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Clinton Must Condition Assistance to Indonesia on Rights

ETAN Urges Secretary Clinton to Condition Security Assistance to Indonesia on Rights

July 20, 2011 - As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton travelled to Bali, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) urged her to condition U.S. security assistance to Indonesia on real improvements in human rights by Indonesia government and genuine accountability for violations of human rights.

"The restoration of assistance to Indonesia's notorious Kopassus special forces announced a year ago should be reversed," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "Kopassus training was meant to be the carrot to encourage respect for rights. There is no evidence it has done so. U.S. law bars cooperation with military and police units with such egregious human rights records. The U.S should set an example by following it's own law."

On the eve of Secretary Clinton's visit, ETAN issued the following statement:

In her February 2009 visit to Indonesia, Secretary of State Clinton praised democratic reforms since the fall of the U.S.-backed Suharto, saying "Indonesia has experienced a great transformation in the last 10 years.” While Indonesia has made progress since the dark days of Suharto, crimes against humanity and other violations of human rights continue. U.S. policy has largely focused on narrow strategic and economic interests that have little to do with the well-being of the Indonesian people. Meanwhile, progress has stalled. Human rights remain under threat. The military continues to find ways to maintain its influence. The pleas of the victims of human rights crimes in Timor-Leste, Aceh, West Papua, and elsewhere in the archipelago are ignored. Senior figures responsible for the worst abuses prosper.

In recent years, the U.S. has provided substantial assistance to both the Indonesian military and police. This assistance is said to come with lessons on human rights. The human rights lessons are not being learned. People see the police as abusers, not protectors and military impunity prevails. Indonesia's security forces are learning is that U.S. will assist them no matter how they behave.

Over the past year, horrific videos and other reports of torture, the burning of villages and other crimes offer graphic proof that the people of West Papua and elsewhere continue to suffer at the hands of military and police. Soldiers prosecuted for these and other incidents receive light sentences. Just this past week, four civilians, a women and three children, were wounded when Indonesian troops shot into a hut in the Puncak Jaya area of Papua.

As many as 100 political prisoners remain jailed: prosecuted and jailed for the peaceful expression of opinion. In many regions, minority religious institutions are persecuted, often with the active or tacit assistance of local security officials. Vigilante groups, like the Islamic Defenders Front, seek to enforce their own extra-legal version of morality, again with the backing of officials. Journalists, human rights defenders and anti-corruption activists are threatened and occasionally killed. The organizers of the 2004 poisoning of Indonesia's most prominent human rights lawyer, Munir, remain free and seemingly above the law.

In recent years, the U.S. has provided substantial assistance to both the Indonesian military and police. This assistance is said to come with lessons on human rights. Lessons that are not being learned. People see the police as abusers, not protectors and military impunity prevails. Indonesia's security forces are learning is that U.S. will assist them no matter how they behave.

We urge the U.S. to condition its security assistance on an end to human rights violations and to impunity. The U.S. should heed the recommendation of Timor-Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR), which urged nations to "regulate military sales and cooperation with Indonesia more effectively and make such support 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, including respect for the right of self-determination." Indonesia does not yet meet this standard.

The U.S., as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, should work to establish an international tribunal to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights crimes committed during Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of Timor-Leste. This would provide a measure of justice to the victims and their families and serve as a deterrent to future human rights violators. A tribunal is supported by the many victims of these crimes and by human rights advocates in Timor-Leste, Indonesia, the U.S., and elsewhere.

Finally, we urge Secretary Clinton to apologize to the peoples of Indonesia and Timor-Leste for U.S. support for the Suharto dictatorship. Her visit offers the U.S. a chance to decisively break with past U.S. support for torture, disappearances, rape, invasion and illegal occupation, extrajudicial murder environmental devastation. Clinton should offer condolences to Suharto's many victims throughout the archipelago and support the prosecution of those responsible.

ETAN was founded in 1991 to advocate for self-determination for Indonesian-occupied Timor-Leste. Since the beginning, ETAN has worked to condition U.S. military assistance to Indonesia on respect for human rights and genuine reform. The U.S.-based organization continues to advocate for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information, see ETAN's web site:


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