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Military Relations With Indonesia Hurt Groups Say

Media Release

For Immediate Release

Rights Groups Say Military Relations With Indonesia Hurt, Not Help Oppose Any Restoration of U.S. Military Ties

August 9, 2001 The Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) and the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today urged the Bush administration to scrap any plans to strengthen ties with the Indonesian military. Citing ongoing human rights abuses and lack of accountability for violations, the groups said renewing military relations with Indonesia would set back reform efforts and democracy in Indonesia while undermining East Timor's security.

"The Indonesian military has answered to no one for their crimes against humanity and continues to kill hundreds of civilians. Nothing has changed as far as human rights are concerned -- now is not the time to reward this brutal force," stated Kurt Biddle, Washington Coordinator for IHRN.

The installation of Megawati Sukarnoputri as president of Indonesia has been used by some in the U.S. to press for a closer relationship between the Pentagon and the Indonesian military (TNI).

"While the Pentagon and others say that the Indonesian military should be rewarded for the peaceful ascension of Megawati Sukarnoputri to the presidency, they are missing the forest for the trees. The military played an active role in the destabilization of Abdurrahman Wahid, continually thwarting attempts at reform," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "Megawati has developed close relations with the military and is more likely to give it a freer hand. So why would the military want to interfere in her becoming president?

"It is vital that the U.S. maintain its suspension of military relations with Indonesia. The Indonesian government and armed forces have yet to meet any of the conditions established by Congress governing renewal of ties," said Miller.

The United States has withheld most assistance from the Indonesian military since the TNI and its militia proxies razed East Timor in September 1999 following its pro-independence vote. Some military assistance is now restricted by the "Leahy Conditions" first passed by Congress in late 1999. These conditions include the safe return of East Timorese refugees, prosecution of those responsible for atrocities in East Timor and Indonesia, and security for East Timor from military and militia activity. None of these conditions have been met. The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to renew these restrictions.

No accountability or curbing of human rights abuses in Indonesia has occurred since restrictions were placed on U.S. training and equipping of the TNI. The TNI continues to commit atrocities throughout the island nation. In the region of Aceh, the armed forces' brutal campaign against the local population continues. In the two weeks since Megawati assumed the presidency, Indonesian troops in Aceh have killed at least 45 people according to press reports. Over 1,000 people have been killed in Aceh since the beginning of the year.

Up to 80,000 East Timorese refugees remain trapped in poor conditions in Indonesian West Timor under the control of militias. Militia leaders, backed by elements of the Indonesian military, are reported to be biding their time, awaiting East Timor's independence, before launching additional military raids across the border.

"While Megawati recently amended the decree establishing a special human rights court on East Timor, it still severely limits any prosecutions. Any trials are unlikely to result in convictions or appropriate sentences," said Miller. "The Indonesian judiciary is thoroughly corrupt, and most East Timorese will be too afraid to travel to Indonesia to testify. An international tribunal is the only way to ensure justice."

In April, former President Wahid issued a decree limiting the jurisdiction of the special court to crimes committed after the August 30, 1999 popular consultation in East Timor. The new decree restricts the court's jurisdiction to crimes committed in Liquica, Dili, and Suai in the months of April and September 1999.

"This limitation means that TNI's role in orchestrating the violence and devastation throughout 1999 will not be fully addressed and those most responsible for Indonesia's scorched earth campaign in East Timor will escape punishment," said Miller.

IHRN also pointed to the rise of political detainees and prisoners. "Indonesia has regressed to the Suharto-era practice of arresting and imprisoning peaceful political dissidents," said Kurt Biddle. "The military is attacking villagers as the police target the activists."

In recent weeks there have been a flurry of arrests of dozens of activists across Indonesia, including Faisal Saifuddin in Jakarta, Kautsar Mohammed Yus in Banda Aceh and eight activists in East Java. Activists are often charged with "inciting hatred against the government" a Dutch-era law used to silence political opposition.

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 (

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 for more information.

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John M. Miller Internet: Media & Outreach Coordinator, East Timor Action Network 48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097 Mobile phone: (917)690-4391 Web site:

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