For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller, ETAN, 718-596-7668, 917-690-4391(mobile) Lynn Fredriksson, IHRN, 202-546-0044
RIGHTS GROUPS AFFIRM SUPPORT FOR CONTINUING SUSPENSION OF MILITARY TIES WITH INDONESIA
Groups Say Cut-Off Necessary to Promote Democracy and Human Rights
The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) and the Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) have urged the new Bush administration to keep military ties between the U.S. and Indonesia suspended, saying the Indonesian military has yet to make crucial reforms.
Spokespersons for the two organizations concerned with human rights in Indonesia and East Timor, said that since the Indonesian military (TNI) continues to promote conflict and operate largely with impunity, the U.S. should not provide any training, equipment or other support
"Shipping hardware to the Indonesian military will severely set back efforts to achieve democracy and respect for human rights in Indonesia," said Lynn Fredriksson, acting coordinator for IHRN. "Anyone familiar with the ongoing conflicts in West Papua, Aceh and Maluku/the Moluccas knows that the TNI is at best impeding resolution; more often it is an exceedingly brutal central cause of the problem."
Indonesian officials and some others have asked the U.S. to provide communications and transportation equipment to the TNI. They claim that this equipment is needed for the military to deal with conflicts in Aceh, Maluku, West Timor and elsewhere in Indonesia.
When asked at his confirmation hearing about resuming arms sales to Indonesia, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that while "every nation has the right of legitimate self-defense," he needed to examine the matter further.
"We are sure that when Secretary Powell conducts his examination, he will find that the Indonesian military remains focused on repression, not national defense," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "The record shows that the TNI views any U.S. support as an endorsement of its worst abuses, not as encouragement to reform," he added.
"The U.S. must not support TNI before Indonesia fully meets its repeated pledges to the international community, including the safe return of East Timorese refugees and disarming and disbanding of militia groups in West Timor. Indonesian authorities must arrest and extradite militia leaders and must cooperate 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. If the Bush administration genuinely supports democracy in Indonesia, it must make its commitment clear to the Indonesian military," said Miller.
"The territorial command structure and the deep involvement of the military in business are other major roadblocks to reform," added Fredriksson.
In early September 1999, the U.S. suspended military ties and economic assistance to Indonesia while the Indonesian military and its militias were destroying East Timor following the August 30 vote for independence. Soon after, the Indonesian military began to withdraw from East Timor and an international peacekeeping force entered. In November 1999, the U.S. Congress legislated conditions on resuming military support: safe return of East Timorese refugees, 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.
Nevertheless, the U.S. military began a planned phased re-engagement with the Indonesian military last spring. Indonesian officers took part as observers in a U.S.-sponsored Cobra Gold military exercise in Thailand in May. In July, the Indonesian navy, marines, and coast guard trained in East Java with their U.S. military counterparts in a joint U.S.-Indonesian exercise called CARAT/2000. All military ties were again suspended in early September following the killings of three UN workers, including a U.S. citizen, assisting refugees in West Timor. Congress reaffirmed the legislated restrictions in the fall of 2000.
Approximately 100,000 East Timorese remain virtual hostages in West Timor, 15 months after TNI and its paramilitaries forced them there. Removing the TNI-supported militias from squalid refugee camps would allow many to return to East Timor, which is expected to become independent within a year. The TNI has been unwilling or unable to disarm the militia or to separate them from the refugees.
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.
The recently-formed Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) works to promote U.S. foreign policy which supports democracy, human rights and rule of law in Indonesia.
For additional background see www.etan.org.
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