By Karen DeMasters
Graphic descriptions of abuse in U.S. military prisons around the world — and questions about civil rights, national security and presidential privilege — have prompted a growing number of lawsuits against the government and the Bush administration.
The oldest son of nine siblings, Jafar Siddiq Hamzah loved to watch courtroom dramas on state-run television, and in 1991 graduated from law school at Amir Hamzah University in the North Sumatran city of Medan. “He said, ‘Indonesian law is like a spiderweb. It just catches the small animals, but never tries to get a big animal.’ That’s why he really wanted to be a lawyer,” recalled his sister. Friends describe Hamzah as a man who smiled often, took pride in his recipe for fried rice, and worked tirelessly as an attorney for the Legal Aid Institute in Medan.
In March 2001, citing safety concerns, ExxonMobil suspended operations at the Arun natural gas fields in Aceh in North Sumatra — an Indonesian province torn by separatist violence. The closure lasted four months, and added up to a loss of $350 million. Production resumed that June after Indonesia increased security forces in the region. But ExxonMobil’s acceptance of government security measures has provoked a lawsuit, Doe v. ExxonMobil, filed against the company by anonymous Acehnese villagers. The suit alleges that, over the last 11 years, the company provided salaries and equipment to military forces responsible for human rights abuses in Aceh (pronounced “Ah-chay”), including sexual assault, kidnapping, murder and genocide.