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Military Assistance & Rights In Indonesia, E Timor


ETAN Statement on provisions related to military assistance to Indonesia and human rights in Indonesia and East Timor in the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations bill (HR 2764)

Increased U.S. support for the Indonesia military is not the way to promote reform or human rights accountability. In fact, the history of the U.S.-Indonesia relationship demonstrates the exact opposite. Since the Bush Administration waived all restrictions (November 2005), military reform in Indonesia and human rights accountability for past violations have stalled or gone backwards. This bill will not change this trend.

The amount appropriated for Foreign Military Financing - $15.7 million - is more than double the amount allocated for the Indonesian military in 2007. We can see no dramatic change in the Indonesian military's conduct over the past year to warrant such a generous increase.

Some of this money is temporarily set aside until the Department of State reports on actions and progress concerning human rights accountability, military reform and access to Papua. Assuming an honest assessment by the Department of State, the question is what will the Congress and Administration do with the information. If State finds that Indonesia has not made significant progress in these areas, Congress should rethink the strategy of rewarding the Indonesian military with assistance.

Beginning with the ouster of General Suharto in 1998, the Indonesian people were able to pressure their government to take initial steps toward reform. However, since the U.S. has re-engaged with the Indonesia military, such progress has all but stopped. Historically, the Indonesian military's (TNI) worst abuses occurred when the U.S. was most engaged with it. Indonesia's current president has not fulfilled his promise to reform the military budget and to hold members of the military accountable.

An unreformed Indonesian military will be in strong position to exert influence on the key 2009 national elections by drawing on its vast business resources to subvert the process; employing thug-militias to intimidate critics, especially in the smaller parties and among civil society; and manipulating elections down to village level where it retains strong influence through its "territorial system."

Clearly, restoration of binding conditions restricting FMF, International Military Education and Training (IMET), and certain other forms of security assistance is needed to persuade the Indonesian military to resume the reform process. Next year Congress must send a clear and unambiguous message in support of democracy and human rights.

For many years, Congress used the appropriations process to encourage military and democratic reform in Indonesia and to advocate for genuine accountability for human rights violations committed by Indonesian forces in East Timor and Indonesia. The FY2008 appropriations bill is not in this worthy tradition.

We thank the strong advocates for holding the Indonesian military accountable and encouraging genuine reform, especially Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY).

Background

The passage of the appropriations bill comes as the State Department appears to be moving towards endorsing re-engagement with Kopassus and Brimob, respectively the two most notorious units of the Indonesian military and police, with long histories of human rights violations.

The bill would withhold $2.7 million until the Department of State reports "steps taken" by Indonesia to among other things: hold accountable members of the military "credibly alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights" and implementation of "reforms to increase the transparency and accountability of their operations and financial management"; as well whether the Government of Indonesia "has written plans to effectively provide account ability for past violations of human rights by members of the Armed Forces, and is implementing plans to effectively allow public access to Papua and to pursue the criminal investigation and provide the projected time frame for completing the investigation of the murder of Munir Said Thalib."

The bill also requires a separate report from the Department of State on steps taken by Indonesia "to deny promotion, suspend from active service, and pursue prosecution of military officers indicted for serious crimes" and "the extent to which past and present Indonesian military officials are co-operating with domestic inquiries into human rights abuses...." The report would also describe "the steps taken by the Indonesian military to divest itself of illegal businesses," as well as Indonesian and Timor-Leste government responses to the Final Report of Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) and the June 2006 report of the report to the Secretary-General of the UN Commission of Experts to Review the Prosecution of Serious Violations of Human Rights in Timor-Leste in 1999. Indonesia has been dismissive of both reports.

Current and former military accused of serious crimes continue to receive promotions and sensitive assignments. For example, Col. Burhanuddin Siagian, a senior commander in West Papua -- twice indicted for crimes against humanity by the UN-backed Serious Crimes Process in East Timor -- said recently that he would "destroy" anyone who "betrays the nation." This month, the military commander in Maluku province told his soldiers that they may shoot separatists on the spot if necessary. Regulations to implement three-year old legislation to end military-ownership of businesses have yet to be issued, despite repeated promises to do so. Furthermore, despite a recent visit by a member of the U.S. Congress, access to Papua remains restricted, and Papuan human rights advocates who recently met with UN officials are facing harassment.

The Asian Human Rights Commission recently reported that "Changes initiated in recent years have not been pursued, due in large part to a lack of political will.... [T]he military continues to be the dominant institution in many regions and historic injustices have not been righted. Impunity remains the key feature of law and order, for torture and other gross abuses of human rights."

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 restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces. For additional background, see www.etan.org.

ENDS

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