June 13, 2008 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action
Network (ETAN) today said the promotion of Brigadier General Pramono
Edhie Wibowo to chief of Kopassus, Indonesia’s notorious Special
Forces unit, the latest example of Indonesia’s failure to deal with
its military’s sordid past.
“The promotion of Pramono Wibowo is yet another example of the
failure of Indonesia to deal with its military’s
long and sordid history of human rights
violations in East Timor and elsewhere,” said John M. Miller,
National Coordinator of ETAN. “Instead of promoting alleged rights
violators, Indonesia should make sure that senior military officials
responsible for the past rights crimes are brought to trial.”
Wibowo's appointment as head of Kopassus by his brother-in-law
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was announced earlier this week.
In April, the U.S. government ruled Kopassus off limits to U.S.
military training. Late last year,
ETAN revealed U.S. plans to train Kopassus, which the group called
“the worst of the worst among Indonesia’s security forces.” Several
congressional offices also protested. U.S. law prohibits the
training of military units with a history of involvement in human
rights violations. However, the provision has been long been
interpreted as narrowly as possible. This spring, the State
Department ruled that the ban, known as the Leahy law, applies to
Kopassus as a whole.
In 1999, Wibowo headed Kopassus Group 5, which deployed to East
Timor in 1999 at the time of the UN-organized referendum on
independence. According to the “Masters of Terror,” Group 5 “slipped
into Dili on September 5, 1999, the day before Bishop Belo’s house
The Indonesian military’s campaign of terror surrounding the 1999
vote resulted in the murder of over 1,400 civilians, the forcible
displacement of hundreds of thousands, and the destruction of 75
percent of East Timor’s infrastructure. Kopassus Group 5 received
U.S. training through the Joint Combined Education and Training
program in 1997.
Wibowo replaces Major General Sunarko as Kopassus commander, who
will take over as military commander overseeing Aceh. Sunarko was
stationed in East Timor in 1996 and 1997 and again in 1999, where he
was Intelligence Assistant to the Kopassus Commander.
Kopassus, founded in 1952, played a key role in the crimes
against humanity in East Timor, which led the U.S. to suspend
military assistance in 1999. The unit has been directly involved in
training and equipping militia’s in places like East Timor and West
Papua – where its soldiers murdered independence leader Theys Eluay.
Formed in 1991, ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human
rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information see
ETAN's web site: http://www.etan.org.