Subject: WSJ by Senators Feingold and Leahy: Indonesia Military's Many Crimes

The Wall Street Journal

November 27, 2008

Indonesia Military's Many Crimes Article

Your Nov. 20 editorial "Obama's Indonesia Test," misrepresents our concerns about Indonesia while endorsing a flawed foreign policy that would violate U.S. law and could hurt our national security.

Indonesia has made impressive democratic reforms in recent years and strengthening our relationship with this key ally in the global fight against terrorist networks is important. This can and is being done with our support, but without providing aid to units of the Indonesian military that, according to the State Department, continue to commit extrajudicial killings, remain outside the firm control of civilian authorities, and have not been punished for past crimes due to insufficient political will.

U.S. law bars aid to units of foreign security forces that commit gross violations of human rights, unless those responsible are being brought to justice. The record of Kopassus (Indonesia's Special Forces), despite receiving U.S. training in the past, is notorious, and its officers were indicted by a U.N. tribunal for crimes against humanity. None have been punished, because the military has refused to cooperate with prosecutors and intimidated judges. The Bush administration's willingness to overlook this record sends the wrong message and is inconsistent with an effective counter-terrorism strategy. Aiding Kopassus at this time would further weaken Indonesia's already fragile justice system, and could increase anti-American sentiment, fuel radicalism and strengthen the very terrorist elements we are working with the Indonesians and other nations to combat. Instead, we should continue providing a broad range of aid to Indonesia, particularly to strengthen civilian institutions and Indonesia's ability to prosecute terrorists and combat terrorist financing.

We support closer relations with Indonesia. But aid to the military should be tied to real reform, adherence to the rule of law and accountability for past crimes.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D., Wis.)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.)


Unpublished Letter from ETAN and Amnesty International

Regular declarations that U.S support for the Indonesian military (TNI) will instill “key values, such as observing human rights and respecting civilian control," as argued in the Wall Street Journal [“Obama's Indonesia Test” (Review and Outlook, November 20)]. are simply not supported by the record. The only “key value” imparted during this time seems to be impunity: Indonesian officers responsible for well-documented crimes in East Timor have yet to face justice; indeed some were promoted. Former General Wiranto, who was indicted in East Timor for crimes against humanity, is a credible candidate for President!

President Suharto invaded East Timor with explicit U.S. approval. Nearly all weapons used came from the U.S. Every U.S. administration – Democratic and Republican -- during the 24-year occupation provided military assistance to Indonesia. Only when some assistance was limited in the 1990s did Indonesia see important changes.

We welcomed the reforms that followed Suharto’s resignation. However, the lack of civilian control of TNI and human rights accountability is especially evident at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago, in West Papua.

Indigenous Papuans are regularly imprisoned for displaying a traditional flag, and some have been tortured. U.S. mining corporation Freeport makes direct payments to the military for “protection.” The military reportedly uses its own provocations to justify its continued presence, while it profits from illegal logging.

Re-engagement signals that it’s back to business as usual, whatever the TNI may do. The coming administration can do better. Support of the Indonesian military is not a partisan issue. It is a human rights issue.

Max White, Country Specialist, Indonesia and Timor-Lesté Amnesty International USA

John M. Miller, National Coordinator East Timor and Indonesia Action Network

see also Standing Up for Human Rights by Restricting Military Assistance to Indonesia - ETAN Response to the Wall Street Journal editorial, "Obama's Indonesia Test"

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