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Feingold on Foreign Ops Appropriations (FY  '96) 

State Department Letter on Small Arms Ban 


[Page: S14079, Congressional Record]

Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, as the Senate considers the foreign operations appropriations bill, I want to discuss two provisions which sanctioned Indonesia for its deplorable human rights record in East Timor, and which were eliminated in the chairman's bill. I want to make it clear that Indonesia has done nothing to improve its human rights record in the past year which would recommend any change in United States policy.

As my colleagues know, Indonesia has brutally occupied the Catholic population of East Timor since 1975. In that time, East Timor has been the focus of many international human rights efforts, not the least of which are those that have been spearheaded by my friend and colleague from Rhode Island, Senator Pell. To my disappointment, those causes have not been championed by any U.S. administration.

But in recent years the Indonesia military rule has become particularly cruel. Today, I want to dispel any myths among my colleagues that despite Indonesia's economic successes in the past few years, its human rights record continues to be dismal, and is particularly deplorable in its activities in the last year in East Timor. Such instability and violations can only destabilize the regime that some business interests are all to quick to invest in.

Since the Indonesians invaded East Timor 20 years ago, over 200,000 East Timorese have died--about a third of the entire population. Indonesia's self-styled annexation of the territory has not been recognized by the United Nations, nor the United States, which acknowledges that `no act of self-determination has ever taken place.' The military is practically omnipresent throughout the island, and according to diplomats stationed in Indonesia, `its callousness in dealing with the local population' is shocking.

East Timor made international headlines in 1991 when the military massacred, by conservative estimates, at least 100 East Timorese who were attending a funeral. It was all videotaped before international cameras. Today, the National Human Rights Commission in Jakarta says it has evidence that the massacre was `not a spontaneous reaction to a riotous mob, but rather a planned military operation designed to deal with a public expression of political dissent.' Today, 66 people remain unaccounted for, and the commander of the operation is Vice President of Indonesia.

Congress has acted twice since then. First, in 1992 we cut off IMET funding for Indonesian soldiers to distance our support for the Indonesian military that committed the atrocity at Dili. Last July, to signal further disappointment with the disintegrating situation, we codified administration policy on the linkage between the sale of small arms and human rights.

I have a letter from the administration, addressed to Senator Leahy and myself, which indicates that the administration will continue its ban on the sale or licensing of small and light weapons, and crowd control instruments, until there has been significant progress on Indonesia's human rights record. The letter also says the administration will offer only expanded-IMET--human rights training for the military--to the Indonesians. I ask unanimous consent that the letter be printed in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

(See exhibit 1.)

[Page: S14080]

Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I regard this is as a commitment from the administration that current policy will remain in place, whether we legislate it or not. I expect the administration to continue to consult with Congress on Indonesia. I am particularly concerned that we agree upon what `significant progress' means. Our legislation has included six conditions, including significant troop withdrawals from East Timor and Indonesian participation in the U.N. Secretary General's peace talks. Indonesia must understand that there is an international price to pay for their continuing occupation.

Since last July, when Congress passed this amendment, there have been several developments in East Timor--most of them quite discouraging, some quite violent, and some hopeful.

The tension in East Timor has been intensifying for the past year--influenced in part by the ongoing power struggles in Jakarta, the increased resentment of the presence of Indonesian military officers and vigilante groups, and the immigrant settlers brought in by Indonesia to consolidate their occupation of the island.

The Indonesians have had some bizarre responses. For instance, last summer, they went to great lengths to pressure their ASEAN partners to prevent private conferences on East Timor to take place in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand.

But the violence has been on the increase as well--particularly since the APEC summit in November. During the summit protesters were detained and, by most accounts, tortured. Reports of deaths of protesters at the hands of Indonesian soldiers have been constant all year.

On January 12, 1995, there is documented evidence that the military tortured and killed six civilians in Liquicia in a horrendous incident. Even the Government-appointed National Commission on Human Rights acknowledged that `a process of intimidation and torture by security officials' occurred and resulted in `unlawful shootings by the military.' It found that `there was intimidation and torture by the security officers in charge at the time to extract confessions.'

Recently, there has also been an outbreak of gang violence, of hooded vigilantes terrorizing, abducting, assaulting, intimidating, and harassing East Timorese. These gangs--commonly known as Ninjas--have been described by residents and human rights monitors as military-related death squad-type bands. Travelers describe walking on the tropical island on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and being passed by armed youths, covered in ski masks.

