STATEMENT BY THE WEST PAPUA ADVOCACY TEAM REGARDING THE U.S.
GOVERNMENT'S DECISION TO RESUME COOPERATION WITH THE INDONESIAN SPECIAL
The decision of the Obama Administration to begin "gradual and limited"
engagement with the Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) ignores more than a
decade-old, bi-partisan, bi-cameral Congressional consensus opposing
assistance to that organization.
Opposition to U.S. military cooperation with Kopassus is based on that
unit's undisputed record of human rights abuse, criminality and
unaccountability before the law. U.S. Administration claims that the
organization has recently adopted a reform course is belied by credible
independent reporting that Kopassus continues to abuse human rights with
impunity. A June 2009 Human Rights Watch report detailed Kopassus abuse of
civilians in Merauke in the troubled province of West Papua.
Administration claims that those Kopassus personnel "convicted" of human
rights abuse have been removed from the organization ignores the reality
that the impunity enjoyed by Kopassus personnel for decades has ensured that
only a handful of Kopassus personnel have ever faced justice in a credible
criminal court. In a rare example of judicial action, seven Kopassus
officers were convicted of the 2001 murder of the leading Papuan political
figure, Theys Eluay. Of the seven convicted of what the judge in the case
termed a "torture-murder," all remain on active duty after serving brief
sentences (the longest being three and one half years imprisonment). Six
left Kopassus but one remains in the organization.
Administration assurances that any Kopassus candidate for U.S. training will
undergo "vetting" by the State Department ignores past failures of the State
Department to screen out Kopassus rights abusers and criminals.
The Administration announcement correctly notes that since the fall of the
dictator Suharto, with whose military the U.S. military maintained close
ties, Indonesia has been on a democratic course. But the Administration
fails to acknowledge that the gravest threat to ongoing democratic progress
is the Indonesian military which continues to evade civilian control.
Despite 2004 legislative requirements that the military divest itself of its
vast empire of legal and illegal businesses by 2009, the military retains
this source of off-budget funding.
Kopassus and other military personnel continue to enjoy impunity before the
law for human rights abuse and criminal activity including people
trafficking and drug running as acknowledged in past U.S. State Department
human rights reporting.
The Indonesian military, and particularly Kopassus and intelligence agencies
continue to repress peaceful protest, most notably targeting the people of
West Papua. The military, especially Kopassus, but also the U.S.-funded
"Detachment 81" and the militarized police (BRIMOB), routinely intimidate,
threaten and accost Papuans who non-violently resist denial of fundamental
rights, illegal expropriation of their lands and marginalization. Military
and police units have repeatedly conducted purportedly anti-rebel "sweep
operations" in the remote Central Highlands forcing thousands of villagers
into the forests where they suffer lack of food, shelter and access to
medical care. Twenty percent of Kopassus personnel (approximately 1,000
personnel) are stationed in West Papua.
The U.S. Administration's decision to resume cooperation with the most
criminal and unreformed element of the Indonesian military removes critical
international pressure for reform and professionalization of the broader
Indonesian military. It signals to Indonesian human rights advocates who
have born the brunt of security force intimidation that they stand alone in
their fight for respect for human rights and genuine reform in Indonesia.
contact: Ed McWilliams, edmcw @ msn.com, +1-575-648-2078
West Papua Report