Subject: No justice, no aid to Kopassus!
The Jakarta Post
Sunday, June 06, 2010
No justice, no aid to Kopassus!
Usman Hamid, Jakarta
One month before President Obama?s planned June 14 visit to Indonesia,
members of the US Congress raised questions about his administration?s
apparent plans to restore aid to Kopassus, the Indonesian Army?s Special
In a May 13 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense
Minister Robert Gates, legislators from both parties urged an end to
impunity and requested clarity on what was being asked of Indonesia in
exchange for full military ties.
Congress is right to raise these questions, but they do not go far
enough. The problem of human rights violations by the Indonesian
military is not just about Kopassus, and it cannot be solved just by
vetting individual soldiers.
The Congressional letter comes during a pitched debate about whether to
lift the last remaining restrictions on US military assistance to
Indonesia. Senator Patrick Leahy, for who the law that restricts
assistance to abusive military units is named, has said that he
recognizes that changes have taken place but remains concerned that
Indonesia still has not fulfilled its promise to bring perpetrators to
justice. On the other side, supporters of full military ties argue that
?This is not Soeharto?s Indonesia. This is not Soeharto?s TNI? or that
?Kopassus Indonesia in 2010 is not Kopassus in 1991.?
There may be some superficial truth to these statements, but they do not
provide the whole picture. Are those responsible for past crimes no
longer part of Kopassus? And have Kopassus and the Indonesian Military
(TNI) as a whole really transformed themselves into rights- respecting
institutions under civilian control?
The answer to these questions is ?no?. If the US does restore all aid to
Kopassus, without concrete and meaningful preconditions, it would be a
disaster for Indonesian human rights. Aid which is not meant just for
Kopassus, but also for the TNI, the State Intelligence Agency, and the
Ministry of Defense should be carefully tailored to exert maximum
pressure to put structural reforms in place that can ensure
accountability and civilian control.
Accountability for past crimes is not a separate question from military
professionalism and human rights protection in present-day Indonesia.
Kopassus has been implicated in major crimes such as the Wamena tortures
in 2001 and the assassination of Papuan leader Theys Eluay in 2001, as
well as recent reports of the assassination of Aceh political activists
in 2009. These occurred under democratic governments, precisely because
Kopassus has never been held accountable.
Recently, Kopassus commander Maj. Gen. Lodewijk Paulus replaced Col.
Hartomo as Group I commander and also removed Lt. Col. Untung Budiharto
to a teaching job at the Army Staff College in Bandung. Paulus didn?t
mention that they were moved due to the controversies of rights record
after the US government raised the idea to retrain Kopassus.
In 2003, Hartomo was convicted in the Theys Eluay murder and sentenced
to 3.5 years jail and dismissal from the Army. A military tribunal
sentenced Untung, involved in student kidnapping in 1997-1998, to 32
months imprisonment and dismissal.
They remain active, and even Untung was promoted as district commander
with other convicted officers in disappearance, such Fausani Syahrial
Multhazar (0719/Jepara), Dadang Hendra Yuda (1504/Ambon) and Djaka Budi
Utama (115/Macan Leuser).
In the absence of a system that can hold perpetrators accountable for
grave crimes, abuses continue to take place. Former Kopassus chief Maj.
Gen. Muchdi Purwopranjono left the elite unit after being implicated in
the disappearances of activists in the the late 1990s. But he was never
prosecuted, and later implicated in the 2004 assassination of Munir,
Indonesian?s leading human rights defender, while Muchdi work for the
State Intelligence Agency (BIN).
Human rights violations are not just artifacts of the distant past. In
Merauke and Keerom of Papua, as the Human Rights Watch has reported,
Kopassus continues to make secret deployments and abuse civilians.
Yet in none of these cases are civilian judicial authorities or the
police able to bring Kopassus officers to account. Military impunity
continues through the use of separate military courts that lack basic
transparency and independence. Implicated Kopassus officers are not only
set free, but are promoted upwards through the command structure.
Furthermore, it is not just Kopassus that continues to be untouchable.
The other TNI branches and intelligence also operate with impunity.
A recent development demonstrates both impunity and the absence of
civilian control. Victims and some rights groups have filed lawsuits
against the appointment of Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsuddin as deputy defense
minister, a senior post in the civilian institution charged with
overseeing the TNI. Yet Sjafrie, a Kopassus general, has been implicated
by the National Human Rights Commission in political violence, including
the disappearance and shooting of students and the May riot in Jakarta
The Obama administration has indicated that it only intends to give aid
to officers and soldiers who have passed human rights ?vetting?. But
this procedure only operates on an individual basis, and does so
ineffectively. It is not possible to know the names of all these who
have pulled the trigger, and, in any case, the disappearances, tortures
and murders are not the result of individual soldiers running amok.
They are the result of institutional doctrines, policies and practices.
Therefore, the only effective way to stop the crimes is to assign
command responsibility and achieve structural reform in the
In fact, the US should restrict aid to the TNI, Kopassus, and Indonesian
intelligence agencies such as BIN until they stop their current abuses
in places including Aceh and Papua, and facilitate full prosecution of
active and retired officers involved in crimes.
Such policies would support Indonesian legislators and civil society in
crucial reform efforts, such as initiatives to resolve the student
disappearances and to bring military perpetrators before civilian
Since Kopassus is the unit that has most prominently flown above the
law, the worst thing the US could do would be to provide this force with
any aid or comfort.
In the absence of concrete progress in 1) removing human rights
violators from the armed forces 2) prosecuting those responsible for
past crimes and 3) putting soldiers under the jurisdiction of civilian
courts, restoring assistance would be seen as Washington?s ?green light?
for further military impunity in Indonesia. Such a policy threatens the
hopes of democracy and justice in Indonesia.
The writer is coordinator for the Commission for Missing Persons and
Victims of Violence.
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