|Subject: CONG: House letter to President
August 18, 2000
President William J. Clinton The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to express our deep concern about the Administration's decision to begin resuming joint exercises and other forms of co-operation with and assistance to the Indonesian military (TNI). We believe any such resumption - even a "phased" resumption - is likely to be counterproductive so long as significant elements of TNI continue to resist civilian control and to be implicated in gross human rights violations.
As you know, section 589 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, Fiscal Year 2000, prohibits military assistance, including military education and training, to the armed forces of Indonesia until six important human rights conditions have been met. These conditions include certifications that the Indonesian armed forces are:
(1) taking effective measures to bring to justice members of the armed forces and militia groups against whom there is credible evidence of human rights violations;
(2) taking effective measures to bring to justice members of the armed forces against whom there is credible evidence of aiding or abetting militia groups;
(3) allowing displaced persons and refugees to return home to East Timor, including providing safe passage for refugees returning from West Timor;
(4) not impeding the activities of international peacekeeping forces and transitional authorities in East Timor;
(5) demonstrating a commitment to preventing incursions into East Timor by members of militia groups in West Timor; and
(6) demonstrating a commitment to accountability by cooperating with investigations and prosecutions of members of the Indonesian armed forces and militia groups responsible for human rights violations in Indonesia and East Timor.
In recent briefings of Congressional staff, Administration officials conceded that TNI has not met these conditions, but argued that "phase one" of the resumption of military-military relations did not include forms of assistance that were covered by the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act restrictions. With respect, we believe this argument misses the point. The six conditions set forth in the Act restate minimal standards of decent and civilized behavior. Assisting an entity that flouts these standards confers a United States "seal of approval" that sends exactly the wrong signal to that entity, to its innocent victims, and to other such entities and victims around the world.
In the weeks since the U.S. began "phasing in" its new relationship with TNI, military violence in Indonesia appears to have escalated. Violence and harassment against East Timorese refugees perpetrated by TNI-supported militias in camps in West Timor have intensified in recent weeks. There has also been an upsurge in militia border incursions into East Timor and in attacks on United Nations peacekeepers - resulting in 2 recent deaths - and on civilians. Militia members killed or caught along the border in recent months have been dressed in TNI uniforms, have been carrying new weapons, and in at least one case possessed an ID card from the elite Kopassus military unit - all signs of continuing TNI involvement. Militias have also begun operating in Papua (Irian Jaya), and there are persistent and highly credible reports of deep involvement by elements of TNI in massacres of Christians in Maluku. Most recently, the disappearance of Acehnese human rights lawyer Jafar Siddiq Hamzah - while it is too early to tell what has happened or who is responsible - is disturbingly reminiscent of the disappearances of human rights activists at the direction of senior TNI officers during the Soeharto and Habibie eras.
In light of these developments, we are particularly concerned at reports that the "phase one" assistance to TNI - which we have been assured will be "nonlethal" - may include spare parts for C-130 aircraft. Unless it can somehow be guaranteed that these parts will never be used in support of combat missions or operations directed against Indonesia's civilian population, it is inaccurate to characterize them as nonlethal assistance. Moreover, we are informed that TNI is particularly anxious to receive the C-130 parts, which makes them the very kind of leverage that should be used as an incentive for significant progress toward respect for human rights, accountability, and civilian control.
We believe the United States should strongly support the reform government of President Abdurrahman Wahid and Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Such support should include generous bilateral and multilateral assistance. It should include military assistance when and only when the Abdurrahman-Megawati government has succeeded in its efforts to bring the military under civilian control and to bring to justice those who have committed atrocities in East Timor and throughout Indonesia. For as long as TNI continues to evade civilian control and to condone or even participate in gross violations of fundamental human rights, we will not be doing any favors to the development of democratic governance in Indonesia by giving TNI the material and symbolic benefits of a renewed relationship with the United States.
Thank you for your careful consideration of this urgent request.
Christopher H. Smith Member of Congress
Cynthia A. McKinney Member of Congress
Benjamin A. Gilman Member of Congress
Dennis J. Kucinich Member of Congress
Frank R. Wolf Member of Congress
Tony P. Hall Member of Congress
John Edward Porter Member of Congress
Lane Evans Member of Congress
Joseph R. Pitts Member of Congress
William D. Delahunt Member of Congress
James P. McGovern Member of Congress
Bobby L. Rush Member of Congress
Ralph M. Hall Member of Congress
Fortney Pete Stark Member of Congress
Michael E. Capuano Member of Congress
David E. Price Member of Congress
Peter A. DeFazio Member of Congress
Nita M. Lowey Member of Congress
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