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On US military ties with Indonesia

25 July 2002

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

Via facsimile: 202-261-8577

Dear Secretary Powell:

As you embark on your trip to Indonesia, we urge you to convey in the strongest possible terms to President Megawati Sukarnoputri and other senior officials that the Indonesian military (TNI) must immediately take substantive steps toward genuine reform. In particular, the TNI must cease its systematic violations of human rights and the government must hold security forces personnel accountable for past violations, including crimes against humanity.

As expected, the TNI has already taken the Senate Appropriations Committee s recent vote to reinstate full IMET as signaling U.S. support for its deadly tactics. The TNI is under no illusion, as some in Congress and President Bush s Administration appear to be, that such training will encourage reform, nor is it interested in such reform. Under Megawati s rule, TNI has significantly increased its influence and power base, and the consensus in Jakarta is that military reform is dead. Like many Indonesian NGOs and human rights defenders, we fear that the Administration s victory in the Senate will open the door to new excesses, especially in Aceh and West Papua, deflate what little pressure there is to ensure accountability, and encourage the TNI to assume an ever more dominant position in government.

During your visit, we hope you express strong disapproval of the Indonesian government s oft-used strategy of doing the minimum possible to allay international pressure for accountability and improvement in the TNI s human rights record, only to quickly backslide once the pressure eases. The U.S. can help break this pattern by waiting until lasting steps toward reform and accountability have taken place. Anything less will only be interpreted as U.S. endorsement of the continued terrorization of the Indonesian people by their own military.

The need for justice, military reform, demilitarization of conflict zones, and respect for human rights must receive equal or greater priority to the war on terrorism. We therefore request that you convey the following points to President Megawati and senior officials in no uncertain terms.

* Despite the vote to restore IMET by the Senate Appropriations Committee, President Megawati and the TNI must not take this as a green light to continue business as usual or interpret wrongly that the U.S. is satisfied with the pace of reform. Moreover, at this stage of the legislative process, U.S. military assistance is not guaranteed.

* Jakarta should not intensify military operations in Aceh through declaration of a state of emergency or martial law or by increasing troop presence there. The number of civilian casualties, most victims of security forces, is rising at a rate that could eclipse last year s total. Further, Jakarta should rule out labeling GAM, the Aceh Freedom Movement, a terrorist organization, a transparent tactic designed to sanction increased crack-downs. Meaningful peace in Aceh will only come through dialogue and negotiation, a process now obstructed by Indonesia s security forces.

* The TNI must end its creation of and support for armed militia. These groups, such as Laskar Jihad, terrorize civilians and promote communal tensions. Jakarta should be mindful of the havoc such TNI-backed groups wrought in East Timor and should disarm and disband those now operating in West Papua, Aceh, Maluku, and elsewhere.

* Trials at the ad hoc human rights court on East Timor are unacceptable and will not deliver justice. An international tribunal is the only option remaining.

* If the TNI does indeed receive Pentagon training in FY03, Indonesia must be required to commit that military and police personnel will not employ skills learned to abuse the human rights of Indonesian citizens or impede them from exercising their internationally recognized rights of peaceful dissent and assembly and freedom of speech.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda has reportedly stated that your visit to Indonesia indicates progress in the U.S. government s attitude toward the country. Instead, we call your attention to the attached document entitled, Leahy Conditions on Restrictions of Military Assistance for Indonesia Have Not Been Met, which examines the many shortcomings in Indonesia s compliance with the seven legislated conditions. We also point you to the attached July 16 letter from 60 NGOs to members of the Congressional Appropriations Committees on the need to maintain a complete ban on military training and foreign military financing for Indonesia.

Thank you for your serious consideration of these most urgent matters. We look forward to your response.


Karen Orenstein
Washington Coordinator
East Timor Action Network, Washington DC.

East Timor / Indonesia - updates index


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