etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer Media Release

Groups Urge Congress to Continue Restrictions on U.S. Military Assistance to Indonesia

ETAN Releases Report Detailing Indonesia’s Failure to Meet Congressional Conditions

For Immediate Release

Contact: John M. Miller, 718-5967668; mobile: 917-690-4391 
Karen Orenstein, 202-544-6911

July 16, 2002 -- The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) along with representatives of 60 organizations today called on Congress to renew restrictions on military training and weapons sales to Indonesia.

In a letter sent to members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the groups warned, "The 'war on terrorism' should not become a vehicle to support state-sponsored military terror on civilians in Indonesia."

The letter urged Congress to renew the "Leahy conditions" restricting Indonesia's participation in International Military Training and Education (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programs. The letter also argued against including Indonesian security forces in the recently-established “Regional Counter-terrorism Fellowship” program.

"It is counter-productive... to withhold prestigious U.S. military training in order to encourage military reform and accountability for crimes against humanity while offering the same training under a different program,” the letter stated. “The Pentagon and others in the Administration have argued that the U.S. needs to open channels in order to influence the TNI. We remain unconvinced about what influence the Pentagon hopes to achieve, when past experience demonstrates that exposure to U.S. military culture has done little or nothing to improve TNI practices."

A separate report issued this week by ETAN documented Indonesia’s failure to comply with the seven “Leahy conditions.” ("Leahy Conditions on Restrictions of Military Assistance for Indonesia Have Not Been Met"). These conditions, codified in the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, call for prosecution of those responsible for atrocities in East Timor and Indonesia, an end to military support for militia groups, return of refugees, the release of political detainees, access to conflict regions by international organizations, and accounting for the military's receipts and expenditures.

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 following its pro-independence vote. Congress first passed the "Leahy conditions" in late 1999 and strengthened them last November. The president must certify that the Indonesia has met these conditions before regular IMET and FMF can be restored for Indonesia.

House and Senate Appropriations Committees are now considering next fiscal year's appropriations bills. Congress has come under increasing pressure from the Bush administration to lift restrictions on U.S.-Indonesia military ties.

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) advocates for democracy, sustainable development, justice and human rights, including women's rights, for the people of East Timor. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity that took place in East Timor since 1975. See http://www.etan.org.


see: IPS: Renewed Military Aid for Indonesia Faces Key Test 

NGO Letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committees on U.S.-Indonesia Military Assistance

16 July 2002

Dear Member of Appropriations Committee:

We are writing to respectfully request your support for (1) the renewal of restrictions on International Military Training and Education (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programs for Indonesia in the FY03 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, and (2) inclusion of language that excludes the training of Indonesian security forces under the Regional Counter-terrorism Fellowship program in the FY03 Department of Defense Appropriations bill.

We are dismayed by the Pentagon's end-run on the IMET restriction via the Regional Counter-terrorism Fellowship program (HR 3338, sec. 8125). It is counter-productive and sends a confused message to Jakarta to withhold prestigious U.S. military training in order to encourage military reform and accountability for crimes against humanity while offering the same training under a different program. Such a policy undermines U.S. credibility in the eyes of Indonesia's armed forces and civil society. "Vetting" potential training participants for past abuses by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta is not an answer. The records of the professional histories of individual candidates required to adequately vet Indonesian security forces simply do not exist.

The Pentagon and others in the Administration have argued that the U.S. needs to open channels in order to influence the TNI. We remain unconvinced about what influence the Pentagon hopes to achieve, when past experience demonstrates that exposure to U.S. military culture has done little or nothing to improve TNI practices. The 1999 scorched-earth campaign in East Timor followed decades of engagement that never tempered Indonesian military abuses. Moreover, the Pentagon's argument is disingenuous; many channels of influence currently exist, including some that have only recently been opened. Results from these "carrots" given to the TNI -- E-IMET reinstatement, high-level meetings, bilateral naval exercises, lifting the embargo on the sale of non-lethal commercial defense articles - have been thin at best and do not justify greater engagement.

