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Groups Urge Bush Not to Support Indonesia Military

More Than 50 Groups Urge Bush Not to Offer Military Assistance to Indonesian President

May 24 - A wide range of U.S. organizations today urged President Bush not to offer military assistance to Indonesia when he meets President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono tomorrow. The groups further called on Bush to raise concerns about ongoing human rights violations and the failure to bring to justice members of Indonesia's security forces responsible for human rights violations in Timor-Leste and Indonesia.

In a letter to Bush, 53 human rights, labor, religious, peace and other groups urged President Bush "to ensure that this first visit of President Yudhoyono advances respect for human rights and implementation of genuine justice and military reform throughout Indonesia rather than maintaining business-as-usual."

"If the Bush administration truly made promotion of democratic reform a top priority, then it would not be proposing to prop up the Indonesian military, the country's least democratic institution," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), which organized the letter.

"Withholding prestigious U.S. military assistance is the best leverage the U.S. government has to demonstrate its commitment to justice, human rights and democratic reform goes deeper than words to actual action," she added.

“President Yudhoyono should be urged to fulfill his pledge to promote peaceful dialogue with broad cross sections of society, instead of overseeing increased militarization in Aceh, West Papua, and other areas of conflict,” the groups wrote Bush.

“Collaboration with an unaccountable military not only undermines military reform but also is inconsistent with U.S. anti-terrorism policy. In addition to systematically targeting civilians, elements of the Indonesian military cooperate with and possibly assist jihadist and other militia,” they wrote.

The full text of the letter can be found at


Congress first voted to restrict Indonesia from receiving International Military Education and Training (IMET), which brings foreign military officers to the U.S. for training, in response to the November 12, 1991 Santa Cruz massacre of more than 270 civilians in East Timor by Indonesian troops wielding U.S.-supplied M-16 rifles. All military ties with Indonesia were severed in September 1999 as the military and its militia proxies razed East Timor.

In late February, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice restored full IMET for Indonesia. Just two days later, the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices said, "Security force members murdered, tortured, raped, beat, and arbitrarily detained civilians and members of separatist movements, especially in Aceh and to a lesser extent in Papua." Congress still forbids foreign military financing and export of lethal defense articles for Indonesia until a wide range of conditions are met, including presidential certification that the Indonesian government is prosecuting members of the armed forces accused of rights violations or aiding militia groups and punishing those guilty of such acts.

In recent years, Congress had maintained only one condition restricting full IMET, namely? cooperation by Indonesian authorities with an FBI investigation into the 2002 ambush murders of two U.S. citizens and an Indonesian in West Papua. But cooperation by Indonesia has been spotty at best. The sole suspect indicted so far (by a U.S. grand jury) remains at large in Indonesia. His military connections, which appear to be extensive, have hardly been examined.

East Timorese and Indonesian NGOs have repeatedly called for restrictions on military engagement to be maintained. Victims and survivors of the West Papua killings have called for IMET restriction to continue until their case is fully resolved.

ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East Timor and Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975 to 1999 and for continued restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces.

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