Subject: Australia must review military ties with Indonesia
Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 09:27:55 +0000

Australia must review military ties with Indonesia

The East Timor International Support Center is alarmed that the Australian government will continue maintaining close links with the Indonesian armed forces (ABRI) despite clear evidence that the military has committed atrocities throughout Indonesia and East Timor.

It was reported in The Age daily late last week that the continuing contact with ABRI will include joint exercises and training exchanges with Kopassus, the Indonesian elite special forces most heavily implicated in the atrocities.

The Department of Foreign Affairs seems to have disregarded a recent report from the Melbourne-based East Timor Human Rights Center which states that the human rights abuses in East Timor, by ABRI, are continuing despite Habibie coming into power this May. During January to June 1998, the Center received reports of the extrajudicial execution of 23 East Timorese people, 107 East Timorese people being arbitrarily detained, 95 being subjected to torture and 74 to other forms of ill-treatment. The Centre also received reports of 20 disappearances, 11 breaches of procedural guarantees, 4 women being raped and numerous restrictions on freedom of expression and association.

The Indonesian government claims of troop reductions in East Timor have proven to be false by events in the last few weeks in the troubled territory.

In early August a very public withdrawal of troops took place on the Dili dock. An Indonesia military Hercules aircraft brought many journalists from Jakarta to witness a public photo opportunity at which 1000 Indonesian combat troops were supposed to be withdrawn from East Timor. On the day of the withdrawal, the number to leave had dropped to 396. These were Kopassus and Green Beret troops that were said by the official military spokesman to be Kostrad.

Confirmation has arrived from a number of sources of the arrival of three more Indonesian battalions at Coma beach of Lautem and North of Los Palos. The troops from battalions 623, 613 and 501 landed at night by landing craft on the remote beach and said to have marched eastwards towards Tutuala, on the eastern tip of East Timor.

According to the human rights organisation Yayasan Hak, in Dili, the movements were heaviest in the first and second week of August. "There were many reports of fully armed soldiers moving with heavy equipment by road at night," said a Hak representative.

Australia's democratic credentials, in the region, risk being tarnished if Canberra insists on maintaining ties with ABRI without any review whatsoever. Also, ETISC urges Indonesia to allow international observers into East Timor to verify actual Indonesian troop withdrawals.

East Timor International Support Center PO Box 651, Nightcliff, Darwin NT 0814, Australia web-site:

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