Groups Condemn Bush Administration Move to Restore Military Training for Indonesia, Urge Congress to Strongly Protest: American Survivor of Ambush and Former Foreign Service Officer Call for Continued Ban
July 15, 2003
July 14, 2003 - Senior Bush administration officials reportedly have decided to release funds for a controversial military training program for Indonesia for fiscal year 2003. Human rights groups and others concerned about the Indonesian military's poor human rights record today condemned the administration's plan to restore International Military Education and Training (IMET) and urged Congress to strongly protest the plan. The administration must first "consult" with Congress before obligating the money; these meetings have not yet taken place.
"For over three decades, the U.S. and Indonesian militaries were extremely close and we saw no move to reform," said Ed McWilliams, a former State Department official who served as political counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia from 1996-1999. "The Indonesian military's (TNI) worst abuses took place when we were most engaged."
"The release of the IMET funds now would only cause people to question America's commitment to its own citizens' safety," said Patricia Lynne Spier. "The FBI must be allowed to complete its investigation of the attack on me and others at the Freeport mine. No military assistance should be provided unless the Indonesian military is deemed innocent."
Spier, a U.S. citizen, was seriously wounded and her husband and two other colleagues killed in an ambush in Papua in the mining operations area of the Louisiana-headquartered Freeport-McMoRan. The attack is widely attributed to the TNI.
"The administration should not ignore the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which in May unanimously approved reinstating the ban on IMET for Indonesia," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator of the East Timor Action Network (ETAN).
"How can the Bush administration seriously consider restoring IMET while the TNI engages in horrific human rights violations in Aceh and Papua?" asked Orenstein.
"Rather than teach democratic values, the Indonesian military will see IMET as a U.S. endorsement of business as usual," said Kurt Biddle, Coordinator of the Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN). "Since the administration has actively sought to restore military assistance, the Indonesian military has sabotaged international efforts to attain justice for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor, exonerated itself of last year's murder of two U.S. teachers, and undermined a U.S.-backed ceasefire in Aceh."
Indonesian police and non-governmental organization investigations point to TNI responsibility for the murder of two U.S. citizens and one Indonesian in West Papua on August 31, 2002. Another eight U.S. citizens, including a six-year-old child and three Indonesians, were wounded in the ambush in the mining operations area of the Louisiana-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, Inc. After two previous FBI trips were hindered by TNI obstruction, Indonesia recently allowed the FBI to return to carry out its own investigation of the attack.
In Aceh, Indonesia is conducting its largest military operation since the 1975 invasion of East Timor. Aceh, on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, is the site of one of Asia's longest running wars. For almost 27 years, the armed Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has been demanding independence from Indonesia. On May 19, 2003, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri declared martial law in Aceh, ending a six-month ceasefire. Indonesia's official human rights commission has cited numerous human rights violations by security forces during the current military campaign.
The TNI has successfully evaded accountability for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor in 1999 and the previous 23 years of illegal occupation. Indonesia's ad hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor is an internationally-acknowledged sham. In early August, the court is expected to issue its final verdict in the case of General Adam Damiri. The prosecution has already asked for an acquittal. Damiri has missed several court appearances due to his involvement in the military assault on Aceh. The architects of the scorched-earth campaign in East Timor remain free, often wielding significant power within the government and security forces.
Congress first voted to restrict IMET for Indonesia, which brings foreign military officers to the U.S. for training, in response to the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor. All military ties were severed in September 1999 as the Indonesian military and its militia proxies razed East Timor following its pro-independence vote. Congress first passed the "Leahy conditions" on IMET and other military assistance in late 1999. The FY00 through FY02 foreign operations appropriations laws required the president to certify that Indonesia had met these conditions before IMET and Foreign Military Financed (FMF) weapons sales programs were restored for Indonesia. For FY03, the Congress approved $400,000 for IMET. In May, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee conditioned a ban on IMET for FY04 on certification that Indonesia is "taking effective measures" to fully investigate and criminally prosecute those responsible for the Freeport mine killings.
ETAN (East Timor Action Network) advocates for democracy, sustainable development, justice and human rights, including women's rights, for the people of East Timor. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity that took place in East Timor since 1975. (www.etan.org)
IHRN (Indonesian Human Rights Campaign) is a U.S.-based grassroots organization working to educate and activate the American public and influence U.S. foreign policy and international economic interests to support democracy, demilitarization, and justice through accountability and rule of law in Indonesia. IHRN works with and advocates on behalf of people throughout the Indonesian archipelago to strengthen civil society. (www.indonesianetwork.org)