|Subject: NYT: U.S. to Train Police Leaders for
Indonesia in Riot Control
Date: Sat, 15 May 1999 11:11:29 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
The New York Times May 9, 1999
U.S. to Train Police Leaders for Indonesia in Riot Control
By PHILIP SHENON
WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration has decided to offer riot-control training to the Indonesian police in preparation for next month's national elections despite concerns from human rights groups over the abysmal human rights record of the police there, administration officials say.
Under the plan, they said, a team of American police commanders will be sent to Indonesia within the next several days to offer training to their Indonesian counterparts in how to deal with crowd control and riots, and how to improve relations between the police and news organizations and opposition political parties.
The training program was recommended by an American government inspection team that recently traveled in Indonesia and found in a report that the program "could well reduce violence" during and after the election by offering techniques to deal peacefully with crowds of anti-government demonstrators.
Officials said that the size of the American team and its composition had not been decided but that it was unlikely to number more than a dozen. The program, they said, has been approved enthusiastically by the Indonesian government.
The training program, which is being organized principally by the State Department and the Justice Department, has drawn a mixed reception from human rights groups.
Mike Jendrzejczyk, Washington director of Human Rights Watch Asia, said that his group would tentatively support the program in hopes that it might prevent the sort of police violence seen during anti-government riots last year in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.
But he offered a warning: "If Indonesian police officers trained by the U.S. end up mishandling crowd-control situations, there could be a real backlash, especially from Congress. On the other hand, it may be worth taking that risk if the level of official violence can be reduced."
Administration officials insisted that the program was a modest one, that only a relative handful of the police commanders of Jakarta would receive the American training, and that Indonesian human rights groups would help prepare the curriculum.
But they acknowledged that the United States could face harsh criticism if any of the police commanders who receive the American training or officers under their control are later found to have been involved in violence against protesters or other human rights abuses.
The Defense Department has been repeatedly criticized by human rights groups and members of Congress for a similar cooperative program with the Indonesian military, which has long been accused of human rights abuses, including the murder and torture of Indonesian dissidents.
An estimated 1,200 people, most in Jakarta, died during a spasm of anti-government riots last year that culminated in the resignation of President Suharto after 32 years in power. Most of the deaths were blamed on the police or soldiers.
Suharto's successor, B.J. Habibie, has organized new national elections to be held on June 7, and Indonesian officials and diplomats in Jakarta fear that large political rallies in the period before the election could dissolve into riots.
Earlier this spring, the Justice Department and State Department sent a team of inspectors to Indonesia to determine whether American police training might help control street violence in Jakarta and elsewhere in that vast archipelago nation. The team members included a private human rights lawyer and a deputy sheriff of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department.
The report shows that the team agreed that the training could be of value both before and after the election.
"Even if the training begins only in May, the police could receive sufficient training before the June 7 elections to be better able to keep demonstrations from escalating to serious violence," it said.
"Training ASAP could well reduce violence during the period following the elections, when there is expected to be considerable political violence initiated by political parties -- or their thugs -- that are dissatisfied with the election results," it said.
The investigators said that if the police were able to control crowds peacefully, it might end the threat that Indonesian military troops would step in, as has happened in the past. Until last month, the police were formally part of the Indonesian armed forces. On April 1, they were given nominal independence, although they still remain under the control of the Defense Ministry.
The report also called for nongovernment organizations, including human rights groups, to be involved in preparing the curriculum and in the training course itself.