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Background on Kopassus and Brimob

Kopassus and Brimob are the worst of the worst among Indonesia’s security forces. Both organizations have long histories of violating human rights throughout Indonesia and in East Timor. U.S. engagement with these organizations will leave their many victims shaking their heads in disbelief at the U.S. government claim that it is using security assistance to promote human rights and accountability. Below is a list of some of their crimes.

Kopassus - The Komando Pasukan Khusus is Indonesia’s Special Forces Command. Formed in 1952 in the wake of Indonesian independence from the Dutch, Kopassus conducts special operations missions, including intelligence gathering, counter-terrorism, deep penetration and other specialized missions. 

The unit is notorious for its severe human rights violations, especially in suppressing Indonesia’s independence movements, but also against civilians including trade unionists, students and human rights activists. In the cases outlined below and in the attached document, their perpetrators have consistently escaped accountability with light sentences, no punishment at all, or even promotion.  

In West Papua, which remains largely closed to journalists and independent monitors, its forces have been implicated in human rights violations including kidnapping, rape, and violent sweeping operations to root out members of the ragtag Papuan independence movement (OPM) or those who express opposition to the central government.

Outstanding cases involving Kopassus include:

  • During the pro-democracy movement leading up to the ouster of President Suharto in 1998, numerous student activists were beaten, intimidated. A number of students “disappeared” by Kopassus forces have never been found.
  • Until September 1999, Kopassus routinely engaged in torture, rape and murder in East Timor, and trained the TNI-affiliated militias which murdered around 1,500 people and destroyed most of East Timor’s infrastructure. Major General Sunarko (also spelled Soenarko), the current commander of Kopassus, was stationed in East Timor in 1996 and 1997 and again in 1999, where he was Intelligence Assistant to the Kopassus Commander.
  • In 2001, Kopassus forced abducted and murdered Theys Eluay, the most prominent Papuan leader. In 2003, four members of Kopassus were convicted for the killing in a military court. The court decisions were criticized for not focusing on those who had ordered
  • the killing, but rather those who had followed orders. Those convicted of the murder received light sentences of 42 months in jail.
  • In Aceh, Kopassus forces engaged in torture, targeted killings, and other violations leading up to and after the 2005 peace agreement between pro-independence forces (GAM) and the Indonesian government.

Brimob - Brigade Mobil (in English, Mobile Brigade) is the ‘anti-riot’ branch of the Indonesian National Police which deals with special operations. A paramilitary organization, its training and equipment is almost identical to the Indonesian army’s (TNI), and it conventionally operates under joint military command in areas such as Papua and, until 2005, Aceh. Like Kopassus, Brimob personnel have been implicated in serious human rights abuses and continue to operate with near total impunity. 

Outstanding cases involving Brimob include:
  • In West Papua, Brimob officers have been implicated in serious human rights violations, including kidnapping, rape, torture, and indiscriminate violence. Despite these well-documented abuses, Brimob units continue to operate in the region. These operations, which often entail destruction of homes, churches and other village infrastructure, force civilians into surrounding jungles where many have died due to lack of food and access to medical care. Current Brimob Commander Police General Inspector Sylvanus Wenas and others were accused by Komnas HAM, Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights, violations of human rights in an attack in 2000 on a student hostel in Abepura, West Papua. A court case against Brimob officers who committed abuses in 2001 during “Operation Sweep and Crush” in Wasior has been continually delayed.
  • During the East Timorese independence movement, Brimob forces were deployed in substantial numbers and carried out well-documented indiscriminate killings, house burnings, and torture. Many of the commanding officers remain free, unpunished for their crimes.
  • Brimob was frequently at the forefront of government forces attacks in Aceh against both the Free Aceh Movement and a wide range of civilians, including human rights activities, journalists and others.



The following list of human rights violations committed by Kopassus forces was compiled from reports from the U.S. State Department, credible international and domestic human rights organizations, and reports from news agencies.


