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Subject: ETISC: Suspension of Kopassus ties welcomed
Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 16:35:21 +1200
From: East Timor International Support Center <> Organization: ETISC

East Timor International Support Center PO Box 651, Nightcliff, Darwin, NT0814, Australia

MEDIA RELEASE Thurs Oct 29, 1998

ETISC welcomes Canberra's suspension of military exercises with Kopassus

The East Timor International Support Center, today, welcomes Australia's decision to suspend major military exercises with Indonesia's elite special forces, Kopassus. Better late than never, any further association with such a brutal force would have tarnished Australia's international image.

The Australian Defence Force has called off two joint exercises which were to run next month, one in Perth, one in Indonesia, both involving Kopassus' troops and soldiers from Australia's elite Special Air Service regiment.

For the past two years, ETISC, together with other human rights groups in Australia, has documented numerous abuses and atrocities in East Timor involving Kopassus troops. Our pleas to the Australian government at that time just fell on deaf ears. Adding insult to injury, the 1997-98 Defence White Paper allocated part of the Aus$136.9 million intelligence budget for exchange of information with Kopassus and deepened Australia's security relationship with Indonesia, with more SAS exercises with the Indonesian elite forces. About 250 Indonesian officers -- the majority of them from Kopassus -- are involved in training with -- and often directed by -- Australian Defence Force officers.

Kopassus or the Red Berets were involved in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in December 1975. More than 200,000 East Timorese, mostly civilians, women and children lost their lives in the bombardments and "cleaning" manoeuvres of the Indonesian army.

The former commander of Kopassus, Lieutenant-General Prabowo Subianto, has been implicated in the control of "ninja squads" in East Timor, which have been used by Kopassus and other elements of the Indonesian military to torture and terrorise East Timorese suspected of supporting the resistance. Prabowo is also accused of involvement in the May 12 shooting of six students at Trisakti University and the kidnapping of pro-democracy activists -- two cases in which Kopassus have been mentioned as possible culprits. Prabowo has since been removed from his command by Armed Forces Chief General Wiranto.

But Kopassus' atrocities just do not end here.

Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission in late August reported that the Indonesian armed forces had been responsible for the deaths of at least 781 people in Aceh and in the disappearance of 163 others. Aceh is a special operations region for Kopassus.

In the light of Canberra suspending military exercises with Kopassus, Australia, now, must support any moves to try Prabowo in the International Court of Justice for ordering the kidnappings, disappearances, torture, killings and rape by instruments of the Indonesian state to keep the Suharto regime in power. Also, the Australian Defence Force must engage human rights organisations in developing a human rights education curriculum for Indonesian military officers undergoing training and refresher courses in Australia.

Instead of unleashing killers, Australia has a responsibility to ensure the Indonesian military forces respect the democratic aspirations of people they're supposed to protect.

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