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Reps Write Rumsfeld on US-Indonesia Military to Military Ties

The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Rumsfeld,

We were surprised and disappointed to learn that the Bilateral Defense Dialogue between the U.S. Pacific Command and the Indonesian military (TNI), is scheduled to reconvene. This additional step towards resumption of normalized military to military relations without setting benchmarks for a reform of the TNI is a cause for concern.

As you may know, a Bilateral Defense Dialogue (BDD) between Indonesia and the U.S. has not occurred since 1997, in part because of the tremendous TNI violence committed in East Timor in 1999. Since then, the TNI has successfully evaded accountability for its well-documented crimes against humanity and war crimes in East Timor, and there has been little progress in improving human rights practices in Indonesia. Additionally, the TNI continues its brutal tactics in Aceh, Papua, and elsewhere. There are reports that the TNI has extensive connections to the terror group Laskar Jihad, which has re-emerged in renewed violence in Maluku and is operating in Papua. The TNI is also implicated in the murder of U.S. citizens Rick Spier and Ted Burgon, in what the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta described as "an outrageous act of terrorism." Although we are pleased that an indictment was recently issued in this case, we believe that further investigation into collaborators in this ambush is warranted.

Given the fact that so many serious human rights issues relating to the Indonesian military remain unresolved, we respectfully ask you to reconsider resuming the Bilateral Defense Dialogue. We believe a resumption of the dialogue at this time would go against the strong posture Congress and the Executive Branch took in the late 1990's to severely limit military assistance, joint exercises, and exchanges with the TNI until human rights issues were addressed.

While the TNI is being given credit for some reforms, including refraining from interfering in the April 5th national election, they should not be given too much credit for too little reform. The absence of misconduct by the military in an election should be expected, not praised. The TNI's welcome withdrawal from parliament occurred several years ago; the military's real power lies in its vast territorial command structure, which remains intact.

In the future, there may be a possibility of normalized US- Indonesia military to military ties, but first we must have genuine reform of the TNI according to well-laid out benchmarks that include a respect for human rights and the rule of law and an end to impunity for serious human rights violations. These are objectives expected of any professional military and the TNI should not be an exception.

We request that the Department of Defense voice its concern with all levels of leadership in the TNI about the brutal human rights record of the Indonesian military. Specifically, we hope that you can weigh in on critical issues such as the military campaigns in Aceh and Papua, the role of Indonesian security forces in the violence in Maluku, the murder of Americans, justice for East Timor, and transparency in the TNI budget. It is imperative that these concerns not be waived in the pursuit of other goals. We again urge you to reconsider the decision to resume the United States' Bilateral Defense Dialogue with the Indonesian military.

Thank you for your consideration of these most important matters. We look forward to your prompt response.


Lane Evans (D-IL)
Smith (R-NJ)
Thomas Tancredo (R-CO),

Dennis Kucinich
Bernie Sanders
Diane Watson
Barney Frank
Nita Lowey
Raul Grijalva
Peter DeFazio
Ed Markey
Carolyn Maloney
James Oberstar
Maurice Hinchey
Michael Capuano
Donald Payne
Barbara Lee
Eleanor Holmes
Carolyn McCarthy
Robert Brady
Bennie Thompson
Jan Schakowsky
Ted Strickland
William Clay
Patrick Kennedy
Zoe Lofgren

David Price
Jim Langevin
Rosa DeLauro
Sam Farr
Darlene Hooley
Henry Waxman
Tom Udall
Pete Stark
Marty Meehan
Jose Serrano
George Miller
James Greenwood
Lynn Woolsey
Chaka Fattah
Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Bobby Rush

Neil Abercrombie
John Lewis
Julia Carson
Steven Rothman
David Wu
Nydia Velazquez
Hilda Solis

Cc: Secretary of State Colin Powell
US Pacific Commander Admiral Thomas Fargo

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Dear Colleague:

We invite you to sign a letter to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld urging him to consider and address the grave and long unanswered human rights violations of the Indonesian military (TNI) before normalizing our military to military relations.

Indonesia has enjoyed very limited military to military relations with the United States since masterminding one of the gravest war crimes of the 20th Century—the pillaging, rape and complete destruction of East Timor. Indonesia’s military forces and police have also carried out gross human rights violations in the embattled Aceh province, Papua and the Mollucas. Further, two American schoolteachers, Rick Spier and Ted Burgon, were killed in a brutal ambush in West Papua. Although an indictment was recently issued in this case, further investigation into possible military collaborations in this ambush is warranted.

The Indonesian military of today is no different than that which destroyed East Timor. Reports from the conflict in Aceh reveal that the TNI continues to violate human rights, all while banning journalists and human rights and aid organizations from accessing the region. Meanwhile, the United States is quickly moving towards improved relations with the Indonesian military.

The Department of Defense has claimed the TNI is in the process of reform, while not laying out any consequential evidence. Until there is serious reform, the Department of Defense needs to yield to past Congressional and Executive actions that forbid a normalization of relations.

We urge you to sign the enclosed letter to Secretary Rumsfeld and ask him to reconsider the Department of Defense’s actions towards resumption of normalized military to military ties.



Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress

Return to Congressional Action on East Timor: Statements, etc.