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ETAN/IHRN Oppose Blanket Waiver for Human Rights

ETAN/IHRN Oppose Blanket Waiver for Human Rights

September 27, 2001 — The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) and the Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) strongly urge members of Congress to reject any request by the Bush administration for authority "to waive all existing restrictions on U.S. military assistance and weapons exports for the next five years to any country if he determines the aid will help the fight against international terrorism," as reported in the Washington Post on September 24. In its drive to build an international coalition in response to the horrific attacks on September 11, the U.S. must not sacrifice the rights of Indonesians, East Timorese, or others. Any move to lift congressional restrictions on U.S. relations with the Indonesian military (TNI) would only empower a brutal military immune to accountability for human rights violations.

A blanket waiver would undermine years of calculated congressional response to the TNI’s own incriminating acts and seriously compromise congressional checks on executive action. It would also undeniably result in the use of U.S.-supplied weapons, training, and other military assistance in the severe repression of Indonesian and possibly East Timorese civilians, a practice that IHRN, ETAN, and many others hoped had finally ended. For the U.S. to condone and essentially sanction such predictable results would be contrary to the very principle of respect for human rights thus far advanced by Congress. Rewarding the TNI with prestigious U.S. military assistance would only encourage the terror tactics used against the people of Aceh, West Papua, and elsewhere.

Such a policy would also contradict the importance placed on rule of law, human rights, and justice by Indonesian President Megawati and President Bush in their meeting last week. Megawati, referring to the September 11 attacks, "condemned the barbaric and indiscriminate acts carried out against innocent civilians," and Bush said, "Indonesia’s transition to democracy is one of the most significant developments of this era." Yet the Indonesian military, a force that regularly targets civilians, is the largest obstacle to democracy. The White House announced that the U.S. would lift the embargo on commercial sales of non-lethal defense articles and expand contact between the U.S. and Indonesian militaries. These commitments, incremental changes reflecting prior Bush administration policies, are nonetheless disturbing. They come with no firm commitment from Megawati to address human rights abuses of the military and police, and her record of close ties with the armed forces that suggests the opposite.

Since the TNI and its militia proxies razed East Timor in September 1999 the U.S. has withheld most military assistance. Congress legislated conditions restricting International Military Education and Training (IMET) and the Foreign Military Financing Program for Indonesia. Known as the "Leahy conditions," these 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 Indonesian military and militia activity. None of these very reasonable conditions have been met. Congress separately restricted IMET for Indonesia following the 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre where Indonesian soldiers gunned down at least 270 peaceful protesters at a memorial service in East Timor.

These restrictions represent the greatest point of leverage the U.S. has to rein in one of the world’s worst human rights records. Overturning congressional restrictions would severely undermine the little progress made in accountability for crimes against humanity and other violations that have taken place in East Timor and Indonesia. Their removal would damage efforts to gain civilian control of the Indonesian armed forces and seriously threaten the security of East Timor.

East Timor Action Network P.O. Box 15774 Washington, DC 20003-0774 202-544-6911 etan@etan.org

Indonesia Human Rights Network 733 15th St., NW, Suite 928 Washington, DC 20005 202-393-4554 info@IndonesiaNetwork.org


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