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House of Representatives Continues Military Training Ban for Indonesia

Ban on U.S. Weapons in East Timor Reaffirmed

Washington, September 21, 1998 – In a victory for human rights in East Timor, the House of Representatives voted last Friday to continue bans on military training and weapons to Indonesia. The Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act (HR 4569) includes provisions restricting use of weapons in Indonesian-occupied East Timor and restricting International Military Education and Training aid.

"No matter what may be distracting Washington right now, the Foreign Operations bill sends a clear message that the House of Representatives is watching carefully the behavior of the Indonesian armed forces, especially in East Timor," said Lynn Fredriksson, Washington Representative of the East Timor Action Network (ETAN). "By restricting training and use of U.S. weapons, Congress is saying that a normal relationship with the Indonesian military is impossible without a just resolution in East Timor and a genuine democratic transition in Indonesia."

The Foreign Operations appropriations bill, passed by the House on September 17, would continue the ban on IMET (International Military and Education Training) aid to Indonesia, allowing only expanded IMET. Expanded IMET is supposed to be restricted to classroom training in non-tactical matters such as civilian-military relations.

The bill also calls for a detailed report of all overseas military training for foreign militaries conducted or planned by the Pentagon. This provision resulted from the controversy over Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) of the Indonesian military revealed by ETAN and others earlier this year.

The House also affirmed current law by retaining the ban on the use of U.S. weapons in East Timor. The foreign operations bill states that "any agreement for the sale, transfer, or licensing of any lethal equipment or helicopter for Indonesia ... shall state that the United States expects that the items will not be used in East Timor." The Senate version of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill is stronger, saying flatly that any agreement "shall state that such items will not be used in East Timor." The Senate bill passed September 3.

In the report accompanying the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee urged the Indonesian government "to take bold and innovative steps to deal with the East Timor issue. In this regard, the Committee supports an internationally supervised referendum to determine a comprehensive settlement of the political status of East Timor."

The report stated that the committee was "very disturbed" that Indonesia had received military training through the JCET (Joint Combined Exchange Training) program, saying it was "certainly inconsistent with the ‘spirit’" of the IMET ban. The report said "the Committee emphasizes that it remains the Committee’s firm belief that at the present time all military training for Indonesia should be limited only to expanded IMET."

The House and Senate must still reconcile differing versions of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill before becoming law.

On July 10, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 237. The resolution urges the Clinton administration to "work actively, through the United Nations and with United States allies, ... to support an internationally supervised referendum on self-determination."

Over 100 members of the House sent separate letters on September 9 to President Clinton and Indonesian President Habibie urging a just solution based on the wishes of the people of East Timor. The letters, initiated by Representative Tony Hall (D-OH), also urged the release of political prisoners, including East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmão.

On December 7, 1975, Indonesia brutally invaded East Timor and formally annexed the territory the following July. The UN and most of the world’s countries do not recognize this act, and the East Timorese reject it. According to human rights groups and the Catholic Church more than 200,000 ­ one-third of the population ­ have been killed by the Indonesian occupation forces.

The East Timor Action Network/US was founded in November 1991, following the massacre of more than 271 peaceful demonstrators in Dili, East Timor. ETAN/US supports genuine self-determination and human rights for the people of East Timor in accordance with the UN Charter and General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. ETAN has 20 local chapters.

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