June 24, 2009: New Human Rights Watch report: Indonesia: Abuses by Special Forces Continue in Papua, Military Allies Should Push Jakarta for Accountability. Documents how Kopassus soldiers operating in the town of Merauke, in Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua, arrest Papuans without legal authority, and beat and mistreat those they take back to their barracks.

October 2007: Pastor Johanes Djonga, who had been targeted by the military for speaking out on human rights and political issues in West Papua, said he had been spied on by members of Kopassus since July. Amnesty International reported that in August, a local Kopassus commander threatened to kill Djonga and “bury him in a 700-meter-deep gorge”. According to an earlier report, Amnesty International said another Kopassus officer alleged that Djonga was involved in illegal logging and food smuggling, accusations that may have stemmed from Djonga’s activism, as no links were ever found.

18 Oct 2007: Charles Tafor, head of the Arso district, was beaten by a Kopassus member on duty at the border with Papua New Guinea. Local residents then blockaded the main road in Arso and demanded the withdrawal of all Kopassus troops posted in Keerom regency. The military eventually removed the soldier, though plans were soon announced to increase troop levels in the area.

July 2002: West Papuan human rights group ELSHAM reported a series of logging-related human rights abuses committed between February and June 2002 by members of the Indonesian armed forces stationed in sub-districts around Jayapura. The report documents a number of cases in which Papuans were forced to hand over logs to members of the military. They were threatened with guns, beaten and, in one case, forced to crawl on the ground and eat soil. The perpetrators were members of the elite special forces, Kopassus, and members of Infantry Battalion 126 of the Bukit Barisan command.

June 2001: Sunday school teacher Hubertus Wresman was kidnapped from his parents' home in Betaf in the middle of the night by Kopassus troops, according to Amnesty International (AI) and Wresman's relatives. His uncle, Gaspar Wespar, went to the local Kopassus base to inquire after his nephew, and said he was threatened and kicked and beaten. Wespar himself disappeared shortly thereafter. Neither one has been seen since.



2005: On January 3, in Bireuen, Aceh, six members of Kopassus reportedly killed two men and injured another when the men tried to intervene in the apprehension of the son of a GAM member.

July 2003: An Acehnese man narrated his experience to Human Rights Watch after being arrested by Kopassus officers during a military operation in his village on June 5, 2003:


“After I was arrested I was taken to an illegal post. It was a torture place. At that time I was interrogated and ill treated. They bound my hands and covered my eyes and I was hit repeatedly on my body, then they shocked me with electricity and I was abused until I was bruised. I was then taken to Lhokseumawe KP 3 [name of military post] for one night. When I got there they abused me until I was unconscious. They questioned me about guns. And I said that I don’t have any guns. They also asked about my friends, and I said that I was not with any friends, I was alone. Then I was hit with some wood and the butt of a gun. And this is the scar from that abuse [showed interviewer a scar]. After one night at KP 3, the next day I was transferred to Lhokseumawe prison.” (HRW)


March 2002: Koes Sofyan, a human rights activist and head of a local NGO, was detained by Kopassus members. He was held for nearly three months and tortured before being released without charged.  



  • Kopassus and its predecessor Kopassandha were involved in East Timor from the pre-invasion incursions that led to the deaths of five Australian-based journalists in Balibo to the Indonesian military’s final destructive campaign following the pro-independence vote in 1999. An Australian inquest into the murder of the journalists, singled out Kopassandha commander Captain Yunus Yosfiah (later information minister) of directly ordering the murders.

  • Numerous cases of human rights violations by Kopassus troops are documented in the final report of East Timor's Commission on Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation (CAVR).

  • Kopassus has been explicitly linked to the recruitment, training and funding of the Gadapaksi (Young Guard Upholding Integration) militia, along with the Saka/Sera militias that were responsible for the violence and destruction in the run-up to and after the referendum for independence. The Saka/Sera militia was headed by Kopassus Sgt. Joanico da Costa.

  • September 1999: A Kopassus unit member ordered the Tim Alfa militia to attack a church group travelling in Baucau, East Timor. Nine people were killed.

