ETAN/IHRN Oppose Blanket Waiver for Human Rights
September 27, 2001 — The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) and
the Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) strongly urge members of
Congress to reject any request by the Bush administration for authority
"to waive all existing restrictions on U.S. military assistance and
weapons exports for the next five years to any country if he determines
the aid will help the fight against international terrorism," as
reported in the Washington Post on September 24. In its drive to build an
international coalition in response to the horrific attacks on September
11, the U.S. must not sacrifice the rights of Indonesians, East Timorese,
or others. Any move to lift congressional restrictions on U.S. relations
with the Indonesian military (TNI) would only empower a brutal military
immune to accountability for human rights violations.
A blanket waiver would undermine years of calculated congressional
response to the TNI’s own incriminating acts and seriously compromise
congressional checks on executive action. It would also undeniably result
in the use of U.S.-supplied weapons, training, and other military
assistance in the severe repression of Indonesian and possibly East
Timorese civilians, a practice that IHRN, ETAN, and many others hoped had
finally ended. For the U.S. to condone and essentially sanction such
predictable results would be contrary to the very principle of respect for
human rights thus far advanced by Congress. Rewarding the TNI with
prestigious U.S. military assistance would only encourage the terror
tactics used against the people of Aceh, West Papua, and elsewhere.
Such a policy would also contradict the importance placed on rule of
law, human rights, and justice by Indonesian President Megawati and
President Bush in their meeting last week. Megawati, referring to the
September 11 attacks, "condemned the barbaric and indiscriminate acts
carried out against innocent civilians," and Bush said,
"Indonesia’s transition to democracy is one of the most significant
developments of this era." Yet the Indonesian military, a force that
regularly targets civilians, is the largest obstacle to democracy. The
White House announced that the U.S. would lift the embargo on commercial
sales of non-lethal defense articles and expand contact between the U.S.
and Indonesian militaries. These commitments, incremental changes
reflecting prior Bush administration policies, are nonetheless disturbing.
They come with no firm commitment from Megawati to address human rights
abuses of the military and police, and her record of close ties with the
armed forces that suggests the opposite.
Since the TNI and its militia proxies razed East Timor in September
1999 the U.S. has withheld most military assistance. Congress legislated
conditions restricting International Military Education and Training
(IMET) and the Foreign Military Financing Program for Indonesia. Known as
the "Leahy conditions," these include the safe return of East
Timorese refugees, prosecution of those responsible for atrocities in East
Timor and Indonesia, and security for East Timor from Indonesian military
and militia activity. None of these very reasonable conditions have been
met. Congress separately restricted IMET for Indonesia following the 1991
Santa Cruz Massacre where Indonesian soldiers gunned down at least 270
peaceful protesters at a memorial service in East Timor.
These restrictions represent the greatest point of leverage the U.S.
has to rein in one of the world’s worst human rights records.
Overturning congressional restrictions would severely undermine the little
progress made in accountability for crimes against humanity and other
violations that have taken place in East Timor and Indonesia. Their
removal would damage efforts to gain civilian control of the Indonesian
armed forces and seriously threaten the security of East Timor.
East Timor Action Network
Indonesia Human Rights Network
see also: On Eve of Megawati Visit,
Groups Urge Bush to Maintain Restrictions on Military Ties with
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