President Obama has cancelled his trip to
Indonesia, because of the budget crisis in the U.S. Our criticisms of U.S.
policy toward Indonesia remain; the policy must change.
President Obama to Put Human Rights at Center of U.S.-Indonesia Relations During Upcoming Visit to Indonesia
John M. Miller, ETAN, +1-718-596-7668, +1-917-690-4391
2013 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) today urged
President Obama to emphasize human rights and the rule of law in U.S.-Indonesia
relations. The president is scheduled to travel to Indonesia this weekend.
“The U.S. must not ignore injustice and human rights violations to advance
narrow strategic and economic interests that have little to do with the
well-being of the U.S. or Indonesian people,” said ETAN National Coordinator
John M. Miller. “While much has changed in Indonesia since the Suharto
dictatorship, U.S. security assistance does not promote further change. Instead
it encourages impunity and further violations of human rights.”
“We are calling for a new relationship between the two countries built on an
honest assessment of the bloody past,” said Miller. “Instead of offering more
weapons and more training to Indonesia’s military, President Obama should
suspend this assistance until there is an end to abuses and real accountability
for past human rights crimes.”
We are calling for a new relationship between the two countries built on an
honest assessment of the bloody past.
Since Obama's last visit to Indonesia, the human rights situation has
deteriorated in West Papua and religious intolerance has grown.
“President Obama can send a strong message against impunity by making clear he
and and other senior U.S. officials will not to meet with any Indonesian
politicians -- including likely presidential candidates, such as retired
generals Prabowo and Wiranto -- who have been credibly accused of human rights
and other crimes,” said Miller.
President Obama meets Indonesian
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, November 2009.
planned trip to Bali, Indonesia, Obama will attend the Asia Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) summit and engage in bi-lateral talks with Indonesian
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
ETAN has raised issues related to human rights and Timor-Leste at APEC, since
the first APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting near Seattle in 1993. When in 1994,
APEC last met in Indonesia, East Timorese protesters seized the spotlight when
they climbed the fence of the U.S. embassy in Jakarta.
One of the top contenders for next year’s presidential election, former General
Prabowo Subianto, is notorious for directing crimes against humanity in
Timor-Leste, Jakarta, and elsewhere. Prabowo headed Indonesia's notorious
Kopassus special forces and was commander of Indonesia's strategic forces
Another candidate is former General Wiranto, indicted for crimes against
humanity related to his command responsibility for atrocities in Timor-Leste as
defense minister and army commander in 1999. Both are barred from travel to the
Indonesia will hold parliamentary elections next April 9. The first round of the
presidential election will be held in early July 2014.
Indonesian security forces continue to suppress of freedom of expression in West
Papua and to engage in deadly “sweeps” to drive villagers from their homes. The
Indonesian government continues to jail peaceful protesters. It holds dozens of
political prisoners from West Papua and elsewhere. Access to West Papua by
international journalists, rights investigators and others remains
restricted. West Papuans are seeking internationally-mediated negotiations with
Jakarta on their political status and other human rights issues.
Houses of worship of
religious minorities face physical attack and their followers confront
discrimination and physical violence in many areas of Indonesia. Police and
public officials often refuse to defend those under threat and sometimes take
the side of the attackers, using their office to spread bigotry and enforce
Assistance and Human Rights
government has not yet apologized for its role in supporting human rights
violations -- including collaboration with Suharto's seizure of power in 1965
and the subsequent
mass killings; the turnover of West Papua to Indonesia; and the backing of
Indonesia's illegal invasion and occupation of Timor-Leste. Instead the Obama
administration has moved closer -- most recently through the
sale of deadly Apache attack helicopters -- to the largely unreformed
Indonesian military and police responsible for many of those crimes.
The helicopter sale was announced in late August and includes no conditions on
their use. The helicopters will increase the Indonesian military's ability to
pursue "sweeping" operations in West Papua and extend its capacity to stage
operations after dark and in remote areas.
President Obama can send a strong message against impunity by making clear
he and and other senior U.S. officials will not to meet with any Indonesian
politicians -- including likely presidential candidates, such as retired
generals Prabowo and Wiranto -- who have been credibly accused of human
rights and other crimes.
This sale represents the latest step in the Pentagon's increased engagement with
the Indonesian military (TNI). In 1999, restrictions on U.S. engagement with the
Indonesian military were tightened as the TNI and its militia were destroying
East Timor (now Timor-Leste) following the UN-conducted referendum on
independence. Through the 2000s, restrictions on engagement with the Indonesian
military were gradually lifted, even though it has not been held accountable for
atrocities in Timor-Leste and throughout the archipelago, and continues to
violate human rights violations continue in
West Papua and elsewhere.
In November 2010, prior to a previous trip to Indonesia,
ETAN urged the President "to decisively break with past U.S. support for
torture, disappearances, rape, invasion and illegal occupation, extrajudicial
murder and environmental devastation. U.S. weapons, training, political backing
and economic support of Indonesia facilitated these crimes. President Obama
should apologize to the peoples of Indonesia and Timor-Leste for the U.S. role
in their suffering during the Suharto years and to offer condolences to
Suharto's many victims throughout the archipelago."
TNI personnel are not accountable to the civilian judicial system, nor is the
TNI as an institution subordinated to civilian government policy or operational
control. For decades, the TNI has drawn funding from a vast network of legal and
illegal businesses enabling it to evade even civilian government budgetary
controls. Legislation to restrain the TNI has been weak and only partially
implemented. The Indonesian government has steadfastly refused to cooperate with
Timor-Leste and international judicial processes.
Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR)
urged nations to "regulate military sales and cooperation with Indonesia more
effectively and make such support 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,
including respect for the right of self-determination."
ETAN, formed in 1991, advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for
Timor-Leste and Indonesia. Since its founding, ETAN has worked to condition U.S.
military and other assistance to Indonesia on respect for human rights and
genuine reform. See ETAN's web site:
Advocacy Team Open Letter to President Obama