Vol. 6, No. 2
CONTENTS: Summer 2000 Estafeta
John Sayles on East & West Timor
Keeping up the Pressure
Helping East Timor's Grassroots
Only Continued Pressure Will Keep Military Assistance From Indonesia
by Karen Orenstein
Last fall Congress cut off military training and weapons transfers to Jakarta until Indonesia meets several critical conditions pertaining to East Timor. The legislation which includes that ban, the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, is renewed each year. As this issue goes to press, we are in the heart of the appropriations process, working to ensure that the current U.S. suspension of military assistance to Indonesia will be written into law for Fiscal Year 2001, which begins in October, 2000. The outlook is good but the struggle not yet won; the Pentagon and others in the Clinton Administration are eager to resume military ties despite ongoing egregious human rights abuses by military and police in West Timor and elsewhere in Indonesia.
Before normal military ties with Indonesia can be restored, the Leahy conditions in the FY 2000 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act require that the Indonesian government and military (TNI) must allow "displaced persons and refugees to return home to East Timor" and bring to justice military and militia members responsible for human rights atrocities in East Timor and Indonesia. They also require Indonesia to actively prevent militia incursions into East Timor and to cooperate fully with the UN administration in East Timor. These conditions are far from met.
More than one hundred thousand East Timorese refugees are still languishing in militia-controlled refugee camps in West Timor (see article). The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has indefinitely postponed refugee registration due to recent violent assaults on their staff. Militias are actually increasing incursions into East Timor. On July 24, a UN peacekeeper from New Zealand was murdered by militias; the UN officer for security along the border assumed that the attackers "had received a good deal of military training;" subsequent press reports identified the attackers as members of the Kopassus Indonesian special forces. But just hours after the UN Security Council responded to the killing by demanding Indonesia restrain the paramilitaries, a judge in West Timor dismissed weapons charges against Eurico Guterres, head of the notorious Aitarak militia. TNI backing is likely the key reason not a single militia leader residing outside of East Timor has been held accountable for human rights violations committed before or after last Augustís overwhelming vote for independence.
Surpassing this, the TNI and Indonesian national police (PolRI) continue to violate the human rights of Indonesians and to exacerbate unrest throughout the archipelago. ETAN also opposes U.S. training for PolRI because, though its administration was recently separated from the TNI, PolRI is still a brutally repressive force. Thousands of people in Maluku have been killed in fighting between Christians and Muslims since January 1999, with members of the TNI and police supporting and, in some cases, directly participating in the slaughter (see article). After years of waging war on the people of West Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya), the TNI is now reported to be supporting East Timor-style militias in that region, while police open fire on dissidents (see article). In Aceh, the TNI and police have repeatedly broken a June 2 cease-fire with guerrillas and are conducting military sweeps that terrorize and kill unarmed civilians.
But the U.S. administration approved Indonesian participation in a CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training) military exercise from July 20 to August 2. This operation involved 2,000 U.S. sailors training with 650 members of the Indonesian navy, marines and coast guard. In August 1999, Indonesian soldiers went directly from a similar CARAT operation to East Timor, where they participated in massive destruction of the territory. By participating with TNI in this yearís CARAT exercise, the U.S. gave tacit approval for the TNIís scorched earth policy in East Timor. Clearly a violation of congressional intent, the program should not have gone forward. Yet because of public and congressional protest, the State Department and the Pentagon were forced to pledge elimination of combat training, shifting the focus to "non-lethal" and "humanitarian" components such as disaster relief and civil assistance. Whether all training received was actually non-combat has not been confirmed.
The U.S. Administration has also initiated other facets of re-engagement and is now debating the sale of spare parts for C-130 military transport planes. The U.S. should not be helping the TNI fix its broken tools of repression, nor sending such totally unwarranted messages of legitimacy to a military still waging war on civilians. Instead, the Administration should obey the spirit as well as the letter of current congressional restrictions and increase pressure on the Indonesian government and military to finally resolve East Timorís refugee crisis, hold human rights violators accountable under international norms of justice, and implement civilian control of the military in Indonesia. As six prominent Indonesian non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders noted in a letter to members of the U.S. Congress, U.S. military assistance to the TNI is "indefensible." The NGO leaders added, "we do not ask the U.S. government to actively assist the pro-democracy movement in Indonesia. We do, however, ask the U.S. government to make our job easier by stopping its aid to our greatest obstacle: the Indonesian military."
Although the Leahy conditions will probably be extended until September 2001, some in the Pentagon and State Department are already pushing re-engagement with the TNI in areas not covered by those conditions. Along with grassroots opposition to such moves, many congressional offices committed to human rights in East Timor and Indonesia continue to protest restoration of U.S. ties to the TNI. Over the past several months, members of Congress and their staffers have made numerous calls to the Administration, and House and Senate letters were sent to the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke and Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, Secretary Albright and President Clinton, supporting safe East Timorese refugee return and opposing aid to the TNI. Through grassroots and congressional action, we have also helped guarantee adequate humanitarian and development assistance to East Timor: the U.S. will likely again provide East Timor $25 million in Economic Support Funds in FY 2001. Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), have taken the lead in the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee in pushing for East Timor-related legislation.During the congressional recess from July 31 through the beginning of September, we have a great opportunity to lobby our representatives and senators in person to uphold the human rights of all East Timorese and Indonesians by opposing re-engagement with the TNI. [Please contact ETAN's DC office for a lobbying packet and tips on home office visits.] Representatives and senators should be asked to support HR 4357 and S 2621, and representatives who havenít yet done so should co-sponsor HR 1063 (for details, see action alert). HR 4357 and S 2621, introduced by Representative James McGovern (D-MA) and Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI), cover all facets of U.S.-Indonesia military ties and are even more comprehensive than the current Leahy conditions in the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act.
Letís stand with the people of East Timor in their struggle for peace and genuine self-determination by continuing to demand a just and humane U.S. foreign policy. Your phone calls, letters, and home district meetings with elected representatives make it all happen. Thanks for the persistence that has helped us achieve so much in the past few years, and please keep up the good work. A luta continua!