Subject: AP/AFP: US Envoy Says Disappointed By Indonesia's Rights Progress

Also: Indonesia missed opportunity to restore military ties: US ambassador

US Envoy Says Disappointed By Indonesia's Rights Progress

JAKARTA, Oct. 11 (AP)--Departing U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce said Monday he regretted that Indonesia hasn't improved its human rights record enough to allow the resumption of military relations with the U.S.

Washington slapped a ban on the Indonesian military in 1999, after its soldiers and proxy militia killed up to 1,500 people and destroyed much of East Timor when it voted to break away from Indonesia.

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush wanted to normalize ties with the Indonesian military, which it sees as a key ally in the fight against terror, but Congress rejected the move.

During a briefing with foreign reporters, Boyce expressed disappointment that U.S.-Indonesia military relations were still curtailed, saying he kept pushing Jakarta to prove that it had improved its human rights record.

"But we don't have the material with which to seriously go to Congress and do that. It's a regret on my part," said Boyce, who takes up the post of ambassador of Thailand later this month.

During his three years in Jakarta, Boyce chose low-key diplomacy over the confrontational style preferred by his predecessor Robert Gelbard.

But human rights was still at the top of his agenda.

"When I arrived, a lot of Indonesians said that now that you're totally absorbed with the war on terror presumably you won't be all over us on human rights the way you have been," he recalled. "To which I said ... Are you planning on violating human rights? If you do, we'll say something."

Indonesia's military has long been accused of human rights violations throughout the country. Amnesty International recently accused soldiers of torture and extra-judicial killings in the insurgency-hit province of Aceh.

While Jakarta did hold rights trials for some of those accused in the East Timor violence, 16 of the 18 government and military officials involved were acquitted. That sparked outrage among Western governments and rights groups who labeled the rights court a failure.

Boyce also called on Indonesia to arrest Anthonius Wamang, an alleged separatist rebel accused of playing a role in the August 2002 killing of two American school teachers near an U.S.-owned gold mine in Papua.

The failure to bring Wamang - who has been indicted by a U.S. grand jury - to justice is another factor blocking the resumption of full military ties between the U.S. and Indonesia, Western diplomats say.

Indonesia has no extradition agreement with the U.S. and it is unclear whether Jakarta will hand Wamang over to Washington if he is arrested.


Indonesia missed opportunity to restore military ties: US ambassador

JAKARTA, Oct 11 (AFP) - Indonesia missed an opportunity to restore military ties with the United States by failing to make its soldiers accountable for abuses in East Timor, the outgoing US ambassador said Monday.

"I consider it a misgiving on my part that I'm leaving without having normalized mil-mil relations because it was there to have," Ambassador Ralph Boyce told reporters.

"So that's a regret on my part but it's not a regret because we didn't do something. It's a regret because the Indonesians didn't take the opportunity," said Boyce, who ends a three-year term here on October 22 before taking up a new posting in Bangkok.

United States officials have repeatedly expressed their disappointment at the outcome of Jakarta's human rights tribunals set up to try military, police and civilian officials accused of abuses in connection with East Timor's bloody 1999 separation from Indonesia.

In August, the Indonesian supreme court overturned the ad hoc tribunal's conviction of four Indonesian security officers, meaning that no members of the security forces were found guilty of rights abuses in East Timor.

Only two of the 18 original defendants stand convicted, and both are East Timorese civilians.

Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman of the State Department, has said the process "was seriously flawed and lacked credibility."

Military cooperation with the United States was sharply reduced in 1999 when Congress in Washington passed the so-called Leahy Amendment during the East Timor turmoil.

Under the Leahy Amendment, assistance is suspended until certain conditions are met, including effective measures to bring to justice members of the armed forces and militia groups suspected of rights abuses.

"After three years we have not in fact substantively changed our relationship with (the Indonesian Armed Forces) all that much because the much-touted East Timor ad hoc trials on human rights violations didn't produce anything," Boyce said.

The United Nations alleges that the Indonesian military and militias it created murdered at least 1,400 people before and after East Timorese voted in August 1999 for independence. They also deported about 200,000 people to Indonesian West Timor and destroyed close to 70 percent of all buildings in the territory, according to UN prosecutors.

Restoration of military equipment assistance depends on accountability over the East Timor abuses while funds for military education have hinged on another case, the ambush killing of two Americans in Papua province two years ago.

Indonesia expressed hope in June that the Papua case was no longer an obstacle after the US decided to charge Anthonius Wamang, a Papuan separatist rebel, with the killings.

The decision vindicated the Indonesian military following allegations they were involved, the Indonesian foreign ministry said.

 

 


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