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Restrictions on Military Assistance to Indonesia

Rights Group Calls for Restrictions on Military Assistance to Indonesia to Promote Reform and Accountability

House Committee Would Turn a Blind Eye to Rights Violations, Impunity

For Immediate Release

May 25, 2006 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) today urged Congress to restore restrictions on military assistance for Indonesia in the FY 2007 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. Over the objection of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member, Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chairperson Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) insisted on funding weapons sales and military training for Indonesia.

"The committee's failure under Mr. Kolbe's leadership to impose any conditions on assistance to the Indonesian military will only setback reform and accountability. The committee has turned a blind eye to the ongoing violations, impunity, and horrific record of the Indonesian military (TNI), a record acknowledged in report language accompanying the bill," said Karen Orenstein, National Coordinator for ETAN.

"The TNI pays attention to Congress's action, not its rhetoric," added Orenstein.

"In the past, Congress has consistently imposed limits on assistance to Indonesia to promote human rights and reform," said Orenstein. "We urge Congress to continue in that role, by restoring restrictions without a waiver before passing the bill."

Highlights of the Bill

The committee recommended $4,500,000 foreign military financing (FMF) program for Indonesia, $3,510,000 more than this year. The committee expressed "continuing concern about the professionalism of the Indonesian military" and stated that providing additional assistance in "no way signals decreased concern about the poor human rights record of the Indonesian military forces."

The TNI's record in Timor-Leste was most recently documented in the report of its Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation. The committee welcomed this report and urged "the Governments of Indonesia, East Timor, and other interested nations to examine, consider and respond to recommendations made in the report." It also urged "the Government of Indonesia to work to implement" the recommendations of the UN Secretary General's Commission of Experts, which last year evaluated accountability for serious crimes committed in East Timor in 1999.

The committee also directed the Department of State "to report on the current climate for human rights defenders in Indonesia" The committee highlighted the September 2004 poisoning death of human rights lawyer Munir Said Thalib, noting that Indonesia's president had yet to release the report of the his own fact-finding team's investigation into the assassination and emphasized "the need to fully investigate any past or present senior government or military officials implicated by that report."

Background

Last November, Congress agreed to continue restrictions on Foreign Military Finance (FMF) and export of "lethal" military equipment to Indonesia until human rights and other conditions were met. Two days after the bill became law, the Department of State issued a waiver removing all remaining congressional restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia. Congress had imposed various restrictions on military assistance for Indonesia since 1992.

When issuing the waiver, the State department pledged to "carefully calibrate" any assistance to the TNI. Instead, the administration's actions demonstrate a policy of unrestrained engagement with the TNI.

Last week, 15 human rights, religious and other organizations urged the House foreign operations appropriations 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." They called legislated restrictions on FMF and lethal defense exports, without a national security waiver, "the most important leverage the U.S. Congress can exercise."

Earlier in May, the administration announced it would provide up to $19 million for the Indonesian military through a new Pentagon program "to build foreign military force capacity." The groups in their letter wrote "this amount dwarfs recent assistance levels," and that "this appropriation further invalidates any justification to provide FMF for Indonesia for FY07...."

In addition to assistance through the new Pentagon program, recent administration moves have included 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 month, the Indonesian military for the first time is participating in the Cobra Gold regional military exercise with the United States and other countries.

In its final report, Timor-Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation called on countries to make military assistance to Indonesia "totally conditional on progress towards full democratisation, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with international human rights..."

In March, the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command stated in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that he endorsed "a rapid, concerted infusion of assistance" for the TNI.

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.

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ETAN welcomes your financial support. For more info: http://etan.org/etan/donate.htm

John M. Miller Internet: fbp@igc.org

National Coordinator East Timor & Indonesia Action Network:

48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097 Mobile phone: (917)690-4391 Web site: http://www.etan.org

Send a blank e-mail message to info@etan.org to find out how to learn more about East Timor on the Internet

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