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Members of Congress Urge President Bush Not to Normalize Military Ties with Indonesia

Rewarding “Half-Steps” to Reform Undeserved

For Immediate Release

Contact: John M. Miller (718) 596-7668
Karen Orenstein (202) 544-6911

August 18, 2005 - Members of the U.S. House of Representatives recently called on President Bush “to reconsider strengthening ties with the Indonesian military (TNI).”

In a letter to President Bush, they wrote that they are "troubled that you are seeking such normalization despite the persistence of obvious human rights, accountability, and security force reform problems in Indonesia." They called normalization of relations with the military a "premature reward for the half-steps that have been taken."

The letter, initiated by Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), was sent as Senate and House negotiators prepare to reconcile their differing versions of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The Senate version would maintain most restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia, while the House would eliminate them.

"The House leadership should heed what its members advocate in this letter and agree to the strongest possible restrictions on the Indonesian military in the final appropriations act," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).

"If the Bush administration and its allies in Congress are serious about promoting democratic reform and human rights in Indonesia, they would support and strengthen the Senate's restrictions," she added.  

“The success so far of the recent Aceh peace agreement requires that Indonesia’s security forces respect the Acehnese’s political and human rights, a formidable test. The terms of the agreement must be first be implemented and given time to work before the Indonesian military is allowed any additional assistance,” said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.

"A recent GAO report revealed the overwhelming failure of human rights vetting by the State Department in Indonesia. Past assurances that U.S. security assistance will not in the end strengthen the hand of human rights violators are hollow. Further, the larger issue remains that the still-brutal, unreformed Indonesian military will see any U.S. assistance as an endorsement of business-as-usual," Miller added.

The letter was signed by 54 representatives.


The Senate version of the fiscal year 2006 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill would continue restrictions on foreign military financing and export of "lethal" military equipment until the secretary of state certifies that certain conditions are met pertaining to justice for rights violations, transparency and accountability of the TNI's operations and finances, and counter-terrorism efforts. The House version merely contains a reporting requirement on whether Indonesia has complied with past conditions on military assistance.

A conference committee with representatives from both chambers, which may meet in September, must reconcile the two versions of the bill before it is sent to the president for signature.

In recent years, Congress had maintained only one condition restricting full International Military Education and Training (IMET): cooperation by Indonesian authorities with an FBI investigation into the 2002 ambush murder of an Indonesian and two U.S. citizens in West Papua. In late February, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice restored full IMET for Indonesia, even though cooperation by Indonesia in this case has been spotty at best. The Senate version of the appropriations bill would delay additional IMET until Rice submits a detailed report on U.S. and Indonesian efforts to bring to justice those responsible for the 2002 attack.

A recent report of the General Accountability Office (GAO), "Southeast Asia: Better Human Rights Reviews and Strategic Planning Needed for Assistance to Foreign Security Forces," strongly criticized procedures used to vet security officers from Indonesia and other countries for training, despite U.S. law and policy which bars training for units and individuals with credible evidence of human rights violations.

Under President Yudhoyono, humanitarian and human rights conditions have significantly deteriorated in West Papua and militarization of the entire archipelago has increased. The Indonesian government continues to block substantive international efforts at accountability for crimes against humanity in East Timor. Last month, an appeals court overturned all convictions in the first test-case of accountability for Suharto-era crimes, the 1984 Tanjung Priok massacre that left scores of civilians murdered.

East Timorese and Indonesian NGOs have repeatedly called for maintaining restrictions on military assistance. Victims and survivors of the West Papua killings have called for continued restriction of IMET until their case is fully resolved.

In May, 53 U.S. organizations urged President Bush not to offer military assistance to Indonesia. East Timorese and Indonesian NGOs have repeatedly called for maintaining restrictions on U.S. military assistance. Victims and survivors of the West Papua killings have called for IMET restriction to continue until their case is fully resolved.

