The Question of U.S. Military Assistance for Indonesia
December 2002 -- The U.S. administration’s intention to increase
assistance for the Indonesian military (TNI) ignores its past and current
conduct, including support for Islamic terrorist groups, assaults on U.S.
citizens and regular violations of human rights and democratic norms.
Legislated restrictions and accompanying conditions – known as the “Leahy
provisions” – require TNI accountability for human rights crimes in
East Timor and Indonesia and military reform. To abandon the restriction
of International Military Education and Training (IMET) would be to remove
the best leverage Congress has to push for such accountability and reform.
It would also betray those Indonesians who have, at risk to their own
lives, pressed for an end to the impunity enjoyed by Indonesian security
Now is the wrong time for Congress to signal its readiness, in the name
of fighting terrorism, to enlist a rogue military that has embraced terror
tactics and terrorist groups. Claims that resumption of IMET for the
Indonesian military would encourage reform ignore history; over four
decades of close contact with the U.S. military failed to improve the TNI’s
record. Indeed, some of the officers with the broadest exposure to the
U.S. and its military through IMET and other training programs went on to
carry out the most egregious of crimes.
Congress should not lift restrictions on military assistance for
Indonesia in the FY03 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for many
The military targets U.S. citizens in its human rights violations. In
August 2002, two American schoolteachers were killed and other U.S.
citizens wounded in an attack in the province of Papua within the mining
operations area of the U.S. company Freeport-McMoRan. Indonesian police
and NGO investigations clearly point to TNI responsibility for the
incident. The TNI is now stalling further investigation.
Also in 2002, U.S. citizen Joy Lee Sadler was beaten and her British
companion sexually molested following their arrest in Aceh for "visa
violations." The pair was prevented from contacting their embassies
for six days after their initial detention. The trial has been excessively
delayed; they have now been detained for more than three months. Many
observers fear Sadler’s and McCulloch’s detention is part of an effort
to close Indonesia’s conflict areas to outside monitors.
The TNI is working with units of the Islamic fundamentalist terror
group "Laskar Jihad" in Papua to stoke communal tensions there,
despite claims by Laskar Jihad that it recently disbanded. The TNI has a
long history of support for the Laskar Jihad in the Maluku islands, where
at least 9,000 people have died as a result of conflict since January
1999. The TNI failed to obey Presidential orders to preclude the
organization of Laskar Jihad in 2000 and allowed its transfer from Java to
the Maluku islands where the Jihad units violently attacked Christians,
exacerbating communal conflicts.
The TNI has formed and armed militia groups in Papua similar to those
it created in East Timor in 1998-99. Overseeing their formation is Major
General Mahidin Simbolon, the same senior military commander who
supervised the formation of TNI-directed militia that ravaged East Timor.
The TNI has evaded accountability for crimes against humanity it
committed in East Timor in 1999. Of the twelve verdicts released thus far
by the Indonesian ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor, all ten
Indonesian officials on trial have been acquitted. Only East Timorese
civilian defendants have been convicted, receiving either the legally
allowed minimum sentence or less. Instead of serving justice, the court
has legitimized military propaganda that spontaneous civil conflict caused
East Timor’s devastation while Indonesian security personnel were mere
bystanders, as well as the portrayal of the United Nations as a biased,
TNI impunity for human rights crimes is candidly acknowledged in the
State Department’s annual human rights reports. Investigations of these
crimes rarely occur, and those that do take place typically do not lead to
trial. TNI obstruction has caused many cases to stall for years, as in the
1984 massacre of civilian Muslim protesters at Tanjung Priok in Jakarta
(which is supposed to be adjudicated by a second ad hoc human rights court
established under the law providing for the East Timor trials); the 1989
mass murder of an estimated 100 civilians at a religious school in Lampung,
South Sumatra; the murder of student demonstrators and mass rape of ethnic
Chinese women in Jakarta in 1998 and 1999; the 1999 murder of a Dutch
journalist in East Timor; and the 2001 assassination of the leading Papuan
community figure Theys Eluay. Retired Lt. General Hendropriyono, known as
the “Butcher of Lampung” for his leading role in the 1989 massacre, is
the current National Intelligence Chief. Nor has there been movement to
hold the dictator Suharto to account for the 1965-66 massacres that left
up to one million people dead. Where international pressure has compelled
court action, low-ranking TNI personnel are acquitted or receive light
sentences not commensurate with their crimes.
Security forces continue to harass and threaten human rights defenders
and others exercising the legal right to dissent. In Aceh, two decades of
TNI and police repression continue, despite ongoing peace talks, with
especially brutal treatment of human rights and humanitarian activists.
The December 2000 abduction and execution of three humanitarian workers
with the NGO Rehabilitation Action for Victims of Torture in Aceh (RATA)
has not resulted in any prosecution, despite testimony by the attack’s
sole survivor implicating army officers and civilian thugs. Similarly,
there has been no progress in the investigation of the torture and killing
of prominent human rights lawyer and U.S. resident Jafar Siddiq Hamzah in
August 2000. Staff of the leading Papuan human rights organization, the
Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (ELSHAM), have been
threatened and one staff member nearly abducted in circumstances almost
identical to the 1997-98 kidnappings of pro-democracy activists in Jakarta
by elite special forces Kopassus personnel. ELSHAM’s offices were raided
and documents stolen following the NGO’s inquiries into last August’s
Units of the TNI have periodically led assaults against the Indonesian
police. The most recent, in late September, involved hundreds of soldiers
armed with heavy weaponry (mobile anti-aircraft gun, tanks, mortars,
grenade launchers) who raided two police stations near Medan, on the
island of Sumatra, in order to free a friend who had been arrested for
selling the drug Ecstasy. The soldiers killed seven police officers and
two civilians. They wounded 37 officers, destroying one station and
heavily damaging the other. The military freed their friend and 60 other
prisoners; none have been recaptured.
Notwithstanding pledges that it would gradually withdraw from politics,
the TNI continues to maintain shadow-governing authority from the national
to the village level throughout Indonesia. The dismantling of the TNI’s
territorial command structure – key to reform of the military and its
removal from influence at all levels of government – has not occurred.
On the contrary, new military commands have been established in Aceh and
The TNI is a massively corrupt institution with "business"
interests earning its senior officers billions of dollars. TNI business
activities include extortion of U.S. firms operating in Indonesia, illegal
and environmentally devastating logging, drug production and trafficking
(notably in Aceh), and prostitution. Only 25% to 30% of the TNI budget is
on-line, or officially accounted for.
In his August visit to Indonesia, Secretary of State Colin Powell
promised $50 million in assistance for the police and military, mostly for
counter-terrorism. A program of unrestricted military training for the TNI
has already begun with $4 million of funding from the FY02 Defense
Appropriations Act under a new Regional Counter-terrorism Fellowship
program. Up to $16 million has been appropriated for police training
through the FY02 Supplemental Appropriations Act alone. Extensive police
training has started.
Clearly, Congress is already providing ample funding for police and
military training. This begs the question of why – at this time of
continued TNI human rights crimes, impunity, and strong resistance to
reform – Congress would choose to restore full IMET, restricted since
the early 1990’s because of the brutal record of the TNI. The
restoration of full IMET in 2003 would extinguish any belief by
Indonesians and East Timorese that the U.S. government pays more than lip
service to democracy, human rights, and respect for the rule-of-law. The
Indonesian security forces would register the same message with disastrous
results. Page 2: The Question of U.S. Military Assistance for Indonesia
East Timor Action Network, www.etan.org
Indonesia Human Rights Network
see also U.S.-Indonesia