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Secretary of Defense Must Not Undermine Reform, Rights on Visit to Jakarta

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 Jakarta Tuesday.

"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 ETAN.

“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.

The South 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 countries.

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


See also:

U.S.-Indonesia Military Assistance page




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