  • Kopassus led the special forces Intelligence Task Force SGI (Satuan Tugas Intelijen) based in Dili, where torture was routinely conducted. Involved were top officials from Kopassus: Col. Anwar and Lt. Col. Yayat Sudrajat. Sudjarat was recommended for prosecution by the Indonesian government-sanctioned Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations (KPP HAM) in East Timor for passing weapons to militia groups. SGI was first headed by Brig. Gen. Muahidin Simbolon in 1992. In 1995, the SGI was commanded by Kopassus Brig. Gen. Amirul Isnaeni and by Kopassus Lt. Col Wioyotomo Nugroho between June 1998 and 1999.  

  • Among the military officers with Kopassus links who trained and directed militias in 1999: Brig. Gen. Mahidin Simbolon, Brig. Gen. Amirul Isnaeni, Col. Gerhan Lentara, Lt. Col. Wioyotomo Nugroho, Gen. Subagyo, Maj Gen. Zacky Makarim, Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Syamsuddin, Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri, Col Sunarko, Col. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, Lt. Col. Noer Muis, LtCol (Inf) Yayat Sudrajat, Lt Rahman Zulkarnaen, Sgt Syaful Anwar, Sgt-Major Carlos Amaral, Gen Subagyo Hadi Siswojo
  • September 1999: Kopassus soldiers backed Aitarak militia in the attacks on the official residence of Bishop Belo. More than 5,000 refugees sheltered in the residence were moved to the police headquarters in Dili, then into Indonesian-controlled West Timor.

  • Following the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre four activists believed involved in the demonstration were killed by soldiers identified as members of Kopassus in Sorolau (Ainaro).


May 1998: Tim Mawar (Rose team), a special group within Kopassus, kidnapped student pro-democracy activists at the height of the democracy movement in Indonesia. The students were never found, and are presumed dead. Of the 11 members of the team prosecuted for the kidnapping of nine of the students who survived the ordeal, several receive light prison sentences, some are discharged, and others continue to rise in the ranks of the military. 


September 1984: In one of the most notorious (and unresolved) cases of Suharto-era human rights abuses, Sriyanto Muntrasan, future head of Kopassus, orders his soldiers to open fire on a crowd of protestors near the Tanjung Priok harbor in Jakarta. Estimates of those killed range from 23 into the hundreds. In 2004, ruling against the prosecution's claims that the soldiers opened fire without warning or provocation, Muntrasan was acquitted by a court of all charges against him. Others in the unit received only light sentences which were later overturned.



February 1989: A military commander in Lampung, Sumatra named AM Hendropriyono led hundreds of troops in an attack on the small village of Talangsari over their identification with a ‘deviant’ Muslim sect, killing hundreds. Hendropriyono later rose to prominence as an officer in Kopassus and was head of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) at the time of that agency’s alleged involvement in the murder of the leading human rights defender Munir . He has never been prosecuted for his involvement in the incident or other human rights violations in East Timor.



The following list of human rights violations committed by Brimob forces was compiled from reports from the U.S. State Department, credible international and domestic human rights organizations, and reports from news agencies.


June 2009: A "sweep operation' in Puncak Jaya, reportedly carried out by Indonesia's mobilized police or "Brimob," has killed several Papuans and led to the death of others. People's homes have been raided and burned and farm animals killed. Hundreds of Papuans have been forced from homes and have sought refuge in surrounding forests where some have already died due to a lack of food, shelter and access to medical care. Reportedly, seven young girls were taken hostage and raped. At least five villages are believed affected, but the military has also raided houses in Mulia, the Puncak Jaya district capital.

April 6, 2009: Brimob opened fire on pro-Independence demonstrators in West Papua. Brimob clashes with protestors resulted in 11 people injured, 4 of them seriously. Among the injured was a 9 year old child.

March 10, 2008: During a demonstration outside a local police station in Enarotali following the mistreatment of a civil servant by police, Brimob and police forces fired on the crowd, reportedly injuring nine and causing hundreds to flee into the forest to escape.


