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U.S. Reaffirms Support For Reform In Indonesia

U.S. House of Representatives Reaffirms Support for Indonesian Military Reform and for East Timor

Foreign Operations Appropriations Act Maintains Restrictions on U.S. Military Assistance to Indonesia, Gives Aid to East Timor

July 24, 2001 — The Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) and the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today praised continued congressional support for human rights in Indonesia and for East Timor's transition to independence, but urged Congress to do more.

The Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2002 (HR 2506), passed by the House of Representatives tonight, continues restrictions on military assistance to Indonesia. A day after Megawati Sukarnoputri took office in Indonesia with the military's backing, the bill renews the “Leahy Provisions,” conditions that the Government of Indonesia and the Indonesian Armed Forces must meet before U.S. military assistance can resume. The bill also appropriates $25 million to support East Timor.

“Congress has once again demonstrated its understanding of the importance of publicly and formally refusing Indonesia nearly all U.S. military assistance until it is able to control its armed forces and hold human rights violators accountable in a court of law,” said Kurt Biddle, Washington Coordinator for the IHRN. "The current political transition in Jakarta makes tonight's action all the more necessary."

"While pleased that the House has renewed the $25 million in economic support for the physical and political reconstruction of a soon-to-be independent East Timor, we urge Congress to appropriate at least $30 million. Congress must also actively support an international tribunal for East Timor and make a humane resolution to the refugee crisis in West Timor a priority. This is the least the U.S. can do given its past support for Indonesia's illegal occupation of East Timor," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator for ETAN.

The appropriations bill conditions restoration of U.S. military assistance to Indonesia on substantial progress by Indonesia in prosecuting members of the Indonesian armed forces and militias responsible for crimes against humanity in East Timor and Indonesia, particularly surrounding the overwhelming pro-independence vote in East Timor in 1999. Indonesia has yet to hold anyone accountable for the murder, rape, and destruction in East Timor.

"Acting to end the military's impunity is especially important for Aceh and West Papua, where Indonesian forces continue to brutally violate people’s rights," said Biddle. Over 1,000 people have been killed in Aceh, since the beginning of the year.

This year’s bill, however, includes language that allows for U.S. military training of some Indonesian civilians under E-IMET (expanded International Military Education and Training) program. Human rights groups, including IHRN and ETAN, criticized this change in the bill, but applauded the renewal of strong overall restrictions on military assistance to Indonesia.

“The Indonesian Government and armed forces have not met even one of the Leahy provisions. The Indonesian people suffer daily at the hands of their own military and police. Ten people each day are killed in Aceh. Why would the U.S. want to reward the Indonesian military with prestigious training when no improvements have been made?” asked Biddle.

"It is important for Congress and the administration to recognize the devastating impact the Indonesian military continues to have on human rights and democracy throughout the archipelago. The U.S. should restore no military ties with Indonesia until it has established civilian control of its military and accountability for human rights violations, and militia controlling East Timorese refugee camps in West Timor are verifiably disarmed and disbanded," said Orenstein.

Tens of thousands of East Timorese refugees remain under militia control in West Timor. Last September, militias murdered three international and two local UN refugee workers in Atambua, West Timor, as Indonesian police and soldiers stood by watching. The confessed killers were given only token sentences. Well-armed and well-trained militias continue to infiltrate East Timor. Return of the refugees and preventing militia incursions are two of the Leahy conditions.

The appropriations bill renews much of the ban on military assistance to Indonesia first announced in September 1999 as the Indonesian military and its militias began their scorched earth campaign in the wake of East Timor's August 30, 1999 vote for independence.

The bill also renews a requirement for reporting for all U.S. military training provided to foreign military personnel in 2001 and 2002, a provision human rights organizations hope will provide greater transparency over such programs in the future.

While the bill places six conditions on renewing International Military and Education Training (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing for Indonesia, in a separate provision, the bill also continues the ban on full IMET even after those conditions are met. IMET for Indonesia has been restricted since 1992.

The Senate will consider its version of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill later this year.

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights, including women's rights. ETAN, which has 28 local chapters throughout the U.S., calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity which took place in East Timor since 1975. For additional information see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).

The Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) is a U.S.-based grassroots organization working to educate and activate the American public and influence U.S. foreign policy and international economic interests to support democracy, demilitarization, and justice through accountability and rule of law in Indonesia. We seek to end armed forces repression in Indonesia by exposing it to international scrutiny. IHRN works with and advocates on behalf of people throughout the Indonesian archipelago to strengthen civil society. See www.IndonesiaNetwork.org for more information.

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