Notably, the Ninjas have not been reigned in by the same military that has so effectively suppressed the East Timorese. For that reason, there is reason to believe that they are tolerated by the military. There is even some evidence that they were created by the military to do what uniformed soldiers cannot because of international attention.

Mr. President, there must be an investigation into the operations of these groups, and why they are permitted to continue functioning in East Timor.

Other forms of torture by the military are still commonplace in East Timor as well. In January 1994, the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner's Special Rapporteur on Torture reported that the most common forms of torture are beating on the head with wood, iron bars, bottles, and electric cables; kicking with heavy boots; electric shocks--mostly with cattle prods; slashing with razor blades and knives; death threats and faked executions; hanging people upside down by their feet; isolation; sleep deprivation; and the rape of East Timorese women.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur for Torture reported last year that there were `patterns of dealing violently with political dissent and [a] virtual impunity enjoyed by members of the security forces responsible for human rights violations.'

The U.N. Human Rights Commission this year once again comdemned Indonesian abuses in East Timor. It also forced Indonesia to invite the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner to visit East Timor. This was the first time that happened since 1975.

The United States, in my view, has not lived up to its leadership responsibilities on this issue. While administration rhetoric--though measured--sounds supportive of human rights protections, the policy has not been forceful enough, given the extreme extent of the brutality that I described. For example, the United States defers to the U.N. peace process by which the Indonesians and Portuguese are supposed to work with the East Timores, yet the United States has not applied sufficient--if any--pressure to get the Indonesians to participate seriously in the talks. The administration says it is concerned about the military troop presence in East Timor, yet it has never devised a plan of action to work with the Indonesians, or requested a plan for Indonesian troop withdrawal from the island. In fact, at most, the administration seems to investigate the level of troop presence in East Timor only when a Member of Congress asks whether the promised reductions ever took place.

I am also perplexed why the United States is even trying to placate Indonesia. The administration permits Indonesia to buy IMET: However, for years they have been lobbying to get the taxpayer to subsidize the Indonesian military training. And while there is a small arms ban in place to prevent United States weaponry for being used in human rights violations, the administration is now trying to sell F-16's to the Indonesian military.

Mr. President, given Indonesia's defiant human rights policies, I see no reason to weaken United States policy toward it. In fact, the record of the past 2 years only indicates continued repression, continued deterioration, and increased violence against the East Timorese.

I appreciate the administration's commitment to continue its current policy, and only hope that it will redouble its efforts on behalf of human rights in Indonesia and East Timor.

I thank the Chair and yield the floor.

Exhibit 1

U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, September 21, 1995.

Dear Senator Feingold: 

I am writing about your continuing concern about the human rights situation in Indonesia, including in East Timor, and your interest in the Administration's policy towards that country, specifically our current arms sales policy and our proposed International Military Education and Training (IMET) program.

We too are concerned about the human rights situation in Indonesia, including in East Timor, and we raise our concerns with the Indonesian government regularly. Our current arms sales policy, codified in law last summer and included in S. 908, prohibits the sale or licensing for export of small or light arms and crowd control items until the Secretary has determined that there has been significant progress on human rights in Indonesia, including in East Timor. [emphasis added] Current law also forbids funding of International Military Education and Training (IMET) for Indonesia. As you are aware, the Administration has proposed that this ban be rescinded, and there is language in the House authorization and appropriations bills that would permit funding for Expanded IMET (E-IMET) courses.

We understand that you or other Senators may be considering amendments to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill that would further restrict the types of defense items that can be sold or licensed for export to Indonesia. We also have heard that some Senators who oppose any IMET funding for Indonesia are considering working to have the complete ban on such funding retained.

You have proposed that you and others in the Senate will refrain from attaching language to the Senate's version of the bill restricting arms sales to Indonesia and banning IMET funding if the Administration will agree to abide by our current arms sales policy and accept only funding for E-IMET in FY 1996.

We will abide by our current arms sales policy and, though we would have preferred restoration of full IMET, will fund only Expanded-IMET during the coming fiscal year.

I hope this information will be useful to you. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we may be of further assistance.


Wendy R. Sherman, Assistant Secretary, Legislative Affairs.

Return to Congressional Action on East Timor: Statements, etc.

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