March 2008: In a report presented to the UN Human Rights Council following his visit to Indonesia, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak reported receiving “consistent allegations” that in West Papua, Brimob has “routinely been engaging in largely indiscriminate village ‘sweeping’ operations in search of alleged independence activists and their supporters, or raids on university boarding houses, using excessive force.”


February 2008: Agence France-Presse reported that two Brimob personnel  were arrested following the killing of an unarmed man during a house raid in a remote area of Papua. The article noted that “soldiers have long been accused of a range of human rights violations in Papua but detentions of military personnel are rare.”


July 31, 2007: Radio New Zealand International reports that Brimob and TNI forces have attacked and occupied Kingmi Church in Jayapura, injuring several church members in the process. The attack appeared to stem from the church’s advocacy for political and human rights, as well as alleged support for the Papuan independence movement (OPM). It is the third attack and seizure of the church since December 2006. 


July 2007: Human Rights Watch releases “Out of Sight,” a report on the human rights situation in the remote Central Highlands region of West Papua, detailing alleged abuses by police and Brimob forces in the region over the past two years. HRW found Brimob officers responsible for rape, violent sweeping operations resulting in the deaths of civilians, and violent dispersal of peaceful protests for Papuan independence.


September 2006: In the city of Mulia, Brimob opened fire on residents protesting fuel price hikes, injuring three civilians, two seriously.


March 2006: Following the deaths of three Brimob members and a police officer during protests against the Freeport mining company in Jayapura, Brimob forces retaliated, according to a report by the International Crisis Group: “In the days after the riot, police conducted sweeps of student dormitories, reportedly beating civilians and firing shots into the air. Stray bullets wounded two women and a 10-year-old girl. Police took over 70 people for questioning and so far arrested 15, but much about the Abepura riot remains unclear.”


Brimob forces were also believed to have detained and tortured more than 20 protestors after the incident.


August 2005: In response to a report that OPM leader Goliat Tabuni was in the Puncak Jaya region, Brimob conducted sweeping operations across 13 villages, reportedly destroying homes and fields in the process. The operation resulted in an estimated 16,000 residents fleeing their homes to escape. One woman narrated her experience to Human Rights Watch researchers:

“For four months we lived in the jungle, from August until November 2005. During this time we were refugees. We could not get any good food as we were in the middle of the jungle and it was difficult to go to the gardens for food as all the pathways leading to and from the villages were guarded by members of Brimob and TNI. So for four months we ate only nettles and bananas. We were a group of eight adults—three women, five men—and three children...Two of our members died in the jungle as they could not be helped.”


Due to restrictions on media and NGO work in West Papua, it is not known the total number dead or displaced.  


May 2005: Brimob is involved in attack on student demonstrations in Abepura. Several students are injured.


March 2005: During Brimob operations in Tolikara, houses are burned and destroyed, forcing a number of families to flee to the mountains. .


February 2005: Brimob soldiers fired on a group of villagers who were petitioning for better wages from a military firm, Djajanti Group. One man was wounded.


2005: During a peaceful flag-raising ceremony of the Papuan flag of independence (banned by Indonesia) in the Bolakme region, Brimob members attacked and beat the 12 civilians present.


August 2004: In a sweeping operation in the Puncak Jaya District, Brimob and Kopassus assaulted villagers, destroyed homes and killed livestock.


April 2004: Brimob personnel shot dead five people near the BP LNG project. Officials claimed the shooting was triggered by an attack on police troops by the OPM.


2001: In Wasior, Brimob conducted a sustained assault on alleged Papuan separatists (aptly named “Operation Sweep and Crush”, Operasi Penyisiran dan Penumpasan). Entire villages were razed sending inhabitants fleeing into the forest. An Amnesty International report found that “over 140 people were detained, tortured or otherwise ill-treated during the course of the operation. One person died in custody as a result of torture while at least seven people are believed to have been extrajudicially executed.

