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NGOs Write Secretary of State. Powell and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld on Military Ties to Indonesia

7 May 2002

The Honorable Colin L. Powell 
Secretary of State 
U.S. Department of State 
2201 C St NW 
Washington, DC 20520

The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld 
Secretary of Defense 
Department of Defense 
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld:

We are greatly troubled by Pentagon plans to significantly increase engagement with the Indonesian military (TNI). Prudent restrictions on military aid to Indonesia, renewed and strengthened by Congress in the FY02 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, would in effect be nullified.

Indonesian armed forces continue to perpetrate systematic human rights violations throughout the archipelago. The Indonesia section of the 2001 State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices documents "shooting of civilians, torture, rape, beatings and other abuse, and arbitrary detention" and notes that "the Government rarely holds the military or police accountable for committing extrajudicial killings or using excessive force." Rewarding the TNI with US assistance -- while crackdowns on civilians continue, and in some cases escalate, and resistance to accountability remains overwhelming -- signifies the condoning of serious rights violations by the Administration.

The Administration has already lifted the embargo on commercial sales of non-lethal defense articles and increased bilateral contacts between the militaries, while Congress has agreed to reinstate Expanded International Military Education and Training (IMET) for FY02. Yet these initiatives have not led to military reform or greater influence in Jakarta, as argued by many in the Administration. On the contrary, the Indonesian government has been less than cooperative in the "war on terrorism," largely neglecting Administration requests regarding terrorist suspects and their assets. Domestic-focused militant jihad groups continue to enjoy protection and support from members of the government and military.

We are disturbed about the ease with which CINCPAC Admiral Dennis Blair overrode Foreign Operations Appropriations jurisdiction and succeeded in securing a last-minute addition to the FY02 Defense Department Appropriations Act (HR 3338, provision 8125), providing $17.9 million to establish a Regional Defense Counter-terrorism Fellowship Program. Provision 8125 was clearly an end-run around Foreign Operations Appropriations IMET restrictions, although none of the seven conditions Congress required to lift the ban have been met. There are no restrictions on which countries can participate in the program, which has an unknown curriculum.

The FY02 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations request is more troubling still. The request for an additional $8 million for the "training of civilian and military personnel in support of humanitarian and peacekeeping activities in Indonesia" can only be seen as yet another attempt to undermine congressional restrictions. Before peacekeeping training should even be considered for the TNI, soldiers would do well to stop their widespread practice of murder, torture, and rape of civilians. The purpose and composition of the $8 million to "vet, train, and equip a counter-terrorism unit" is unclear.

Potentially many more millions for defense articles, services, training, and other aid could be made available for Indonesia from large pools of money for unspecified countries, including $100 million "to support foreign nations." If the FY02 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations requests are honored, the TNI will not only have access to prestigious U.S. military training without congressional oversight, but bill language providing for defense articles and services to unspecified countries could be used to supply Indonesia with banned FMF. We further object to making funds "available notwithstanding any other provision of law."

If the Pentagon is allowed to ignore existing Foreign Operations Appropriations restrictions in the FY02 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations request, congressional intent will be effectively ignored, an unacceptable and fundamentally undemocratic precedent. The message coming from Washington to Jakarta will be even more conflicted, rendering U.S. support for democracy and human rights in Indonesia even less credible. It is incomprehensible to deny IMET and FMF for the TNI and talk about the need for military reform and an end to impunity on the one hand, while the same sought-after training, financing, equipment, and services are provided in everything but name. The United State's most important point of leverage to foster respect for human rights and accountability and encourage military reform will be lost with little or nothing gained.

It is crucial that this leverage is not lost. As organizations working on behalf of human rights and social justice, we strongly request that the Administration cooperate with Congress to achieve the following:

