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For Immediate Release 
September 15, 2000

Contact: John M. Miller, 718-5967668, 917-690-4391(mobile)

U.S. REINSTATES SUSPENSION OF MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO INDONESIA 

ETAN Applauds Response to Militia Killings and Unresolved Refugee Crisis; Calls for International Tribunal and Donor Meeting Delay

The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today praised the Clinton Administration's decision to reinstate the U.S. suspension of military assistance to Indonesia and urged the administration to work to postpone the World Bank-sponsored Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI) donor meeting until key conditions are met. On the eve of Secretary of Defense William Cohen's visit to Indonesia, ETAN also reiterated its call for an international tribunal to try those who committed crimes against humanity in East Timor.

Responding to contacts from ETAN members around the country urging Secretary Cohen to clarify the Pentagonís position before his visit, Pentagon officials explained that military cooperation was currently suspended. ETAN has consistently advocated that the U.S. end any support for the Indonesian military by suspending visits and military exercises, and halting any plans to supply spare parts and other military equipment to the Indonesian military.

"The steps taken this summer to resume military ties did nothing to improve the human rights situation in Indonesia or security for East Timor. The Indonesian military took them as a sign of impunity for their worst abuses, not as encouragement to reform. The recent murders of three UNHCR international staff and at least 11 others in West Timor by pro-Jakarta militia members is only the most prominent example of how much needs to be done to protect basic rights in Indonesia,Ē said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.

"Our military-to-military relationship with Indonesia at the moment is suspended," Harold Heilsnis, Director for Public Communication for the Pentagon, wrote members of ETAN. "In the future, if necessary reforms and actions are taken, we would like to re-engage with the military. But that will take place only after certain actions take place in Indonesia, and after consultations with the Congress," he added. Unnoticed by most U.S. media a senior Pentagon official announced at a September 11 press briefing the suspension of the U.S. military relationship with Indonesia.

"We expect the U.S. will not resume ties before Indonesia meets certain critical conditions, including the safe return of East Timorese refugees, disarming and disbanding of militia groups, arrest and extradition of their leaders, and Indonesian cooperation with the creation of an international human rights tribunal for crimes committed in East Timor. Most critically, there must be civilian control of the Indonesian military. Secretary Cohen must make these things clear in all his Jakarta meetings," added Miller.

"Any U.S. assistance to the Indonesian military contributes to the unraveling of Indonesia's fragile democratization, betrays our commitment to genuine self-determination in East Timor, and violates the intent of Congress in withholding aid to human rights abusers," added Lynn Fredriksson, Washington Representative for ETAN.

ETAN, joining calls by East Timorese leaders, is urging the U.S. government, other donor countries and the World Bank to postpone the meeting of the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI), scheduled for mid-October, until Indonesia stops militia violence and terror, ends cross-border incursions and resumes the voluntary repatriation of refugees. Some 100,000 East Timorese refugees remain trapped in camps in West Timor since last year's vote. Since the UNHCR and other aid agencies have evacuated, few international observers remain in West Timor to serve as even meager deterrence to further militia violence.

In a letter sent to Indonesian President Wahid after the attack on UNHCR workers, World Bank President James Wolfensohn warned: "I look forward to being able to report to donors at next month's Consultative Group meeting that the violence has ended, that the United Nations has been able to resume its humanitarian activities and that those who want to return home to East Timor are now being allowed to do so in safety."

The UN Security Council in condemning ongoing militia activity on September 9 called for Indonesia to "take immediate additional steps to disarm and disband the militia immediately, restore law and order in the affected areas in West Timor, ensure safety and security in the refugee camps and for humanitarian workers, and prevent cross-border incursions into East Timor." Indonesia has so far blocked Security Councilís efforts to send a mission to Indonesia. U.S. representative to the UN, Richard C. Holbrooke, has said, "directly or indirectly, it is elements within the Indonesian military who are responsible for [the murder of the UNHCR workers], who could have been removed a long time ago."

In a September 14 editorial, the Washington Post commented: "Earlier this year the U.S. military had made some exceptions to its suspension of contact with the Indonesians, and the Pentagon is eager to restore full military-to-military relations. Now that, too, is on hold."

"An international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for violence in East Timor is necessary to realize justice for the East Timorese. It would have the added benefit of helping to ensure security for the refugees and those working to assist them. Indonesia should arrest known militia leaders, immediately place them under protective custody, and turn them over to UN authorities," said Fredriksson.

In early September 1999, the U.S. suspended military ties and economic assistance to Indonesia as the Indonesian military and its militias were destroying East Timor following the August 30 independence vote. Soon after, the Indonesian military began to withdraw from East Timor and an international peacekeeping force entered. In November, the U.S. Congress restricted most military assistance to Indonesia, with renewal contingent upon East Timorese refugees being safely returned, effective prosecution of military and militia members responsible for human rights atrocities in East Timor and Indonesia, and other conditions regarding East Timor's security.

Last spring, the U.S. military began a planned phased re-engagement with its Indonesian counterparts. Indonesian officers took part as observers in a U.S.-sponsored Cobra Gold military exercise in Thailand in May. In July, a joint U.S.-Indonesian exercise called CARAT/2000, in which the Indonesian navy, marines, and coast guard trained with their U.S. military counterparts, took place in East Java.

The East Timor Action Network/ U.S. (ETAN) was founded in November 1991 to support East Timorese self-determination. ETAN supports human rights in Indonesia and works for a peaceful transition to independence in East Timor. It has 28 local chapters throughout the U.S.

For additional background see www.etan.org.

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September 13, 2000

Dear _______:

We have read your message regarding the U.S. military relationship with Indonesia and appreciate having your views. As you know, Secretary Cohen will visit that nation during his trip to Asia. He has been directed by President Clinton to raise our concerns about the lack of security in both West and East Timor. Secretary Cohen will take a strong message to the leaders of Indonesia.

Indonesia's failure to protect an American citizen and other international aid workers, and the more general failure of the Indonesian army to provide security for the international relief operations, threatens to destroy the international goodwill towards Indonesia at a time when it needs it most. The Secretary will meet with the top leadership in Indonesia and the top military leaders. Our military-to-military relationship with Indonesia at the moment is suspended. In the future, if necessary reforms and actions are taken, we would like to re-engage with the military. But that will take place only after certain actions take place in Indonesia, and after consultations with the Congress. 

This and other points were discussed during a September 8 news briefing about the Secretary's trip to Asia. Given your concerns, much of the transcript may be of interest to you and you will find that transcript on line at: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Sep2000/x09082000_x908asia.html

Sincerely yours, 
Harold Heilsnis 
Director for Public Communication


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