For additional background see

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to express our concerns about the trend toward full normalization of military ties between the United States and Indonesia. Specifically, we are troubled that you are seeking such normalization despite the persistence of obvious human rights, accountability, and security force reform problems in Indonesia. We urge you to reconsider strengthening ties with the Indonesian military (TNI) until considerably more progress is made in these areas.

The Indonesian people have made substantial strides toward democracy recently; last year’s first direct presidential election was a highlight. While Indonesia’s defense minister has begun taking some welcome steps to rein in the TNI’s many illicit business ventures, the military under President Yudhoyono’s administration is retreating on other promises of reform. Plans to significantly increase the number of Army territorial commands and the TNI’s granting of permission for active duty officers to run in upcoming regional elections represent a disquieting increase in security force involvement in civilian political affairs.

Further, despite repeated expressions of concern by the Administration and Congress, Indonesia continues to resist accountability for crimes against humanity and other serious violations committed by its security forces in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Indonesia’s failure to issue visas in a timely fashion to the U.N. Secretary General’s Commission of Experts stands out as a testament to a lack of progress toward ending impunity. Areas of conflict remain heavily militarized under President Yudhoyono’s administration, with West Papua experiencing a marked escalation of militarization and military operations continuing in Aceh despite the lifting of the state of civil emergency. In addition, the TNI’s documented support for terror groups very seriously compromises its compatibility with U.S. anti-terrorism goals. A March 2002 study for the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School noted that the Indonesian army had become “a major facilitator of terrorism” due to “radical Muslim militias they had organized, trained, and financed.”

Finally, the shocking assassination of Munir, Indonesia’s foremost human rights defender, last September, dealt a tremendous blow to human rights work in Indonesia. We are extremely concerned with the lack of progress and apparent political interference in this most important investigation. We regard prosecution of all perpetrators of this heinous crime, consistent with international standards, as a litmus test of the Indonesian government’s and security forces’ commitment to the rule of law. Successful resolution of Munir’s murder should be a determining factor in the U.S.-Indonesia security relationship.

While we have great hopes for further change under President Yudhoyono’s administration, we believe strongly that the normalization of relations at this time would be a premature reward for the half-steps that have been taken. Full normalization would merely undermine the excellent advocacy the U.S. has traditionally undertaken on behalf of genuine progress on human rights, military reform, and accountability.

Thank you very much for considering our views; we look forward to your response.


Nita Lowey (NY)
Christopher Smith (NJ)

Martin Sabo (MN)
James Oberstar (MN)
Alcee Hastings (FL)
John Lewis (GA)
Zoe Lofgren (CA)

Steven Rothman (NJ)
Lynn Woolsey (CA)
James McGovern (MA)
Timothy Bishop (NY)
Rosa DeLauro (CT)

Dennis Cardoza (CA)
Tammy Baldwin (WI)
Maurice Hinchey (NY)
William Delahunt (MA)
Donald Payne (NJ)
John Tierney (MA)
Maxine Waters (CA)
Bernard Sanders (VT)
Mark Udall (CO)
Bob Filner (CA)
Brian Higgins (PA)
Robert Brady (PA)
William Lacy Clay (MO)
Patrick Kennedy (RI)
Schakowsky (IL)
Lee (CA)

Albert Wynn (MD)
Joseph Crowley (NY)
Mark Green (WI)
Faleomavaega (AS)
Carolyn Maloney (NY)
Robert Andrews (NJ)
Henry Waxman (CA)

 Udall (NM)
Neil Abercrombie (HI)
Grijalva (AZ)
Lane Evans (IL)
Jim Gerlach (PA)
Michael Capuano (MA)
Jim McDermott (WA)
Peter DeFazio (OR)
Betty McCollum (MN)
Chris Van Hollen (MD)
David Wu (OR)
Jose Serrano (NY)
Anthony Weiner (NY)
Ed Pastor (AZ)
Danny Davis (IL)
Diane Watson (CA)
James Langevin (RI)
Fortney Pete Stark (CA)
Dennis Kucinich (OH)





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