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Congress Urged Restrict Aid to Indonesian Military

Groups Urge Congress to Restrict Assistance to Indonesian Military in Legislative Mark-up

Human rights, religious and other organizations today urged a key congressional subcommittee to reinstate restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia as the best way "to influence positive change in Indonesia and to encourage justice for the people of Timor-Leste."

The 15 organizations wrote the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Foreign Operations Appropriations that, "Legislated restrictions on FMF [Foreign Military Financing] and lethal defense exports, without a national security waiver, represent the most important leverage the U.S. Congress can exercise..."

The subcommittee is scheduled to meet tomorrow morning to mark-up the Fiscal Year 2007 foreign aid appropriations bill, the first step in determining what, if any, congressionally-mandated restrictions will apply to U.S. military assistance to Indonesia.

The groups wrote that they "strongly disagree" with the Administration's decision, announced last week, to provide up to $19 million for the Indonesian military through a new Pentagon program "to build foreign military force capacity.... This amount dwarfs recent assistance levels," and that “this appropriation further invalidates any justification to comply with the Administration’s $6.5 million request for FMF for Indonesia for FY07, which itself represents more than a six-and-a-half fold increase over the FY06 estimated expenditure.”

The Administration's actions "illustrate moves toward unrestrained engagement with the TNI, and assume that this will somehow result in reform. The history of past engagement shows that such optimism is not warranted," the letter said.

Despite pledging last November to "carefully calibrate" any assistance, "the Administration has no benchmarks that we are aware of by which to measure progress in military and human rights reform in Indonesia," the groups wrote.

In addition to assistance through the new Pentagon program, other recent Administration moves include waiving human rights conditions on military assistance to Indonesia only two days after the 2006 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act was signed last November and the participation of the commander of Kopassus, the Indonesian military’s notorious special forces unit, in the Pentagon's annual Pacific Area Special Operation Conference (PASOC) in April.

This week, the Indonesian military for the first time is participating in the Cobra Gold regional military exercise with the United States and other countries.

The letter was coordinated by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network. The full text and a list of signers are available below.

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