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ETAN Protests Promotion of New Kopassus Commander

For Immediate Release

Contact: John M. Miller (ETAN), New York +1/917-690-4391;

June 13, 2008 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) today said the promotion of Brigadier General Pramono Edhie Wibowo to chief of Kopassus, Indonesia’s notorious Special Forces unit, the latest example of Indonesia’s failure to deal with its military’s sordid past.

“The promotion of Pramono Wibowo is yet another example of the failure of Indonesia to deal with its military’s long and sordid history of human rights violations in East Timor and elsewhere,” said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. “Instead of promoting alleged rights violators, Indonesia should make sure that senior military officials responsible for the past rights crimes are brought to trial.”

Wibowo's appointment as head of Kopassus by his brother-in-law President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was announced earlier this week.

In April, the U.S. government ruled Kopassus off limits to U.S. military training. Late last year, ETAN revealed U.S. plans to train Kopassus, which the group called “the worst of the worst among Indonesia’s security forces.” Several congressional offices also protested. U.S. law prohibits the training of military units with a history of involvement in human rights violations. However, the provision has been long been interpreted as narrowly as possible. This spring, the  State Department ruled that the ban, known as the Leahy law, applies to Kopassus as a whole.

In 1999, Wibowo headed Kopassus Group 5, which deployed to East Timor in 1999 at the time of the UN-organized referendum on independence. According to the “Masters of Terror,” Group 5 “slipped into Dili on September 5, 1999, the day before Bishop Belo’s house was attacked.”

The Indonesian military’s campaign of terror surrounding the 1999 vote resulted in the murder of over 1,400 civilians, the forcible displacement of hundreds of thousands, and the destruction of 75 percent of East Timor’s infrastructure. Kopassus Group 5 received U.S. training through the Joint Combined Education and Training program in 1997.

Wibowo replaces Major General Sunarko as Kopassus commander, who will take over as military commander overseeing Aceh. Sunarko was stationed in East Timor in 1996 and 1997 and again in 1999, where he was Intelligence Assistant to the Kopassus Commander.

Kopassus, founded in 1952, played a key role in the crimes against humanity in East Timor, which led the U.S. to suspend military assistance in 1999. The unit has been directly involved in training and equipping militia’s in places like East Timor and West Papua – where its soldiers murdered independence leader Theys Eluay.

Formed in 1991, ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information see ETAN's web site:






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