ETAN, NGOs write Albright on military ties to Indonesia
3 March 2000
The Honorable Madeleine Albright
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Albright,
We are writing to express our strong opposition to any U.S. Government
efforts to re-engage with the Indonesian military. This is a sensitive
moment in Indonesia's history with much pressure and high expectations
being placed on the shoulders of the recently elected government. The
leaders of the new democratic government of Indonesia are seeking to
respond to widespread public demands for justice and accountability. Given
the fragile coalition of power that now governs Indonesia, the U.S.
Government should avoid sending any messages of support to those
institutions that are hindering the processes of democratization and
respect for human rights. A resumption of military engagement at any level
will send a signal to the Indonesian armed forces that the U.S. government
believes they have been rehabilitated, legitimizing the repression they
continue to practice in the internal governance of Indonesia.
Perhaps more importantly, there is little evidence to show that
previous years of U.S. military engagement with Indonesia, including
training in human rights, did anything to prevent gross human rights
violations by the Indonesian military. The U.S. has been training the
Indonesian military since the late 1950s. During the last several decades,
the people of East Timor and of Aceh, West Papua, and other provinces have
been subjected to torture, disappearance, extrajudicial executions, rape,
and even massacres carried out by the Indonesian military, particularly
members of the elite special forces unit Kopassus. These military abuses
have led hundreds of thousands of Indonesians to flee their homes and
become internally displaced persons.
Those ultimately responsible for these human rights violations include
several military leaders who have had close ties with the U.S., including
Generals Prabowo Subianto and Zacky Anwar Mukarin who received U.S.
military training and General Wiranto who has made several official visits
to the U.S. Generals Anwar Mukarin and Wiranto are among those named by
Indonesia's National Commission of Inquiry report on gross human rights
abuses and crimes against humanity in East Timor. Lt. General Prabowo,
former head of Kopassus, has admitted responsibility in a military
disciplinary tribunal for the kidnapping and torture of two dozen
As long as the "dual function" structure of the military
places troops and officers at every level of society in a policing
capacity, it cannot be claimed that civilian control has been asserted
over the armed forces. The military is still a systematically repressive
force in Indonesia. Even today, its troops continue to kill civilians in
Aceh and are accused of inflaming the communal violence in the Molucca
Islands and of forming "East Timor-like" militias in West Papua.
President Wahid's appointment of a civilian as the Minister of Defense,
the firing of the former military spokesman Major General Sudrajat, and
the suspension of General Wiranto are all positive steps. But these steps
are not sufficient evidence of fundamental reforms in the military's
behavior or its basic structure.
This is clearly not the time for U.S. military re-engagement with the
Indonesian military (TNI). Before any such efforts are undertaken, we
believe that, as a minimum, the following benchmarks must be met.
1. Immediate reforms to reduce the military's presence and influence
over local and provincial government structures with the long-term goal of
the full termination of the "dual function" structure. The
complete termination would require the removal of military officers from
civil service posts as well as from their 38 reserved parliamentary seats.
2. Full cooperation by the military with both domestic and
international investigations of human rights abuses that have occurred
over the last forty years.
3. The creation of a permanent national human rights court to handle
cases of past human rights abuses by the military and to prohibit further
impunity for military officers.
4. The disbanding and disarming of all paramilitary militias, and the
prosecution of militia members who have violated human rights.
5. The disbanding of both Kopassus, responsible for some of the most
egregious human rights violations, and BAIS, the army's intelligence
agency which spies on Indonesian citizens in order to halt
"undesirable" political activities.
6. An immediate cessation of military and military-sponsored militia
violence against the peoples of Aceh, West Papua, Lombok, the Molucca
Islands, and East Timorese in West Timor.
Many of these benchmarks have already been called for either by the
Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) or by
reform-minded leaders of the Indonesian military. The U.S. Government
should actively support the reform efforts initiated by Indonesian
civilian leaders as a minimum requirement before any re-engagement.
Rather than the U.S. Government focusing support and resources on
military relations, a more constructive approach would be to strengthen
the elected government of President Abdurrahman Wahid and the civilian
institutions of governance. Technical assistance and funding is needed for
the judicial system and the prosecution of those accused of human rights
violations. Financial support and capacity-building for civil society
groups, particularly human rights organizations, should be increased.
Greater assistance to grassroots-initiated economic development programs
will contribute to Indonesia's recovery from the economic crisis. In
addition, increased humanitarian assistance to the refugees and internally
displaced persons throughout Indonesia should be a high priority.
We understand the State Department is currently promoting training for
the Indonesian police under non-military programs. Because of the
historical relationship between the military and the police in Indonesia,
we would discourage this initiative in favor of other important civil
society building measures. Until the military control of the Indonesian
police has fully ended, we strongly oppose all combat and anti-riot
training for the police.
We appreciate your attention to this serious matter, and we look
forward to receiving a reply.
Margaret Huang Program Director Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for
Roger P. Winter Executive Director U.S. Committee for Refugees
Joe Saunders Deputy Director Human Rights Watch Asia Division
Reverend Rodney I. Page Executive Director Church World Service
J. Daryl Byler Director, Washington Office Mennonite Central Committee
Elenora Giddings Ivory Director, Washington Office Presbyterian Church
Owen Lynch Senior Attorney Center for International Environmental Law
Miriam Young Executive Director Asia Pacific Center for Justice and
Lynn Fredriksson Washington Representative East Timor Action Network
Bob Edgar General Secretary National Council of the Churches of Christ
in the U.S.
William C. Goodfellow Executive Director Center for International
James H. Matlack Director, Washington Office American Friends Service
Jordana Friedman Director, International Security Program Council on
William R. Pace Director Center for Development of International Law
Medea Benjamin Co-Director Global Exchange
Jafar Siddiq Director International Forum on Aceh
Mike Amitay Executive Director Washington Kurdish Institute
Barbara DiTommaso Director, Commission on Peace and Justice of the
Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, NY
John Oei Founder Indonesian, Chinese, and American Network (ICANET)
Ron Cruz President Portuguese-American Leadership Council of the United
Phil Wheaton Director Conversion for Reclaiming Earth in the Americas
John Dear, SJ Executive Director Fellowship of Reconciliation
Dr. Francis Kiem President Human Rights International
Edith Villastrigo National Legislative Director Women Strike for Peace
Lenora Forstel North American Coordinator Women for Mutual Security
Tamar Gabelnick Director, Arms Sales Monitoring Project Federation of
Rev. John Chamberlin National Coordinator East Timor Religious Outreach
Meg A. Riley Director Washington Office for Faith in Action Unitarian
Universalist Association of Congregations
Melinda Miles Project Coordinator Quixote Center
Mary H. Miller Executive Secretary Episcopal Peace Fellowship
John M. Miller Director Foreign Bases Project
Karen M. Donahue, RSM (Institute Justice Team) Sisters of Mercy of the
Cary Josshart Washington Office Church of the Brethren
Gordon S. Clark Executive Director Peace Action
Eileen Weiss, Sharon Silber Co-Directors Jews Against Genocide
Kevin Costa Founder The Voting Project
Daniel Plesch Director British American Security Information Council
David J. Lello Council President Pebble Hill Interfaith Church
Lyn Beth Neylon President, Board of Directors Human Rights Access
cc: William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense
Samuel R. Berger, Assistant to the President for National Security
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