  • The IMET and FMF restrictions for TNI must be respected and administration support given for their renewal in FY03. The TNI should not receive training under the Regional Defense Counter-terrorism Fellowship Program. Funds appropriated through the supplemental request should not be used to train the TNI in any form or provide the military with undefined defense articles and services. Any clause stating that funds for foreign militaries "may be made available notwithstanding any other provision of law" should be excised. Throughout the bill, countries eligible for specific programs or pots of monies should be specified.
  • We object to any military assistance for the TNI. However, if new aid programs are implemented, the Pentagon should consult in detail with members of Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittees and Foreign Relations/International Relations Committees, as well as other interested members of Congress, prior to and during any program. These consultations should include the curricula and locations of the training.
  • If any training does go forward, the Pentagon should provide Congress with verification that those with whom the Pentagon works whether individuals or units of the police or military -- will not use skills gained to suppress domestic conflicts. All individuals and units that receive training must be vetted for participation in past abuses, and any with records of committing human rights violations should not be allowed to participate. The U.S. should not assist the TNI in further acts of murder, torture, rape, and other abuses in Indonesia.
  • Foreign policy formulation should be returned to the authority of the Foreign/International Relations Committees, the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittees, and the State Department, where it traditionally has resided. We also ask for clarification of the nature, composition, and purpose of the Regional Defense Counter-terrorism Fellowship Program, as well as the counter-terrorism unit.

Thank you for your serious consideration. We look forward to your response. 


John Ackerly, President 
International Campaign for Tibet

Bama Athreya, Deputy Director 
International Labor Rights Fund

Medea Benjamin, Co-Founder 
Global Exchange

Kurt Biddle, Washington Coordinator 
Indonesia Human Rights Network

Diana Bohn, Secretary 
Bay Are Jubilee Debt Cancellation Coalition Co-Coordinator, Nicaragua Center for Community Action

Rev. William Callahan, Co-Director 
Quixote Center/Quest for Peace

Rev. John Chamberlin, National Coordinator 
East Timor Religious Outreach

Peter J. Davies, UN Representative 

Dr. Cathey E. Falvo, MD, MPH, Board of Directors 
Physicians for Social Responsibility 
Program Director, International and Public Health, School of Public Health New York Medical College

Tamar Gabelnick, Director 
Arms Sales Monitoring Project Federation of American Scientists

Erik Gustafson, Executive Director 
Education for Peace in Iraq Center

William D. Hartung, Director 
Arms Trade Resource Center World Policy Institute

David Herrel, Interim 
U.S. Director Visions in Action

Martha Honey, Co-director 
Foreign Policy In Focus, Institute for Policy Studies

Carol Jahnkow, Executive Director 
Peace Resource Center of San Diego

Melissa Jameson, Director 
War Resisters League

Prof. Peter Juviler, Director 
Human Rights Studies, Barnard College, Columbia University

Lavinia Limon, Executive Director 
U.S. Committee for Refugees

Kevin Martin, Executive Director 
Peace Action Education Fund

Mary Anne Mercer, Co-chair 
Northwest International Health Action Coalition (NIHAC)

John M. Miller, Director 
Foreign Bases Project

John Oei, Founder 
Indonesian, Chinese, and American Network

Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator 
East Timor Action Network

Diana Ortiz, OSU, Director 
Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International

Robert Pedersen, Trade and Labor Coordinator 
Indiana Alliance for Democracy

Colin Rajah, Executive Director 
JustAct - Youth Action for Global Justice

Jen Randolph Reise, Co-Director 
Women Against Military Madness

Dave Robinson, National Coordinator 
Pax Christi USA

Sharon Silber, Eileen B. Weiss, Co-Founders 
Jews Against Genocide

Morton Sklar, Executive Director 
World Organization Against Torture U.S.A.

Stephanie S. Spencer, Program Associate for Southern Asia 
Common Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ

Gail Taylor, Legislative Director 
School of the Americas Watch

Kathy Thornton, RSM, National Coordinator 
NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Carmen Trotta, Associate Editor 
The Catholic Worker

Joe Volk, Executive Secretary 
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Charles Warpehoski, Program Coordinator 
Nicaragua Network

Ronald Watson Dictator Watch

John Witeck, Coordinator 
Philippine Workers Support Committee

Kani Xulam, Director 
American Kurdish Information Network

Phyllis S. Yingling, President 
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, United States Section

cc: The Honorable Robert C. Byrd, Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee 
The Honorable Ted Stevens, Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Committee 
The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy, Chair, Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee 
The Honorable Mitch McConnell, Ranking Member, Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee
The Honorable C. W. Young, Chair, House Appropriations Committee 
The Honorable David R. Obey, Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee 
The Honorable Jim Kolbe, Chair, Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee 
The Honorable Nita M. Lowey, Ranking Member, Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee

see U.S.-Indonesia Military Ties