In fact, we have seen the following:

Military Reform: Human rights advocates, academics, and even Administration officials have acknowledged that reform of the TNI is dead for now. Under President Megawati, the military is as powerful as ever, regaining ground lost after Suharto was forced out of office. It retains heavy influence over the civilian government. Current and former military officers with notorious human rights records hold crucial government positions, including membership in President Megawati's cabinet. The TNI leadership has appointed to key positions officers who should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The military is determined to maintain, if not enlarge, its territorial command structure through the creation of new commands. In early 2002, a new military command was established in Aceh. This followed the re-establishment of a command in Maluku in 1999. New units in the mold of the notorious elite special forces Kopassus, known as tontaikam (security surveillance platoon), have been formed and deployed to Aceh and other conflict zones. General Mahidin Simbolon, who played a key role in organizing, training, arming, and directing East Timor militia, was promoted and now commands the TNI in West Papua, where he has organized East Timor-style militia. TNI forces are reportedly also establishing militia units in Aceh which are being used to intimidate the civilian population through terror. There is broad expectation that, under military pressure, the Indonesian government will declare a state of emergency or martial law in Aceh in the very near future, giving the military an even freer hand. Through assassinations and arrests, the military works to undermine efforts at peaceful dialogue to resolve the conflicts in Aceh and West Papua.

The TNI continues to draw between two-thirds to three-quarters of its income from off-line budgeting and an extensive network of legal, semi-legal, and illegal activities that include illegal logging (notably in West Papua); sale of fishing licenses to foreign fishing vessels including some which employ environmentally-destructive drag nets; prostitution rings; illegal drug activities (notably marijuana grown in Aceh); and outright extortion (targeting minority-owned businesses, notably Chinese).

U.S. National Security Interest: Not only is the TNI an unreliable partner for the U.S., support for the armed forces alienates moderate Indonesians who see the military as the major roadblock to democratic reform.

Support for the Islamic fundamentalist militant group Laskar Jihad by powerful military and government leaders is well-documented. Laskar Jihad units have been allowed to freely move around the archipelago, fomenting and exacerbating conflict, often with direct TNI assistance, in West Papua, Maluku, Central Sulawesi, and elsewhere. The TNI itself has a strong Islamic fundamentalist streak which renders it an untrustworthy and possibly dangerous partner.

Human Rights and Accountability: Human rights conditions have markedly deteriorated over the past year, especially in Aceh, West Papua, and Maluku. The ad hoc human rights tribunal on East Timor now taking place in Jakarta is a sham. Rather than address the systematic role of the military and its formation of lethal militia groups, the trial has provided a forum for the UN to be accused of rigging the referendum and blamed for the violence and destruction in 1999.

The "war on terrorism" should not become a vehicle to support state-sponsored military terror on civilians in Indonesia. The Pentagon and some in the Administration have worked for the removal of the IMET and FMF restrictions long before the attacks on September 11. No amount of U.S. military training will resolve the problems of the TNI because the problems are political in nature. As the International Crisis Group in May 2002 reported, "Better military training will not alter the fact that there is a fundamental lack of political will on the part of the Indonesian national civilian and military authorities to exert control over private armies, punish abusive soldiers, end military corruption or proceed with long-promised reforms."

Military restrictions are the primary leverage the U.S. government has over the TNI. If Congress removes them, the TNI will take this as an endorsement of business-as-usual and nothing will be gained. Congress, acting as the government's conscience, has time and again redirected Administration policies when they have strayed from oft-stated principles of respect for human rights and democracy. This has been especially true in the case of East Timor. We urge Congress to do the same for Indonesia by renewing the IMET and FMF restrictions and excluding Indonesian forces from training under the Regional Counter- terrorism Fellowship program.

We thank you for your ongoing attention to these important matters.


