Subject: On eve of meeting with Indonesian, Bush urged to discuss rights situation

Also: Activists urge Bush to press Indonesia on rights; Susilo meets widow to help revive U.S. ties

On eve of meeting with Indonesian, Bush urged to discuss rights situation

May 24, 2005 5:20pm

Associated Press WorldStream

WASHINGTON - A coalition of 53 human rights groups is urging President George W. Bush to make the human rights situation in Indonesia a top priority when he meets on Wednesday with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In a letter to Bush, the groups said he should use the meeting to "advance respect for human rights and implementation of genuine justice and military reform throughout Indonesia."

The letter was signed by human rights, labor, religious, peace and other groups and was organized by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).

ETAN coordinator Karen Orenstein said Bush could show his commitment to human rights in Indonesia by withholding military aid.

The administration restricted Indonesia's participation in a U.S. military training program after the country's armed forces failed to cooperate fully in the investigation of the killings there of two U.S. citizens in August 2002.

In February, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Indonesia may resume participation in the program. She had concluded that Indonesia has and continues to cooperate with the FBI's investigation into the murders of schoolteachers Rick Spier and Ted Burgon.

Congress still forbids financing of military purchases by Indonesia and the export of lethal defense articles until certain conditions are met.

In addition to Bush, Yudhoyono is expected to meet with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the three-day visit, his first since winning Indonesia's first direct presidential election last year.

The U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are widely unpopular in Indonesia but the country has been supportive of the war on terrorism.

The administration also sees a strong Indonesia as an important counterweight to the burgeoning influence of China.

Meanwhile, the New York-based Human Rights First says in a report released Tuesday that at least 15 human rights defenders have been killed in Indonesia since 2000.

It said that the country's counterterrorism laws are threatening to reverse military and human rights reforms in Indonesia that have been put in place in recent years.

"The first priority should be on the reform of a violent, unaccountable military in Indonesia," said Matt Easton, an expert on human rights defenders at the rights group. "You cannot fight terrorism effectively without standing up for justice."

The State Department also expressed concern Tuesday about the fate of two Americans who have been detained by Indonesian authorities for eight months.

"This has been a major case for us," spokesman Richard Boucher said. "We've raised it many times with the Indonesian government."

Rick Ness and Bill Long Sr.have accused their employer, Newmont Mining Co., of causing health problems in an Indonesian village.

Sons of the two men urged members of Congress to raise the issue with Yudhoyono and to issue an appeal for their fathers' release.

"Please tell him that no American could invest in Indonesia while two of their countrymen remain at risk. Please ask him to free our fathers," the letter said.

They said their fathers could face 15 years' imprisonment.

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Activists urge Bush to press Indonesia on rights

WASHINGTON (Reuters): Human rights activists urged President George W. Bush on Tuesday to withhold U.S. military cooperation with Indonesia until the Southeast Asian country brings to justice military officers accused of abusing and killing civilians.

On the eve of Bush's meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, 53 rights, religious and peace groups called on the U.S. president to "refrain from promotion of military assistance to Indonesia's still brutal armed forces."

"We find troubling ongoing human rights violations by Indonesia's security forces, especially in conflict areas, widespread impunity for crimes against humanity and other serious violations," the groups said in a letter to Bush published by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network.

The activists said military abuses continued in Aceh and West Papua, provinces where separatists are fighting the government.

Jakarta has yet to punish officers who committed atrocities in East Timor when that former Portuguese colony voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999, they said.

In February, Washington revived a small International Military and Education and Training program with Indonesia that was frozen in the early 1990s because of abuses in East Timor. But large-scale programs and sales have been held up.

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Susilo meets widow to help revive U.S. ties

National News - May 26, 2005

Reiner Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Washington

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met here on Wednesday with Patsy Spiers, the wife of Rick Spiers, one of two American citizens killed in an armed attack in Papua in 2002, in what is seen as a crucial meeting to help revive full military ties between Indonesia and the U.S.

"I'm happy," Spiers told journalists, when asked to comment on her talks with Susilo, who arrived here late on Tuesday for a four-day visit. She did not elaborate.

The meeting came after 53 human rights, religious and peace groups urged U.S. President George W. Bush to withhold U.S. military cooperation with Indonesia until the Southeast Asian country brings to justice military officers accused of abusing and killing civilians.

Presidential spokesman Dino Pati Djalal said the shooting incident in Timika, Papua, on Aug. 12, 2002, which also killed one Indonesian teacher and injured nine others, had been a stumbling block to relations between the two countries as well as to restoration of full military ties. The U.S. slapped a military embargo on Indonesia following the killing of East Timor pro-independence protesters by the military in 1991.

"With this meeting, the President reaffirms the government's commitment to resolving the Timika incident, and (this shooting incident) should not hamper relations between Indonesia and the U.S.," Dino said after the meeting, held at the Willard Hotel, where Susilo and his entourage are staying.

"The meeting was very constructive ... and also emotional."

Dino explained that during the 30-minute meeting, Susilo briefed Spiers about the ongoing efforts to capture Papuan rebel leader Anthonius Wamang and his followers, who according to a joint investigation by the Indonesian authorities and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were responsible for the shooting incident. The group is believed to be hiding in the vast jungles of Papua.

"There has been a commitment to boost the efforts, and that one day they will all be captured and brought to court," he said.

Convincing Spiers about the government's strong commitment to resolving the incident and bringing the perpetrators to justice is crucial as it might help change the opinion of some U.S. Congressmen, who have opposed plans to end the U.S. military embargo on Indonesia until Jakarta shows significant progress in resolving certain issues, including the Timika incident and past human rights violations involving the Indonesian Military.

In February, the U.S. resumed a training program for Indonesian military officers after the U.S. Secretary of State declared that the Indonesian authorities had cooperated with the FBI in investigating the Timika incident.

Susilo is making his first visit to the U.S. since his election as president in October 2004. The trip is expected to further boost relations between the two countries in the economic, political, security and military fields.

Some analysts say that the U.S. administration has been happy thus far with Susilo's government, and is expected to support his domestic policies including those designed to boost economic growth to help provide jobs for some 40 million unemployed people, and to curb endemic corruption.

During the visit, Susilo is scheduled to hold talks with President Bush at the White House and also meet with other top administration officials, including Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Finance Secretary John Snow.

The Susilo-Bush summit is slated to take place at around 3 p.m. local time on Wednesday or 3 a.m. on Thursday Jakarta time.

President Susilo will also meet with a number of top officials of U.S. companies, including Caterpillar Inc., Altria Corp., which recently acquired PT HM Sampoerna, Indonesia's second largest cigarette maker, Merrill Lynch, and Paiton Energy.

On Friday, the President will fly to Seattle to meet Microsoft founder Bill Gates.


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