contact: John M. Miller, ETAN,
November 5, 2010 - As President Obama departs on his twice-delayed trip to
Indonesia, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) urge
him to use the opportunity to build a relationship between the U.S. and
Indonesia based on the promotion of human rights and the rule of law.
As we wrote to President Obama last March,
"the history of U.S.-Indonesia relations is much better known for the U.S.'s
largely uncritical support of the Suharto dictatorship, from its bloody
seizure of power in 1965 through its illegal invasion and occupation of then
Portuguese Timor to the Kopassus kidnappings and murders of student leaders
in 1997 and 1998."
President Obama should apologize to the peoples of
Indonesia and Timor-Leste for the U.S. role in their suffering during the
Suharto years and to offer condolences to Suharto's many victims throughout
President Obama's visit coincides with
Indonesia's Heroes Day, and the dictator Suharto is
under consideration to be named as a "National Hero." We urge President
Obama to use the opportunity of his visit to decisively break with past U.S.
support for torture, disappearances, rape, invasion and illegal occupation,
extrajudicial murder environmental devastation. and more. U.S. weapons,
training, political backing and economic support of Indonesia facilitated
these crimes. President Obama should apologize to the peoples of Indonesia
and Timor-Leste for the U.S. role in their suffering during the Suharto
years and to offer condolences to Suharto's many victims throughout the
humanity and other violations of human rights did not end with
Suharto’s fall. Since then U.S. policy has largely focused instead on narrow
strategic and economic interests that have little to do with the well-being
of the Indonesian people. In recent weeks, horrific
videos and other reports of torture, the burning of villages and other
crimes show that the people of West Papua and
elsewhere continue to suffer at the hands of military and police.
We urge President Obama to condition U.S. security assistance on an end to
human rights violations and impunity. We urge him to follow the
recommendation of Timor-Leste's
Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR),
which urged nations to "regulate military sales and cooperation with
Indonesia more effectively and make such support totally conditional on
progress towards full democratisation, the subordination of the military to
the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with
international human rights, including respect for the right of
We urge the President to announce that the U.S., as a permanent member of
the UN Security Council, will work to establish an international tribunal to
bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights crimes committed during
Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of Timor-Leste. This would send the critical
message that no one is above the law and would serve as an important
deterrent to future human rights violators. A tribunal was recommended by
the CAVR and is supported by the many victims of these crimes and by human
rights advocates in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and elsewhere.
We urge the President to announce that the U.S., as a
permanent member of the UN Security Council, will work to establish an
international tribunal to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights
crimes committed during Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of Timor-Leste.
We are deeply concerned about the
administration's recent announcement that the U.S. will for the first time
in a dozen years engage with Indonesia's notorious
Kopassus special forces. We also call on President Obama to end this
planned engagement and to suspend all funding and training of Indonesia's
Detachment 88 police unit pending review of charges
leveled against the unit for systemic human rights violations, including use
of torture. We believe that U.S. law bars cooperation with military and
police units with such egregious human rights records.
These actions by President Obama would change the current course from one of
repeating failed policies. While much has changed in Indonesia, U.S.
security assistance does not promote further change. Instead it encourages
impunity and violations of human rights and sets back reform.
In his book The Audacity of Hope, President Obama wrote that "for the
past sixty years the fate of [Indonesia] has been directly tied to U.S.
foreign policy," a policy which included "the tolerance and occasional
encouragement of tyranny, corruption, and environmental degradation when it
served our interests."
A new relationship between the two countries must be built on an honest
assessment of the bloody past. President Obama's special connection to
Indonesia offers an important opportunity to usher in a new era in the
relationship between our two nations. One that rejects a relationship based
largely on militarism with one that respects human rights and promotes the
rule of law.
Members of ETAN are available for