Subject: As U.S. Trains, Equips Brimob, Human Rights Issues Get Pushed Aside

The Jakarta Post Monday, August 1, 2005

Human rights at stake as U.S. trains, equips Brimob

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The United States has allocated millions of dollars to equip and train Indonesian police's strike force Brimob, a move that an expert claims will improve the police's competence in dealing with strategic policies in a new democracy.

Andi Widjajanto, a lecturer at the University of Indonesia and also an alumni of the U.S.' International Military and Education Training (IMET) program, said that ever since the U.S. froze its defense and security cooperation with Indonesia in 1991, there was "a zero generation" among personnel of the Indonesian security forces.

"Now with U.S. assistance, we hope police officers can learn how to draw up strategic policies on security under the banner of democracy, which, of course, promote human rights values," Andi told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

The training is also expected to improve the National Police's capability in drafting and implementing a reform agenda.

Andi was commenting on a U.S. government Accountability Office report which said that the U.S. violated its own law by training 6,900 Indonesian, Filipino and Thai police without determining beforehand whether they had a history of human rights violations.

The Southeast Asian police were trained by the U.S. Justice Department with State Department law enforcement assistance between 2001 and 2004 at a cost of US$265.7 million, the report said.

Among the 4,000 Indonesians trained in civil-military relations and human rights issues were 32 trainees "from a notorious special-forces police unit previously prohibited under State (Department) policy from receiving U.S. training funds because of the unit's prior human rights abuses," the report said, referring to Brimob.

But a National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Sunarko Danu Artanto said the report was the work of forces aimed at derailing efforts to reform his department. The police have received the bulk of U.S. training in recent years because of a long-standing, U.S. ban on providing assistance to the military.

"We deeply regret such accusations which are blown up by some parties who do not want to see our personnel become professional," Artanto told Associated Press, adding that none of the officers trained had records of human rights violations.

"Indonesia needs professional security forces to fight against global crime and acts of terrorism. We have always carried out our duties with respect to human rights."

The U.S. congress severed in 1999 most U.S. military ties with Indonesia when Indonesian soldiers and their proxy militia were blamed for widespread killing and destruction of property in then East Timor. The U.S. had imposed an arms embargo on Indonesia in 1991.

The embargo was partially lifted as Washington determined that Indonesia was cooperating with an FBI investigation into the 2002 killings of two American teachers in Papua province.

The administration of President George W. Bush resumed the training program in February this year after recognizing that Jakarta was also on the front lines of the Washington-led war on terrorism. The Bush administration lifted the ban on the sale of certain military equipment.

Indonesia's human rights activists said the report was not surprising and reaffirms their concerns that the U.S. is moving too quickly to normalize ties with Indonesia's historically corrupt and abusive security forces.

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