August 2000: Brimob troops opened fire on a group of Papuans who were raising the Papuan flag of independence in Sorong, Papua on the morning of August 22. Three Papuans were killed and at least 12 others were injured; one policeman was injured. After the police failed to persuade the crowd to disperse peacefully, heated arguments broke out between the Papuans and the police. Some sources allege that police then began firing their weapons; two other sources allege that members of the crowd began a scuffle and threw stones first. However, all sources agree that the police overreacted and began firing indiscriminately into the crowd.


2005: Humanitarian volunteers reported that TNI and Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) personnel killed three suspected rebels after capturing them during a joint operation in Serba Jaya village in Aceh Jaya District.


2005: On March 3, Brimob forces detained Muladi bin Sulaiman, a farmer from Aceh Jaya Regency suspected of being a GAM member, and beat him until he was unconscious. He was later transferred to the West Aceh district police station before his release.  


2005: On June 7, on Kayee Ciret Mountain in Aceh, TNI soldiers shot and killed two farmers and wounded five others in a raid on a hut in an area suspected as a hideout for GAM rebels. The attack occurred at dawn, while the farmers slept. On August 3, in the north Aceh village of Kandang, six gunmen stormed into a number of houses and shot and killed three local women. The GAM accused the Brimob of carrying out the attack because relatives of the victims had links to the GAM. The security forces rejected this allegation, but the NGO Aceh Referendum Information Center (SIRA) reported that a group of Brimob visited the village on the night in question. Village witnesses identified the gunmen as police and recognized the group's leader, Syarifuddin, a sergeant feared for his alleged brutality.


2005: On March 3, Brimob forces detained Muladi bin Sulaiman, a farmer from Aceh Jaya Regency suspected of being a GAM member, and beat him until he was unconscious. He was later transferred to West Aceh police resort before his release.  


2003: On January 9, police physically prevented thousands of civilians from attending a rally demanding the withdrawal of the security forces from the province. At one point, Brimob officers fired warning shots; four demonstrators were injured, two seriously. Police later charged two speakers at the rally with "spreading hatred."


2003: Occasionally Brimob personnel used arson as a form of punishment. On October 9, an Aceh police official said 40 police officers, some from Brimob, were questioned for allegedly burning down 80 shops and homes. None were prosecuted. Witnesses said police started the fires after GAM members killed two policemen.


June 2003: Another Acehnese man was arrested on June 6, 2003, by police in Cane Town, sub-district Bulalas in Aceh Tenggara. He was in police detention for two weeks and then transferred to the barracks of the Brimob (mobile police brigade) unit from Medan. While at the Brimob barracks he was beaten badly. He told Human Rights Watch:

“Without asking any questions they straight away severely beat me, along with two other people who were detained with me, until my mouth was really swollen, it was really sore, but in fact they kept on hitting, kicking, spitting on me. I felt really humiliated, treated like that by them…They were wearing Brimob uniforms, a mixture of uniforms, there were also some wearing Kopassus uniforms, there were lots of them. We were ordered to sit on the floor and then beaten until bloody.”


2002: The October 2002 burning of 80 shops and homes in Keude Seuneddon, North Aceh, an incident that occurred immediately after two Brimob officers were killed. Witnesses alleged that police burned the buildings intentionally as a form of revenge; however, in September, Police Commissioner Suryadarma claimed the fires resulted from the explosion of a stove at the market. He stated that this occurred at a time when Brimob members were at the site chasing rebels who had killed the two police officers. The case was under investigation at year's end.


June 2002: Brimob officers in Banda Aceh detained 12 individuals (10 of them university students), took them to a police station, interrogated them over possible GAM links, and beat them.


2001: A July report by KONTRAS stated that police and the TNI tortured 159 persons in Aceh. For example, a suspected GAM member told HRW that a joint security force of police, Brimob, and military arrested and blindfolded him on April 2. He said that his interrogators "used pliers to pull the nail off his left thumb, punctured his nose, and caused other scars on his forearm and nipple."


2001: According to the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (ELSHAM), Brimob forces responded to the killing of five Brimob members by unidentified gangs by conducting operations against villagers in Ransiki (Papua) and arrested and tortured nine persons, including a 15-year-old boy, who they beat unconscious.

