


  • Support for activities of PMI: The ICRC has provided evacuation and first aid material to several branches of the Indonesia Red Cross to help them maintain their capacity to treat and evacuate casualties. In order to help PMI staff and volunteers cope with a difficult and at times dangerous working environment, the ICRC has facilitated a psychological support workshop for 19 participants from various PMI branches in NAD province. It has also provided training in the field of hygiene promotion for 31 staff and volunteers who work on improving hygiene conditions of displaced populations.
  • Pre-deployment dissemination sessions to the armed forces: The ICRC and the PMI are regularly invited by the armed forces to provide pre-deployment sessions on basic international humanitarian law (IHL). This is usually done in a location in Aceh just prior to the field deployment of newly arrived troops.

 Dissemination sessions to regional police forces: The ICRC has been able to tour the 13 regional police districts to disseminate to officers and troops basic IHL and Human Rights concepts and to present, together with the PMI, Red Cross activities and working methods.

In Indonesia as a whole, the ICRC currently has 20 expatriate and 96 national staff engaged in developing various programmes in the field of pro tection and tracing, assistance, health, dissemination/communication. They also support the National Society and continue to work with law faculties to incorporate IHL into their courses. Besides a strong cooperation with PMI, the ICRC has a close working relationship with the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies which has been present in Indonesia since 1999 focusing on disaster preparedness and response and the organisational development of PMI. Partner National Societies such as the Australian, Danish and Netherlands RC also support PMI in developing community-based health and disaster preparedness programmes.