For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller, 718-5967668; mobile: 917-690-4391, firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of Congress Oppose Bush Administration Moves to Increase Engagement with Indonesian Military
June 26, 2002 -- Members of the House of Representatives today opposed stepped-up U.S. re-engagement with the Indonesian military (TNI). In a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, they wrote that making additional "military assistance available at this point is not only unnecessary, but likely to undermine efforts aimed at reforming the TNI."
The letter -- initiated by Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Lane Evans (D-IL) and signed by over 50 Members of Congress -- expressed alarm at recent Pentagon moves to circumvent Congressional restrictions on U.S. engagement with the TNI.
"This letter demonstrates Congressional recognition that the impunity enjoyed by Indonesian security forces for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor jeopardizes the new country's long-term security and threatens democratic reform in Indonesia," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator of the East Timor Action Network (ETAN). "Human rights violations have only escalated in Aceh, Papua, and elsewhere in Indonesia as the Pentagon and others in the Administration have aggressively campaigned to remove barriers to engagement with the brutal TNI."
The members of Congress wrote, "While some argue for the need to open channels of communication to influence the TNI, we note that a number of channels have recently been opened.... It would be prudent to wait and see whether such renewed contacts have any positive effects, or whether the TNI's human rights behavior remains poor."
The signers urged that the administration officials "not oppose the Congress continuing FMF [Foreign Military Finance] and IMET [International Military Education and Training] restrictions that might be included in the FY03 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act." These restrictions, which must be renewed annually, are based on seven conditions known as the "Leahy conditions" related to accountability for rights abuses in East Timor and Indonesia and military reform.
Congress first voted to restrict IMET for Indonesia, which brings foreign military officers to the U.S. for training, in response to the November 12, 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor. All military ties were severed in September 1999 as the Indonesian military and its militia proxies razed East Timor in retaliation for its pro-independence vote. The original Leahy conditions were codified into law in late 1999 and modified last November.
In late 2001, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act established the new Regional Defense Counter-terrorism Fellowship Program. Representatives wrote in today's letter that "If applied to Indonesia, the [program] ... would strip the congressionally-mandated IMET restriction of its intended effect."
The letter seeks "assurances that... Indonesian participants and their subordinates in U.S. police or military training programs, particularly those focused on counter-terrorism, will not use tactics learned from the U.S. military against their own people in domestic conflicts."
The letter also notes that "clear links remain between members of government and security forces and this militant group [Laskar Jihad]."
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) advocates for democracy, sustainable development, justice and human rights for the people of East Timor and Indonesia.
Congress of the United States
June 25, 2002
To: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Powell:
We are writing to express our concern regarding the renewal of U.S. military relations and assistance to the Indonesian military and security forces at a time when efforts at reform and accountability appear to be faltering. We therefore respectfully disagree with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's May 13th statement that, "They [Indonesia] are addressing the human rights issues in an orderly, democratic way," when the United Nations and international human rights organizations report otherwise.
Certainly the United States needs to work with all our allies to dismantle the global al-Qaeda network and ensure our own national safety, but we must also ensure that we do not provide greater assistance to forces that continue to commit serious atrocities against their own people while resisting accountability. We also note that the Indonesian government has been slow to crack down on the Laskar Jihad, and clear links remain between members of government and security forces and this militant group.
We are alarmed by recent Pentagon moves to circumvent Congressional restrictions on U.S. engagement with the Indonesian military (TNI) and urge reconsideration of these initiatives by both the Departments of Defense and State. If applied to Indonesia, the Regional Defense Counter-Terrorism Fellowship Program approved in the Fiscal Year 2002 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (HR 3338) would strip the congressionally-mandated IMET restriction of its intended effect. This and any other assistance provided to the TNI through the Fiscal Year 2002 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 4775) might undermine the urgent need for accountability and reform conveyed by the conditions Congress legislated on the availability of FMF and IMET for the Indonesian military.
While some argue for the need to open channels of communication to influence the TNI, we note that a number of channels have recently been opened - such as reinstatement of E-IMET, lifting of the embargo on commercial sales of non-lethal defense articles, and a significant increase in high level bilateral contacts. It would be prudent to wait and see whether such renewed contacts have any positive effects, or whether the TNI's human rights behavior remains poor. Making any other military assistance available at this point is not only unnecessary, but likely to undermine efforts aimed at reforming the TNI.
If Indonesian involvement in the Regional Defense Counter-Terrorism Fellowship Program or any other U.S. military or police assistance does go forward despite these objections, we encourage the Departments of Defense and State to consult with all relevant and interested Members of Congress prior to their initiation and throughout their duration. Pentagon and State officials should provide regular reports to Congress of program details, including the policy justification and purpose for the training activity, curricula, the cost, the number and names of those trained and their units of operation, the location of training, and the U.S. military units involved in each training activity.
We request that you not oppose the Congress continuing FMF and IMET restrictions that might be included in the FY03 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. We also request that renewal of funding for the Regional Defense Counter-Terrorism Fellowship Program not be sought through Department of Defense Appropriations in FY03; military training programs of this type have traditionally come under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. We note with concern the similarity of the current situation with the 1998 exposure of the training of Indonesian troops under JCET while the IMET ban was in place.
Finally, we seek assurances that your departments will institute measures to ensure that Indonesian participants and their subordinates in U.S. police or military training programs, particularly those focused on counter-terrorism, will not use tactics learned from the U.S. military against their own people in domestic conflicts.
We thank you for your consideration of our requests and look forward to your reply.
cc: CINCPAC Command
see also Legislative Action and U.S.-Indonesia Military Ties pages