Spring 1998
Congress Bars Use of U.S. Weapons in East Timor

Constâncio Pinto Joins ETAN Staff

APECT III Meets in Bangkok

ETAN Hosts Activist Training Conferences

José Ramos-Horta Inspires St. Louis Activists

Massachusetts East Timor Bill Update

Member News

Indonesia - On the verge of change?

Torture and Fear of Torture Actualized

Postcard from Timor

Review- Women’s Rights in East Timor

U.S. Should Help East Timor

Youth Resistance in East Timor

Estafeta -
Spring 1998
Spring 1997

Pentagon Documents Show Indonesian Military Training Continues Despite Congressional Ban
By Kyle Perkins and Charles Scheiner

On March 17, veteran journalist and ETAN activist Allan Nairn, in Jakarta, Indonesia, released newly acquired Pentagon documents revealing ongoing US training of the Indonesian KOPASSUS and other Indonesian military forces responsible for severe human rights abuses. The Pentagon programs described in these documents, including Air Assaults, Urban Warfare, PSYOPS, Demolitions, and Advanced Sniper Techniques have been provided some 36 times from 1992-1997 without Congressional knowledge and despite Congressional bans on similar training. They are called Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET). The documents were obtained from the Pentagon by Congressman Lane Evans (D-IL) in response to a request from ETAN, which had suspected ongoing training.

Nairn, whom the Suharto regime tagged a "threat to national security" was later arrested and deported. During Nairn’s interrogation he was shown the order barring him from Indonesia and was threatened with imprisonment should he violate the order again. He was also told that he could be imprisoned for 5 years for practicing journalism without permission.

In the March 30 edition of The Nation magazine, Nairn wrote: "Newly obtained Pentagon documents and interviews with key US officials indicate that, largely unknown to Congress and unremarked by the US press, the US military has been training ABRI [the Indonesian military] in a broad array of lethal tactics. This dwarfs IMET [International Military Education and Training] in size and scope, and is apparently being intensified as the Indonesia crisis deepens."

On the same day as Nairn’s Jakarta press conference, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) held a parallel press conference in Washington. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and others made strong statements. These offices have spearheaded successful efforts to ban the IMET program to Indonesia, and continue to oppose all US training of Indonesian forces due to dire human rights abuses, particularly in occupied East Timor. ETAN National Coordinator Charles Scheiner and Washington Representative Lynn Fredriksson detailed the Pentagon training and abuses committed by Indonesian forces receiving this training, especially the KOPASSUS.

Scheiner, just returned from Jakarta, witnessed increasing repression and a vast troop build-up meant to stifle dissent over Indonesia’s economic and political crisis. This came at a time when the US Congress was considering some $18 billion dollars to reimburse IMF bailout of the Suharto regime, and when Suharto has just re-elected himself and named a new cabinet filled with cronies and relatives.

In 1992 the US Congress first banned the IMET program, in protest over the Santa Cruz massacre in Dili, East Timor on November 12, 1991. The ban has been re-enacted every year since, although it was slightly weakened in 1995 to cover only training in military subjects. The just-revealed Pentagon training is a direct violation of the spirit of this legislation.

According to the new documents, among the programs provided in 1997 alone are seven in which US Army and Air Force units trained the Indonesian elite Special Forces unit, KOPASSUS. High Church officials have noted that KOPASSUS picks up young East Timorese, tortures them to death and leaves their bodies, sometimes decapitated, in public as a warning to anyone sympathetic to the resistance.

The disclosure of the military training program was extensively covered by The New York Times, CNN, and many other media. Indonesian opposition leader Megawati Sukarno has written President Clinton, demanding an explanation. Many members of Congress are outraged.

On March 25, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) asked her colleagues to co-sponsor a new International Military Training Accountability Act. We are working to support this legislation, which will prohibit all US training of Indonesian soldiers as long as Indonesia is barred from full participation in IMET. As Ms. Lowey said: "The Indonesian military has a long and atrocious record of human rights abuses. The United States should not be in the business of training an army that has been implicated in cases of torture, murder, and disappearances."

Please contact your Representatives in Congress and urge them to join this important effort.