|For Immediate Release March 10, 1999
Contact: Lynn Fredriksson 202-544-6911, John M. Miller 718-596-7668
Action Network Supports Bill Restricting Military Training of Rights Violators
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) today said it strongly supported expanding restrictions on military training to Indonesia and will work for passage of the "International Military Training Transparency and Accountability Act" (IMTTAA) by Congress.
The bill (H.R. 1063) introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Lane Evans (D-IL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and 47 other members of Congress would ban most military training to Indonesia because of ongoing human rights violations.
"The Indonesian military continues to brutalize the people of Indonesia and occupied East Timor," said Lynn Fredriksson, Washington Representative of ETAN. "Passage of this legislation will send an unmistakable message that training of the Indonesian military is unacceptable while human rights violations in East Timor and Indonesia continue."
"The U.S. should not provide the Indonesian military with training it has used to more effectively murder, torture and oppress," said Fredriksson. "Indonesian President Habibie and General Wiranto have made great promises since General Suharto's fall from power, but few of these promises have yet been realized," she added.
The IMTTAA would close loopholes that have allowed the Pentagon to continue training militaries even when Congress bans them from the International Military Education and Training (IMET) and similar programs. Last Spring, ETAN, members of Congress, and journalist Allan Nairn revealed ongoing training of some of Indonesia's most notorious military units through the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program; combat training Congress thought it had banned after the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor when it cut off IMET.
Seeking support for the bill from their colleagues, a bipartisan group of Congressmembers wrote : "The executive branch must understand that when Congress says to halt military assistance to murderers, torturers, and thugs, we mean what we say."
In January, the Indonesian government said it would consider full independence for East Timor. However, the human rights situation in East Timor has worsened in recent months, with numerous reports of torture, killings and disappearances of civilians. In recent weeks, at least 10 East Timorese were killed and hundreds have fled their homes as civilian militias organized and armed by the Indonesia military have attacked East Timorese who support independence and self-determination. Troop levels remain high as shown by leaked Indonesian armed forces documents released by ETAN and others last October.
On her recent visit to Jakarta, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressed "grave concerns about the fighting and the availability of arms" in East Timor. She said "We see an urgent need to stabilize the situation through the disarmament of all paramilitary forces. ... We favour confidence-building measures, such as a reduction in the number of troops, and an international presence to reduce the prospects for future violence."
In Indonesia, military violence has also continued. Even as some Indonesian officers go on trial for torturing Acehnese detainees, others continue to massacre Acehnese civilians. Military officers have testified in court to kidnapping Indonesian dissident leaders last spring; several of the activists have never resurfaced.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. supports genuine self-determination and human rights for the people of East Timor and democracy in Indonesia.
On December 7, 1975, the Indonesian military brutally invaded East Timor. The following July, East Timor was illegally but formally "integrated" into Indonesia as its "27th province." According to human rights groups and the Catholic Church more than 200,000 people -- one-third of the pre-invasion population have been killed by the Indonesian occupation force