For Immediate Release
Rights Groups Say Military Relations With Indonesia Hurt, Not
Oppose Any Restoration of U.S. Military Ties
Kurt Biddle (IHRN); (202) 544-1211;
John M. Miller (ETAN); (718) 596-7668
August 9, 2001-- The Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) and the East
Timor Action Network (ETAN) today urged the Bush administration to scrap
any plans to strengthen ties with the Indonesian military. Citing ongoing
human rights abuses and lack of accountability for violations, the groups
said renewing military relations with Indonesia would set back reform
efforts and democracy in Indonesia while undermining East Timor's
"The Indonesian military has answered to no one for their crimes
against humanity and continues to kill hundreds of civilians. Nothing has
changed as far as human rights are concerned -- now is not the time to
reward this brutal force," stated Kurt Biddle, Washington Coordinator
The installation of Megawati Sukarnoputri as president of Indonesia has
been used by some in the U.S. to press for a closer relationship between
the Pentagon and the Indonesian military (TNI).
"While the Pentagon and others say that the Indonesian military
should be rewarded for the peaceful ascension of Megawati Sukarnoputri to
the presidency, they are missing the forest for the trees. The military
played an active role in the destabilization of Abdurrahman Wahid,
continually thwarting attempts at reform," said John M. Miller,
spokesperson for ETAN. "Megawati has developed close relations with
the military and is more likely to give it a freer hand. So why would the
military want to interfere in her becoming president?
"It is vital that the U.S. maintain its suspension of military
relations with Indonesia. The Indonesian government and armed forces have
yet to meet any of the conditions established by Congress governing
renewal of ties," said Miller.
The United States has withheld most assistance from the Indonesian
military since the TNI and its militia proxies razed East Timor in
September 1999 following its pro-independence vote. Some military
assistance is now restricted by the "Leahy Conditions" first
passed by Congress in late 1999. These conditions include the safe return
of East Timorese refugees, prosecution of those responsible for atrocities
in East Timor and Indonesia, and security for East Timor from military and
militia activity. None of these conditions have been met. The U.S. House
of Representatives recently voted to renew these restrictions.
No accountability or curbing of human rights abuses in Indonesia has
occurred since restrictions were placed on U.S. training and equipping of
the TNI. The TNI continues to commit atrocities throughout the island
nation. In the region of Aceh, the armed forces' brutal campaign against
the local population continues. In the two weeks since Megawati assumed
the presidency, Indonesian troops in Aceh have killed at least 45 people
according to press reports. Over 1,000 people have been killed in Aceh
since the beginning of the year.
Up to 80,000 East Timorese refugees remain trapped in poor conditions
in Indonesian West Timor under the control of militias. Militia leaders,
backed by elements of the Indonesian military, are reported to be biding
their time, awaiting East Timor's independence, before launching
additional military raids across the border.
"While Megawati recently amended the decree establishing a special
human rights court on East Timor, it still severely limits any
prosecutions. Any trials are unlikely to result in convictions or
appropriate sentences," said Miller. "The Indonesian judiciary
is thoroughly corrupt, and most East Timorese will be too afraid to travel
to Indonesia to testify. An international tribunal is the only way to
In April, former President Wahid issued a decree limiting the
jurisdiction of the special court to crimes committed after the August 30,
1999 popular consultation in East Timor. The new decree restricts the
court's jurisdiction to crimes committed in Liquica, Dili, and Suai in the
months of April and September 1999.
"This limitation means that TNI's role in orchestrating the
violence and devastation throughout 1999 will not be fully addressed and
those most responsible for Indonesia's scorched earth campaign in East
Timor will escape punishment," said Miller.
IHRN also pointed to the rise of political detainees and prisoners.
"Indonesia has regressed to the Suharto-era practice of arresting and
imprisoning peaceful political dissidents," said Kurt Biddle.
"The military is attacking villagers as the police target the
In recent weeks there have been a flurry of arrests of dozens of
activists across Indonesia, including Faisal Saifuddin in Jakarta, Kautsar
Mohammed Yus in Banda Aceh and eight activists in East Java. Activists are
often charged with "inciting hatred against the government" a
Dutch-era law used to silence political opposition.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) supports human dignity for
the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable
development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights,
including women's rights. ETAN, which has 28 local chapters throughout the
U.S., calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against
humanity which took place in East Timor since 1975. For additional
information see ETAN's web site.
The Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) is a U.S.-based grassroots
organization working to educate and activate the American public and
influence U.S. foreign policy and international economic interests to
support democracy, demilitarization, and justice through accountability
and rule of law in Indonesia. We seek to end armed forces repression in
Indonesia by exposing it to international scrutiny. IHRN works with and
advocates on behalf of people throughout the Indonesian archipelago to
strengthen civil society. See www.IndonesiaNetwork.org
for more information.
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see also TAPOL warns US against renewing ties with resurgent Indonesian military
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