2001: AI reported that Brimob beat, shot, and killed three high school students detained at the Krueng Sabee police station in Caleng, West Aceh on June 18.


June 2001: AI reported that Brimob beat, shot, and killed three high school students detained at the Krueng Sabee police station in Caleng, West Aceh on June 18.


April 2001: A male student in the town of Pidie was executed by suspected Brimob forces in Pidie. The body was never found.


February 2001: During clashes between GAM and TNI/Brimob forces in Idi Rayeuk, the government forces burned the center of the town, including a large number of civilian houses and private property. Between 6,000 and 9,000 people were displaced.


January 2001, East Aceh: Execution of two suspected GAM members by TNI and BRIMOB. (Aceh Times)


January 2001, East Aceh: Torture of three villagers during interrogation by BRIMOB during a sweep operation.


January 2001, North Aceh: Torture of a number of people and execution of two villagers by TNI and Brimob during sweep operations. Troops also ransacked houses.


January 2001, Banda Aceh: Two villagers taken by Brimob during sweep operations and are still missing.


January 2001, Pidie, Aceh: Brimob entered the Kampung Baro village and searched many homes, where sources say they stole upwards of 5 million rupiah.


January 2001, Aceh: Harassment and intimidation of civilian population by Brimob and TNI in two villages in North Aceh and one village in East Aceh.


2000: On August 27, Brimob officers tortured three staff members of the international humanitarian organization Oxfam in Aceh.


December 2000, North Aceh: Alleged torture and execution of three aid workers employed by the Rehabilitation Action for Torture Victims by Brimob and TNI. (HRW, Amnesty Intl)


December 2000, North Aceh: Shooting of 5 villagers and burning of houses in Alai Bai village. Two killed and three wounded.


December 2000, North Aceh: Sweep operation in Duson Tanjong. One civilian killed and several injured.


November 2000, West Aceh: Abduction and execution of five young men in Labuhan Haji.


December 2000: Two women, one 15 years old, are released from a local Brimob post in Lhok Jamin, after having been forced to work as “sex slaves” since being taken off a bus during a Brimob sweeping operation.


Brimob was deployed in substantial numbers in East Timor. According to police documents, 2,497, or almost half, of the Police deployed in East Timor by August 1999 were from Brimob. Its officers committed most of the police human rights violations in East Timor in 1999.

7 September 1999: Brimob fired directly into the UNAMET compound in Baucau for nearly an hour with apparent attempt to kill or injures. However, there were no injuries.

6 September 1999: TNI and Brimob troops backed militias as they executed scores of people, including three priests, who had sought refuge in the Cathedral in the town of Suai.

4 September 1999: UNAMET convoy ambushed by militias, police and TNI as it left the compound in Liquica. One US Civpol was shot and seriously wounded.

26 August 1999: On the final day of campaigning a uniformed member of the Mobile Brigade shot a civilian, student Bernardino Agusto Guterres (a.k.a. Bernardino da Costa), in the back with his automatic weapon, killing him instantly.  

April 6, 1999:  As many as 60 people were massacred  in Liquica church. Although the attack was carried out mainly by BMP militiamen, eyewitnesses have testified that TNI (including Kopassus) and Brimob troops backed up the miltias and fired their weapons during the attack.

May 1997: Markas Brimob attack. Several civilians detained.


2005: Attack by a group of Brimob officers in Kampu Pisa, North Maluku, which injured 12 persons.



2002: An interfaith organization operating in Poso, Central Sulawesi, reported that high rates of depression among female IDPs because many had been raped and impregnated by Brimob members.

April 2009: Two Cirebon men were held, beaten and tortured by three Brimob personnel in order to force a confession to receiving stolen goods, a crime they did not commit. One of the victims had his hand broken by Brimob personnel and complained of sore ribs.

April 28, 2008: Two Batanghari University students in Jambi, Sumatra were hospitalized with serious injuries to their heads and internal organs after they were attacked by about 30 Brimob personnel.


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