Secretary of Defense Must Not Undermine Reform, Rights on Visit
For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller (718) 596-7668; (917) 690-4391 (cell)
Karen Orenstein (202) 544-6911
June 6 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
(ETAN) today urged Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to promote
justice and reform, not the Indonesian military, when he visits
"Further normalizing the military relationship with Indonesia
will only undermine its democratic reform and efforts to achieve
accountability for past human rights violations in East Timor, West
Papua and elsewhere," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of
“Recent statements by Secretary Rumsfeld imply that he does not
believe that human rights – like the right to life – are universal.
We challenge him to justify his comments to the Indonesian and East
Timorese who suffered murder, torture, rape, and other crimes
against humanity at the hands of the Indonesian military,” said
Karen Orenstein, ETAN National Coordinator.
China Morning Post wrote Monday, “When asked about human rights
reforms within Indonesia's internally feared military, Mr. Rumsfeld
said he did not believe the ban [on U.S. military assistance] should
have ever been imposed. ‘I am not one of those people who believe
that every country should be like the United States,’ he said.”
"The failure to pursue justice for past crimes has no doubt led
some in East Timor to believe that their own use of violence would
be met with similar impunity, contributing to
the crisis there," Miller said. "This
failure also undermines justice and reform in Indonesia."
Last November, Congress agreed to
continue restrictions on foreign military financing (FMF) and
export of "lethal" military equipment to Indonesia until human
rights and other conditions were met. Two days after the bill became
law, the Department of State issued a
waiver removing these restrictions. Congress had imposed various
restrictions on military assistance for Indonesia since 1992.
When issuing the waiver, the State Department pledged that the
Bush administration would "carefully calibrate" any assistance to
the Indonesian military (TNI). Instead, the administration's actions
have demonstrated a policy of unrestrained engagement with the TNI.
In late May, the House of Representatives
Appropriations Committee refused to restore restrictions on
military assistance for Indonesia.
Earlier in May, the administration announced it would provide up
to $19 million for the Indonesian military through a new Pentagon
program "to build foreign military force capacity." In a letter
urging restriction of military assistance, human rights
groups wrote, "This amount dwarfs recent
assistance levels," and that "this appropriation further invalidates
any justification to provide FMF for Indonesia for FY07...."
In addition to assistance through the new Pentagon program,
recent administration moves have included the
participation of the commander of Kopassus, the Indonesian
military's notorious special forces unit, in the Pentagon's annual
Pacific Area Special Operation Conference (PASOC) in April. In May,
the Indonesian military for the first time participated in the Cobra
Gold regional military exercise with the United States and other
In March, the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command stated in
testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that he
endorsed "a rapid, concerted infusion of assistance" for the TNI.
In its final report, East Timor's
Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation called on
countries to make military assistance to Indonesia "totally
conditional on progress towards full democratisation, the
subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian
government, and strict adherence with international human rights..."
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 www.etan.org.
U.S.-Indonesia Military Assistance page