Kani Xulam
American Kurdish Information Network

Joanna Kerr
Executive Director
Association for Women's Rights in Development

Robert Doolittle
Boston Catholic Task Force for East Timor

Mark Toney
Executive Director
Center for Third World Organizing

Rev. John L. McCullough 
Executive Director 
Church World Service

Rick Jahnkow
Program Coordinator
Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (COMD)

Stan De Boe, OSST
Justice and Peace Director
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Roland Watson
Dictator Watch

Karen Orenstein
Washington Coordinator
East Timor Action Network

Erik Gustafson
Executive Director
Education for Peace in Iraq Center

Jackie Lynn
Executive Director
Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Tamar Gabelnick
Director, Arms Sales Monitoring Project
Federation of American Scientists

John M. Miller
Foreign Bases Project

Joe Volk
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Dr. Gregory H. Stanton
The International Campaign to End Genocide, Coordinator
Genocide Watch, President

Medea Benjamin
Founding Director
Global Exchange

James Vijayakumar
Area Executive
Global Ministries, a common witness of the Division of Overseas Ministries,
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Wider Church Ministries, 
a covenanted ministry of the United Church of Christ

Alice Zachmann
Guatemala Human Rights Commission, USA

Melinda Miles
Haiti Reborn/Quixote Center

Peter H. Juviler
Human Rights Studies, Barnard College, Columbia University

Angela Garcia
Illinois Peace Action Education Fund

Kurt Biddle
Indonesia Human Rights Network

Robert Pedersen
Trade and Labor Coordinator
Indiana Alliance for Democracy

John Oei
Indonesian, Chinese, and American Network

Michele Bohana
Institute for Asian Democracy

Martha Honey
Co-Director, Foreign Policy In Focus
Institute for Policy Studies

Joseph Grieboski
President and Founder
Institute on Religion and Public Policy

Bama Athreya
Deputy Director
International Labor Rights Fund

Aviva Imhof
Director, Southeast Asia Program
International Rivers Network

Eileen B. Weiss and Sharon Silber
Jews Against Genocide

*organizations for identification only

Colin Rajah
Executive Director
JustAct - Youth Action for Global Justice

James W. Kofski, M.M.
Associate for Asia/Pacific and Middle East Issues
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Judith Code
Metro DC Pax Christi

Rev. Bob Edgar 
General Secretary 
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Sarah C. Aird
Executive Director
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)

Diana Bohn
Nicaragua Center for Community Action

Kathy Hoyt
National Co-Coordinator
Nicaragua Network

Bill Towe
North Carolina Peace Action

Mary Anne Mercer
Northwest International Health Action Coalition

Steven Feld
Papua Resource Center

Dave Robinson
National Coordinator
Pax Christi USA

Mary F. Dworak
Pax Christi, Morris County (NJ)

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action Education Fund

Carol Jahnkow
Executive Director
Peace Resource Center of San Diego

John Witeck
Philippine Workers Support Committee

Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory
Director, Washington Office
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Rev. William Callahan
Quest for Peace/Quixote Center

Ms. Heidi McLean
Outreach Coordinator
Sacramentans for International Labor Rights

Peter J. Davies
UN Representative

Gail Taylor
Legislative Director
School Of the Americas Watch

Carmen Trotta
Associate Editor
The Catholic Worker

Orlando Tizon, Ph.D.
Assistant Director
Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International

Lavinia Limon
Executive Director
U.S. Committee for Refugees

Wilson Powell
National Administrator
Veterans For Peace, Inc.

Melissa Jameson
War Resistors League

Mike Amitay
Executive Director
Washington Kurdish Institute

John Judge
Member of the Board
Washington Peace Center

Jen Randolph Reise
Women Against Military Madness

Gillian Gilhool
Director, Legislative Office
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, United States Section

William D. Hartung
Director, Arms Trade Resource Center
World Policy Institute

Munawar Laghari
Executive Director
World Sindh Institute (USA)

see also Leahy Conditions on Restrictions of Military Assistance for Indonesia Have Not Been Met
Senator Leahy's opening statement to Appropriations Committee, July 18, 2002

see also Legislative Action and U.S.-Indonesia Military Assistance  pages

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