Letter to Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary
of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Michael H. Posner
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State
2201 C St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
October 13, 2009
Dear Mr. Assistant Secretary:
We represent non-governmental organizations whose work focuses on human
rights in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. We congratulate you on your
assumption of responsibility as Assistant Secretary of State for
Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the Department of State.
Indonesia is among those countries posing especially serious challenges
for U.S. policy makers. Its democratic progress continues to be highly
uneven. As described by Amnesty International and others, Indonesia
continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, notably in West Papua
and to restrict freedom of speech. There has been no effective
prosecution for the 2004 murder of Munir Said Thalib, Indonesia's
leading human rights advocate. The Indonesian military, particularly the
special forces (Kopassus), continues its criminality and human rights
violations. Moreover, the military and elements of the police continue
to enjoy impunity for their past crimes and ongoing violations.
We commend the thrust of your written answers to questions from Senate
Foreign Relations Committee in conjunction with your July 28
confirmation hearing. These responses indicate an understanding of the
challenges posed for U.S. human rights policy, especially toward
In response to a question posed by Senator Russell Feingold, you
correctly stated that U.S. assistance provided to foreign security
forces should not support individual units that have engaged in gross
violations of human rights. The U.S. should certainly seek to use any
assistance to encourage host governments to prevent such violations and
to hold accountable persons accused of committing human rights crimes.
Unfortunately, for many years, U.S. assistance has flowed to the
Indonesian military absent any meaningful reform or accountability and
despite continued human rights violations by Indonesian security forces.
Rather than use assistance as leverage for genuine change, the U.S.
keeps expanding assistance. This seriously undermines efforts by
Indonesians to press for real reform and genuine accountability. We
especially urge the administration to clearly state that Kopassus as a
unit and its individual members are not eligible for U.S. military
Like you, we share U.S. Congressional concern that "Indonesia has not
taken adequate measures to hold accountable those who perpetrated human
rights abuses in the past. While you highlight those named by the United
Nations for crimes in Timor-Leste in 1999, but also for those credibly
accused of human rights abuses in Papua and Aceh." We welcome your
pledge to press for progress on bringing the accused to account. We are
eager to hear any concrete plans that the current administration has to
The controversial, extra-judicial release of the militia leader Martenus
Bere, demonstrates the need for international action on justice and
accountability Bere was indicted by the UN-backed serious crimes process
for crimes against humanity committed in 1999. The unwillingness or
inability of the government of Timor-Leste to resist Indonesian
pressure, clearly shows the need for additional international action and
We remind you that crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in
Timor-Leste are significantly broader than those which took place in
1999, extending back to the 1975 Indonesian invasion. Only a small
portion of the deaths caused by the U.S.-backed occupation occurred in
its final year. We urge you and the administration to respond to
the report of the Timor-Leste Commission for Reception, Truth and
Reconciliation (CAVR) and to work toward establishing an ad hoc
international tribunal to try senior officials responsible for the most
egregious crimes during the occupation.
Inauguration of an integrated database system to ensure proper vetting
of military candidates for U.S. assistance is long overdue with progress
towards completion of system proceeding only fitfully in recent years.
But the utility of any database is dependent on the information it
contains. We urge that the system draw on the experience and data
developed by local human rights organizations.
Mr. Assistant Secretary, we are ready to work with you to realize real
reform and accountability of the Indonesian security forces and to
secure continued democratic progress in Indonesia. We look forward to
further discussing these issues with you.
John M. Miller
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
West Papua Advocacy Team