| For Immediate Release September 29, 1998
Congress Bans Military Training for Human Rights Violators Ban Comes in Response to Training and Rights Abuses Involving Indonesia
Congress today approved legislation barring the Pentagon from training foreign troops who have committed human rights abuses. The ban, included in the Defense Appropriations bill (HR 3616), prohibits the Defense Department from conducting joint training with units that have a history of human rights violations.
The provision, sponsored by Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), resulted from the controversy surrounding ongoing training of Indonesian troops, despite a Congressional ban.
"We intend to watch carefully to insure that this provision is rigorously enforced regarding Indonesia. Numerous units of the Indonesian military have abused the rights of the people of East Timor and Indonesia and should be barred from training under the law," said Lynn Fredriksson, Washington Representative for the East Timor Action Network (ETAN).
"The U.S. should not consider providing any training or weapons to Indonesia until its military withdraws from East Timor and gets out of Indonesian politics. This is the surest way to end abuses."
In April, ETAN, members of Congress and the Nation magazine revealed ongoing training of some of Indonesia's most notorious military units, training Congress thought it had banned after a 1991 massacre in East Timor. The next year, Congress cut off IMET (International Military Education and Training) aid to Indonesia. But training continued under the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program which taught units such as Indonesia's elite special forces KOPASSUS lethal tactics like "Advanced Sniper Techniques," "Military Operations in Urban Terrain," "Psychological Operations," "Demolitions," and "Close Quarters Combat." Secretary of Defense Cohen suspended Indonesia's participation in JCET in mid-exercise last May in response to Congressional and other criticism. He has said he would like to restore the program next year.
The bill would affect more countries than Indonesia. It prohibits funds from being used "to support any training program involving a unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of Defense has received credible information from the Department of State that a member of such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights, unless all necessary corrective steps have been taken." The Secretary may waive the prohibition in "extraordinary circumstances," but must report the waiver to Congress within 15 days.
The Defense Appropriations bill has passed both houses of Congress and now goes to the President for signature.
On December 7, 1975, Indonesia brutally invaded East Timor. The following July 17, East Timor was illegally but formally "integrated" into Indonesia as its "27th province." The UN and most of the world's countries do not recognize this act, and the East Timorese reject it. According to human rights groups and the Catholic Church more than 200,000 one-third of the population have been killed by the Indonesian occupation forces.
The East Timor Action Network/US was founded in November 1991, following the massacre of more than 271 peaceful demonstrators in Dili, East Timor. ETAN/US supports genuine self-determination and human rights for the people of East Timor in accordance with the UN Charter and General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. ETAN/US has 20 local chapters.