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Groups Urge Bush Not to Offer Military Assistance

Groups Urge Bush Not to Offer Military Assistance to Indonesian President

For Immediate Release

November 18 - A wide range of U.S. organizations have urged President Bush "to refrain from promising any military assistance to Indonesia's armed forces" on his upcoming visit to Indonesia.

President Bush will meet with Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Bogor on Monday.

In a letter to Bush, 53 human rights, labor, religious, peace and other groups called "restrictions on U.S. assistance to the Indonesian military are essential to promote concrete, demonstrable progress in the areas of military reform, accountability, and respect for human rights in Indonesia and Timor-Leste."

The groups urged the president "to maintain the best leverage the U.S. has - withholding prestigious U.S. military assistance, including foreign military financing and training such as IMET and JCET - to demonstrate that the U.S. government's commitment to these issues goes deeper than words to actual action."

The letter cites ongoing human rights violations, military involvement in illegal businesses and militia, and the "territorial command" system, through which the military operates a shadow government, exerting undue influence.

"Indonesia's human rights courts have proven incapable of bringing Indonesian military and police perpetrators of serious human rights violations to justice...," The letter states. "No senior officials have been convicted for the widespread crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Timor-Leste from 1975-1999."

"Past restrictions on assistance to the Indonesian military provided vital leverage to bolster Indonesian reform efforts," the groups wrote. They criticized last year's waiver by the administration of congressional restrictions on military assistance.

The letter was organized by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Among the signers are Amnesty International, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International, United for Peace and Justice, Peace Action, Pax Christi USA, School of the Americas Watch, Veterans for Peace, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and the West Papua Advocacy Team.

The full text of the letter and a complete list of signers can be found at www.etan.org.

Background

In November 2005, Congress agreed to continue restrictions on foreign military financing (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 these restrictions. Congress had imposed various restrictions on military assistance for Indonesia since 1992.

When issuing the waiver, the State Department pledged that the Bush administration would "carefully calibrate" any assistance to the Indonesian military (TNI). Instead, the administration's actions have demonstrated a policy of nearly unrestrained engagement with the TNI.

In its final report, East Timor'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..."

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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