- October 21 - The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today urged President Bush to set the record straight and restrict all military assistance for the Indonesian military (TNI) when he visits Bali, Indonesia.
"President Bush's message to Indonesian President Megawati must be crystal
clear: The Indonesian military must clean up its act before he will consider granting prestigious U.S. assistance," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.
In an interview with Indonesian television, President Bush recently stated that he planned to discuss "mil-to-mil relations between Indonesia," when he meets with Indonesia's President Megawati this Wednesday. In an unusual correction of a president traveling abroad, the Washington Post reported administration officials saying that President Bush "misspoke."
"Human rights violations in Aceh, Papua and elsewhere must end, and military personnel must be held accountable for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor and Indonesia," said Miller. "Bush must press for the extradition of Indonesian officers indicted in East Timor and prosecution of the military officers believed responsible for killing two Americans and an Indonesian teacher in Papua."
"For over three decades, the U.S. and Indonesian militaries were extremely close and we saw no move to reform," said Ed McWilliams, a former State Department official who served as political counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia from 1996-1999. "The Indonesian military's (TNI) worst abuses took place when we were most engaged."
"While the President may believe that Congress has changed its attitude concerning military training for Indonesia, as recently as last July the House of Representatives voted unanimously to oppose IMET for Indonesia," said Karen Orenstein, ETAN's Washington Coordinator. "Congress has unambiguously conveyed that it wants to see those responsible for the brutal murder of U.S. citizens in Papua prosecuted and convicted and an end to civilian deaths and other abuses in Aceh."
Bush last week also told the Indonesian media, "Our standpoint is that we don't think that in Aceh, for example, that the issue should be solved and can be solved militarily."
"Bush can't support peace for Aceh and Papua and miitary engagement at the same time. Sending contradictory messages will only strengthen the military's resolve, delay reform and lead to more suffering," said Miller. "The President should call for an immediate ceasefire in Aceh, the withdrawal of troops, and a return to the negotiating table with significant involvement from civil society."
Representative Lane Evans (D-IL), a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, recently wrote his colleagues that "U.S. assistance for the Indonesian military (TNI). without any conditions that require the military to address and improve their human rights record, essentially rewards the TNI for its own terrorism, including the past abuses in East Timor, the current assault on civilians in Aceh, and numerous other human rights violations."
Indonesian police and non-governmental organization investigations point to TNI responsibility for the murder of two U.S. citizens and one Indonesian in West Papua on August 31, 2002. Eight U.S. citizens, including a six-year-old child and three Indonesians, were wounded in the ambush in the mining operations area of the Louisiana-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, Inc. Indonesian police and human rights groups have strongly implicated the military in the attack.
In Aceh, Indonesia is conducting its largest military operation since the 1975 invasion of East Timor. Aceh, on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, is the site of one of Asia's longest running wars. On May 19, 2003, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri declared martial law in Aceh, ending a six-month ceasefire with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Indonesia's official human rights commission has cited numerous human rights violations by security forces during the current military campaign. The government of Indonesia has barred nearly all international humanitarian and human rights organizations from entering Aceh.
The TNI has successfully evaded accountability for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor in 1999 and the previous 23 years of illegal occupation. Indonesia's ad hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor is an internationally-acknowledged sham. While there have been a few convictions with light sentences, the architects of the scorched-earth campaign in East Timor remain free, often wielding significant power within the government and security forces. Several military officers responsible for crimes in East Timor are currently directing the war in Aceh. None of those convicted are expected to serve a day in prison.
Congress first voted to restrict IMET military training for Indonesia, which brings foreign military officers to the U.S. for training, in response to the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor. All military ties were severed in September 1999 as the Indonesian military and its militia proxies razed East Timor following its pro-independence vote. Congress first passed the "Leahy conditions" on IMET and other military assistance in late 1999. Congress originally approved $400,000 for IMET in FY03 but Indonesia's participation in the program was ultimately limited to Expanded IMET. On July 24, the House voted to strip a $600,000 appropriation for International Military Education and Training (IMET) intended for Indonesia for FY04. In May, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved reinstating the ban on IMET for Indonesia.
ETAN advocates for democracy, sustainable development, justice and human rights, including women's rights, for the people of East Timor and Indonesia. (http://www.etan.org).