March 31, 2023

Brooklyn, NY (Feb. 27, 2010) – The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network last week urged the Obama administration not to offer increased military assistance to Indonesia.

“U.S. military assistance harms reform and sets back human rights accountability in Indonesia,” said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN.

Testifying before a U.S. Senate committee this week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton talked about expanded cooperation with the Indonesian military, including in the area of counter-terrorism. The Obama administration is currently considering offering resumed cooperation with Indonesia’s Kopassus notorious special forces when the President visits the country next month.

Clinton said while seeking to expand security cooperation “We are looking at ensuring…there is no resumption of any human rights abuses or other kinds of behavior that we deplore.”

“Clinton’s remarks imply that Indonesian military human rights violations are a thing of the past. They aren’t,” said Miller.

“The best way to prevent future violations is to hold accountable those responsible for the multitude of human rights crimes committed by the Indonesian military in East Timor (Timor-Leste), West Papua, and elsewhere. Many of these crimes occurred while the U.S. was most deeply engaged with the Indonesian military providing the bulk of its weapons and training,” he added.

“While Indonesia has made progress in many areas since the fall of Suharto, reform of the military has stalled. The shedding of military businesses has become a farce. And the military continues to resist efforts to bring soldiers and former soldiers into court for rights violations,” said Miller

“Restrictions on military assistance provide important leverage to encourage accountability and reform,” he added.

Secretary of State Clinton also spoke about Indonesia’s successful counter-terrorism efforts. In Indonesia, the police have the major role in this area. “U.S. support for greater Indonesian military involvement will only undercut the police, strengthen the military internal, territorial role and further undermine reform,” he said.

“Working with the military on counter-terrorism means working with Kopassus,” said Miller.

For many years, the U.S. Congress conditioned military assistance to Indonesia on reform, respect for human rights and real accountability. In 2005, when the Bush administration waived those restrictions, it pledged to “carefully calibrate” any security assistance to promote reform and human rights. Neither the Bush administration nor its successor have published any such plan.

At a recent UN Security Council meeting on Timor-Leste, the U.S. representative said that “We are, however, concerned about the need to address impunity…. We also encourage Timor-Leste to support the recommendations of the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation.” One recommendation of Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR) calls on States [to] regulate military sales and cooperation with Indonesia more effectively and make such support totally conditional on progress towards full democratisation, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with international human rights, including respect for the right of self-determination.

ETAN was formed in 1991 to advocate for self-determination for occupied East Timor. The U.S.-based organization continues to advocate for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia.

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