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Reps. Criticize Indonesia's Use of U.S. Equipment


Congress Expresses Deep Concern about Military Offensive and Human Rights Violations in Aceh

Representatives Criticize Indonesia's Use of U.S. Military Equipment

June 27, 2003 ‹ Members of both chambers of the U.S. Congress have called on the administration to work for an end to Indonesia's military assault on Aceh and a return to the negotiating table.

In separate letters, members of the House of Representatives and Senate wrote yesterday that they were "disturbed" over the use of U.S.-supplied weapons in Aceh against Indonesian citizens. The bipartisan House letter, signed by 46 members, urged Secretary of State Colin Powell "to ask the Indonesian government at the highest level to end the use of U.S. equipment in Aceh."

The House letter continued, "If the military campaign and human rights violations persist, the U.S.-Indonesia bilateral relationship will undoubtedly be jeopardized."

Both letters also highlighted reports of human rights abuses by the Indonesian military, including the targeting of human rights monitors. Criticizing ongoing rights abuses, 17 Senators urged Indonesia to "cease attacks and intimidation against civilians, peaceful human rights and political activists, journalists and others now under threat."

The Senate and House letters further encouraged "the United States to take a leadership role in building an international consensus for cessation of hostilities and the protection of human rights in Aceh."

The texts of the letters are available at http://www.etan.org/action/action2/06acehltr.htm.

Representatives Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) initiated the letters in the House and Senate, respectively.

Additional letters this week, members of both Houses supported justice for rights violations committed by Indonesia during its occupation of East Timor. The final verdict in Indonesia's ad hoc court on East Timor is expected on July 1. The prosecution has asked the court to acquit General Adam Damiri, the highest-ranking official tried. Damiri has missed a number of court appearances due to his leadership in the military assault on Aceh.

Background:

Aceh, on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, is the site of one of Asia's longest running wars. For almost 27 years, the armed Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has been demanding independence from Indonesia. On December 9, 2002, an important cease-fire agreement (CoHA) was signed between Indonesia and GAM. Both sides were cited as violating the agreement. In February, Indonesian security forces began targeting peaceful political and human rights activists for arrest. On May 19, 2003, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri declared martial law in Aceh and a few hours later hundreds of troops poured in and renewed the fighting, in Indonesia's largest military operation since the invasion of East Timor in 1975.

Numerous civilians and five GAM negotiators have been arrested. Under martial law they are not allowed legal representation for twenty days; this can be extended to fifty days. During the last month, Indonesia has tightened restrictions on the activities of foreign and domestic journalists and humanitarian and human rights groups. Support in Aceh for independence from Indonesia is widespread and growing in response to a lack of benefit from Aceh's vast natural resource wealth and the brutality of the Indonesian military and police.

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. IHRN seeks 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.

East Timor Action Network (ETAN) advocates for democracy, sustainable development, justice and human rights, including women's rights, for the people of East Timor. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity that took place in East Timor since 1975.

-30-

-- Kurt Biddle Coordinator, Indonesia Human Rights Network www.IndonesiaNetwork.org P.O. Box 2162 Berkeley, CA 94702-0162 USA (510) 559-7762 phone (561) 760-0456 eFax

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