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U.S. Should Not Cozy Up to Kopassus

Notorious Military Unit Commander Participates in Hawaii Pentagon Conference

For Immediate Release

Contact: John M. Miller (718) 596-7668; (917) 690-4391 (cell)
Karen Orenstein (202) 544-6911

April 6 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) called participation of the commander of Indonesia's Kopassus Special Forces in a U.S. military conference a bad precedent and a setback for efforts at reform and accountability. Major General Syaiful Rizal is in Hawaii this week to attend the Pentagon’s annual Pacific Area Special Operation Conference (PASOC).

"Kopassus participation in PASOC is yet another indicator of the unwise approach the Bush Administration is taking toward Indonesia’s military. They may see the Kopassus as an ally against terrorism, but Kopassus itself often acts like a terrorist group, attacking civilians for political ends," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN.

"There can be no doubt that Kopassus will portray participation in PASOC as an exoneration by the U.S. By publicly anointing the Kopassus commander, the U.S. has gravely undermined the struggle within Indonesia to end impunity," said Edmund McWilliams, a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer.

"This is a devastating betrayal of Indonesian human rights advocates and their efforts to reform the military and its most notorious command," added McWilliams, who headed the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta from 1996 to 1999 and serves as an advisor to ETAN.

"With Indonesian security forces still engaged in atrocities in West Papua and continuing to deny their role in crimes against humanity in East Timor and elsewhere, President Bush's rush to engage the military is counter-productive to advancing democratic change in Indonesia," said Miller.

Just last week the Department of State provided formal notice that it will consider provision of lethal military equipment to Indonesia.

According to Dr. Damien Kingsbury, an Australian expert on the Indonesian military, "Kopassus has murdered and tortured political activists, trade unionists and human rights workers. It has also trained, equipped and led militias in East Timor, West Papua and Aceh, and Kopassus members trained the notorious Laskar Jihad Islamic militia, which stepped up conflict in the Ambon region, leaving up to 10,000 dead. It was Kopassus that murdered Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay in 2001."

ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East Timor and Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975 to 1999 and for restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces. For additional background, see


Delegates representing approximately 25 countries are participating in the week-long PASOC, which ends tomorrow. According to its website, the conference, hosted by the Special Operations Command–Pacific, will "facilitate the exchange of ideas between international SOF [special operations force] and counter-terrorist experts." This is the first time Indonesia is participating since 1998.

Kopassus is arguably the most feared unit of the Indonesian military and has been implicated in a wide range of human rights violations in East Timor and throughout Indonesia.

In February, the Bush administration proposed a six and a half fold increase  Foreign Military Financing for Indonesia. Testifying in the Senate in early March, Admiral William F. Fallon, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, urged a "rapid, concerted infusion of assistance" to the Indonesian military.

Last November, the Department of State waived all remaining congressional restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia. Congress had imposed various restrictions since 1992.

East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation has called on countries to make military assistance to Indonesia "totally conditional on progress towards full democratization, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with international human rights..."


see also

Paras Indonesia: US Criticized For Cozying Up To Kopassus

U.S.-Indonesia Military Assistance page





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