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Indonesian NGOs Oppose US Military Ties

For Immediate Release
June 12, 2000

Contact:
John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668; +1-917-690-4391 (mobile) (New York)
Ifdhal Kasim, ELSAM, +62-21-791-92564 (Jakarta)

Indonesian NGOs Oppose Resumption of Military Ties with U.S.


Six prominent Indonesian NGOs have stated their opposition to any resumption of U.S.-Indonesian military ties in a letter to members of the U.S. Congress. The groups called U.S. military assistance to the Indonesian military (TNI) "indefensible" and warned that any "positive effect the US suspension [of military ties in September 1999] has had is now in danger of being squandered."

"We are perplexed by the alacrity with which the Pentagon is resuming normal relations with the TNI since none of the conditions which the Congress stipulated last November in the Foreign Operations Appropriation law have been met," the NGOs wrote key members of the U.S. Congress appropriations committees.

On September 9, President Clinton suspended all U.S. ties with the military as Indonesian troops and their militia allies set about to systematically destroying East Timor following its pro-independence vote. Congress put part of this ban into law late last year. The FY 2000 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act stipulates conditions which must be met before normal military ties can be restored. These include the return of refugees to East Timor and prosecution of military and militia members responsible for human rights atrocities in East Timor and Indonesia. They also require Indonesia to actively prevent militia incursions into East Timor and to cooperate fully with the UN administration in East Timor.

"We do not ask the U.S. government to actively assist the pro-democracy movement in Indonesia. We do, however, ask the US government to make our job easier by stopping its aid to our greatest obstacle: the Indonesian military," the NGOs wrote.

"Given that the Indonesian military makes no distinction between national defense and domestic policing (it is all 'national security'), the US government must admit that any training and aid provided to the military can just as easily be used against Indonesian citizens as external enemies.... Until the TNI renounces its 'dual function' doctrine which justifies its interventions into domestic politics, US military aid to it is indefensible," the Indonesian NGOs added.

The NGOs are especially "disturbed by indications that the U.S. Pentagon is trying to push forward a participatory exercise known as Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) this summer. We know of previous CARAT exercises and are keenly aware of their use to train Indonesian officers in assault tactics, despite their being described by some as 'humanitarian operations.' In fact, last year, military personnel trained in CARAT left right from that training to join the military's criminal actions in East Timor after its vote for independence."

Addressing the congressional conditions, the NGOs wrote that "the West Timor refugee problem still exists, the military officers responsible for crimes against humanity ... in East Timor last September have not yet been brought to justice (and may well never be brought to justice given the serious flaws in the government's judicial process for the case), and the military remains an institution largely unaccountable to the civilian leadership. Most importantly, the military has not disbanded the East Timorese militias..."

The letters was sent to Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), respectively chair and ranking member of the Foreign Operations subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and to Reps. Sonny Callahan (R-AL) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), respectively chair and ranking member of the Foreign Operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

Signing the letter were Johnson Panjaitan, Director, Legal Aid and Human Rights Association of Indonesia (PBHI); Ifdhal Kasim, Director, Institute of Research and Human Rights Advocacy (ELSAM); Hilmar Farid, Vice-Director, Volunteer Team for Humanity (TRK) Munir, Director, Commission for Disappeared Persons and Victims of Violence (KONTRAS); Lefidus Malau, Solidarity Forum with the People of East Timor (FORTILOS); and Binny Buchori, Executive Secretary, Indonesian NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID).

The text of the letters can be found at

http://www.etan.org/news/2000a/ngoltr600.htm.

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John M. Miller Internet: john@etan.org Media & Outreach Coordinator, East Timor Action Network 48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097 Web site: http://www.etan.org

Send a blank e-mail message to info@etan.org to find out how to learn more about East Timor on the Internet

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