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Arms Embargo Essential to stop British Equipment Being used in Malukan Slaughter

19 July 2000

TAPOL/CAAT Urgent Action

Yesterday's Independent reported that television footage has shown a British-made Saladin armoured vehicle being used as cover for a group of Indonesian soldiers and Muslim militants as they attacked a Christian area in Ambon, the capital of Maluku, last weekend. The television pictures confirm that soldiers are taking sides in the conflict which has resulted in thousands of people being killed and left homeless over the last 18 months.

The use of British equipment in this way is intolerable and makes the Government's resistance to a further arms embargo on Indonesia untenable.

Following the lifting of the EU arms embargo in January, Foreign Office Minister, John Battle, stated that 'Indonesia is on notice that if we see a repetition of the type of state violence perpetrated in East Timor, we will move swiftly to re-impose restrictive measures.' There is no question that the involvement of soldiers in the Maluku conflict is state violence of the worst kind. An arms embargo must be imposed without delay. This must be a unilateral embargo if Britain's European partners are unwilling to support it.

The Foreign Office's argument that 'rogue elements' of the armed forces are responsible for incidents such as the one shown on TV is unacceptable. This is precisely the argument used in relation to East Timor where it has been shown that responsibility for the violence went to the very top of the military. In this case, the military leadership is culpable for not taking firm measures to stop soldiers participating in the violence.

The use of the armoured vehicle in the Maluku conflict is yet another breach of assurances given by Indonesia that British equipment will not be used for internal repression. It is irrelevant that the equipment was exported under a previous administration; the assurances were given to the British Government and must be enforced by whatever administration is in power. This latest incident follows on from the use of a Hawk aircraft in East Timor last July.

In the face of repeated breaches of assurances, the Government cannot go on accepting from Indonesia apologies and further assurances which they are unwilling to keep. The continued supply of arms to Indonesia provides political support to the military at a time when it is seriously undermining the country's democratic reforms.

Action Needed

Please write to your MP asking him or her to call upon the Government to impose an immediate embargo on the sale of all military equipment to Indonesia for the reasons stated in this Urgent Action.

Thank you for your support.

Paul Barber
TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign
Defending victims of oppression in Indonesia and East
Timor, 1973-2000

East Timor index page


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