For Immediate Release
On Eve of Megawati Visit, Groups Urge Bush to Maintain Restrictions on Military Ties with Indonesia
September 11 Tragedy Shouldn’t Derail Congressional Support for Human Rights
September 18, 2001 -- As Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri prepared to meet President Bush, the Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) and the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) urged the Bush administration not to strengthen ties with the Indonesian military. Citing ongoing human rights abuses and lack of accountability for violations, the groups said renewing military relations with Indonesia would set back reform efforts and democracy in Indonesia while undermining East Timor's security.
"In its drive to build an international coalition in response to the horrible attacks in New York and Washington, the U.S. must not sacrifice the rights of Indonesians and East Timorese," said Kurt Biddle, Washington Coordinator for IHRN. "Renewal of military ties with the brutal Indonesian military will only encourage their terror tactics against the people of Aceh, West Papua and elsewhere."
Since Megawati assumed Indonesia’s presidency in late July, the Bush administration has stepped up efforts to restore a closer relationship between the Pentagon and the Indonesian military (TNI). She is scheduled to meet President Bush on Wednesday.
"Megawati has belatedly recognized East Timor's independence and recently met its leaders. However, the Indonesian military, which played an active role in the destabilization of her predecessor, continues to thwart attempts at democratic reform," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.
“We feel great sorrow for the loss of life in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. We also mourn the loss of East Timorese and Indonesian lives at the hands of the Indonesian military. At this time, the U.S. government must continue to withhold aid for this deadly force. Increased assistance for the TNI by the U.S. military will only lead to further loss of innocent civilians,” said Biddle.
Due to the horrific attacks on September 11, IHRN canceled its planned public demonstration at the Indonesian Embassy during President Megawati’s visit to Washington. The group stressed, however, that their message to Ms. Megawati remains the same.
"The Indonesian military has answered to no one for their crimes against humanity and they continue to kill hundreds of civilians. Nothing has changed as far as human rights are concerned. Now is not the time to reward this brutal force," said Biddle.
The United States has withheld most military assistance from Indonesia since the TNI and its militia proxies razed East Timor in September 1999 after it voted overwhelmingly for independence. Congress restricted most military assistance through the "Leahy conditions," first passed in late 1999. These conditions include the safe return of East Timorese refugees, prosecution of those responsible for atrocities in East Timor and Indonesia, and security for East Timor from military and militia activity. None of these conditions have been met. The full U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate Appropriations Committee recently voted to renew these restrictions, with the Senate committee adding additional conditions.
Last spring, James Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, told Congress, "To date, the Government of Indonesia has not met the requirements of the Leahy amendment in pursuing accountability for human rights abuses by the TNI in East Timor or elsewhere.”
The Indonesian military and police continue to commit atrocities throughout the island nation. In Aceh, the armed forces' campaign against the local population continues. On August 9 in the town of Julok, armed men lined up local civilians and shot to death at least 30 men, wounding another nine. Eyewitnesses say the killers were TNI troops. Over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Aceh since the beginning of the year.
Although some refugees recently returned to East Timor, up to 80,000 remain trapped in poor conditions in Indonesian West Timor under the control of militia. Last week’s return of refugees is the result of ongoing negotiations with militia leader, Cancio Lopes de Carvalho, who has declared his acceptance of East Timor's independence and offered to tell what he knows about the generals who ordered the 1999 violence. Other militia leaders, backed by elements of the Indonesian military, are reported to be biding their time in West Timor, awaiting a U.N. draw-down or withdrawal, before launching additional military raids across the border.
"East Timor has experienced terror of its own. Hundreds of thousands were killed, most of its infrastructure destroyed, and one-quarter of its population forcibly deported. The perpetrators of these crimes are well known,” said Miller. "An international tribunal is the only way to bring to justice those who committed crimes against humanity in East Timor for so long."
“The Megawati administration’s recently-amended decree establishing a special human rights court on East Timor in Indonesia falls far short of fully addressing the military's role in orchestrating the violence and devastation. Without an international tribunal, those most responsible for Indonesia's scorched earth campaign in East Timor will escape punishment," he added.
In April, former Indonesian president Wahid issued a decree limiting the jurisdiction of the special court to crimes committed after the August 30, 1999 popular consultation in East Timor. Megawati's expanded decree restricts the court's jurisdiction to crimes committed in Liquica, Dili, and Suai in the months of April and September 1999.
IHRN also pointed to the rise of political detainees and prisoners. "Indonesia has regressed to the Suharto-era practice of arresting and imprisoning peaceful political dissidents," said Kurt Biddle. "The military is attacking villagers as the police target the activists."
In August, Acehnese student activist Faisal Syaifuddin was arrested in Jakarta. In July, Kautsar [ed: one name] was arrested at a peaceful demonstration against ExxonMobil’s human rights abuses in Aceh. Both activists are charged with “inciting hatred” against the government and are awaiting trial. Since mid-June, police have held 19 activists in Bandung, West Java for their involvement in protests of oil price increases. Eight people are being detained for distributing leaflets in Surabaya, East Java, including two provincial parliament representatives.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights, including women's rights. ETAN, which has 28 local chapters throughout the U.S., calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity which took place in East Timor since 1975. For additional information see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).
The Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) is a U.S.-based grassroots organization working to educate and activate the American public and influence U.S. foreign policy and international economic interests to support democracy, demilitarization, and justice through accountability and rule of law in Indonesia. IHRN seeks to end armed forces repression in Indonesia by exposing it to international scrutiny. IHRN works with and advocates on behalf of people throughout the Indonesian archipelago to strengthen civil society. See www.IndonesiaNetwork.org for more information.
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