US Groups Oppose US Military Assistance to Indonesia

September 21st, 2004 - by admin

East Timor Action Network – 2004-09-21 23:24:27

US Groups Oppose US Military Assistance to Indonesia

September 15, 2004 — More than 70 representatives of US organizations wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell today opposing Bush administration plans to expand military assistance to the Indonesian military (TNI).

The groups are deeply concerned by reported administration plans to release military training funds under the IMET program this month and to request funds for weapons under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program for 2006. The organizations said that Indonesia has yet to fully meet past and current Congressional conditions restricting Indonesia’s access to the programs.

Rights Groups Appeal to Powell
In a letter sent today to the Secretary of State, the groups called the Indonesian military “an unreformed violator of human rights… on a daunting scale”” in Aceh, Papua and elsewhere.

“Moving forward with FMF and IMET would break faith with those struggling for democratic reform in Indonesia. It would additionally weaken the hand of the civilian government vis-à-vis an Indonesian military whose reputation would only be burnished by increased US engagement,” the letter added.

As evidence of continued military impunity, the letter highlighted the recent appeals court ruling which overturned the few convictions of Indonesian military and police officers charged with crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999.

The letter was sent just days before Indonesia votes for president in a run-off election on Monday, September 20, and at a time when the State Department appears to intend to move forward with plans to release IMET funds for Indonesia.

A copy of the letter, coordinated by the East Timor Action Network (ETAN), appears below. A complete list of signatures is available at

In addition to ETAN, signers include representatives of the United Methodist Church‚s General Board of Church and Society; Human Rights Watch/Asia; Institute on Religion and Public Policy; Peace Action; Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church; Center for International Policy; Center for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial; Global Exchange; NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Pax Christi USA; Common Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ; US Section of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; World Organization for Human Rights USA; and West Papua Action Network.

Letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell
United States Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20500
VIA Facsimile: 202-261-8577 15 September 2004

Dear Secretary Powell:

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned over reported plans by the Department of State to furnish foreign military financing (FMF) for Indonesia in the Administration’s FY06 budget request. We strongly oppose any consideration of FMF for Indonesia at this juncture. We equally oppose the potential release of International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds for Indonesia in FY04.

Opposition to FMF for Indonesia, broadly shared in Congress, is based on the Indonesian military’s (TNI) continuing record of human rights abuses and impunity. Your own department’s annual human rights reports to Congress, as well as reporting by international NGOs, reveal the TNI as an unreformed violator of human rights. Reflecting this broad consensus among observers of the TNI, Congress has restricted FMF for Indonesia since FY 2000, conditioning its provision on accountability and justice for the military‚s gross human rights violations. However, military impunity remains solidly ingrained as a consequence of the TNI‚s undemocratic power, as well as the weakness and corruption of Indonesia‚s courts and prosecutorial system.

In August, an appeals court in Indonesia overturned the convictions of four Indonesian military and police officers charged with crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999. Commendably, the State Department noted that it was „profoundly disappointed with the performance and record of the Indonesian ad hoc tribunal,” the special institution that was created in the wake of the murder of more than 1,400 East Timorese by Indonesian security forces and their hireling militias. Only two of the 18 defendants brought before the tribunal have been convicted and had their sentences upheld under appeal. Both are East Timorese. A similar Indonesian tribunal formed to ensure military accountability for the 1984 massacre of Muslim protesters at Tanjung Priok in Jakarta also recently failed to deliver justice.

Emboldened by assurance of its impunity, the Indonesian military continues to violate human rights on a daunting scale. Notwithstanding an end to martial law in Aceh, TNI operations continue to exact a bloody toll at the same pace set during martial law. Human rights and humanitarian organizations, journalists and others continue to face insurmountable barriers to gaining access to and functioning in Aceh. Following the TNI‚s self-proclaimed “exoneration” after the US Department of Justice‚s recent indictment for the murder and serious wounding of US citizens in Timika in August 2002, human rights and humanitarian organizations in West Papua report increased intimidation by the TNI and its militias.

Congress has also conditioned FMF for Indonesia on transparency in the military’s budget. The TNI remains a massively corrupt institution. In the report accompanying the Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations for FY03, the Appropriations Committee stated that they were „concerned about the Indonesian military’s continued involvement in illegal business practices and other activities, including prostitution, contraband smuggling, and illegal logging which threatens Indonesia’s unique ecosystems.‰

Regardless of the outcome of the September 20 presidential election run-off, it is very unlikely that, in the short term, any civilian government can reverse the trend of an increasingly powerful military. President Megawati has consistently demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to control the TNI. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was a career soldier, a Suharto-era general who served as a commander in East Timor in the 1980s. There is near unanimous agreement inside Indonesia and out that military reform is dead. The military bill now before parliament is likely to even further solidify its dominance in Indonesia.

Indonesian advocates for democracy, human rights and military reform have publicly urged that the US not reward the TNI with assistance and improved ties absent demonstrable progress toward genuine reform and justice for rights violations. Risking – and in some instances experiencing – acts of revenge by the Indonesian military, they have repeatedly described restrictions on US-Indonesia military cooperation, including the ban on FMF and restriction of IMET, as critical leverage in their efforts. Moving forward with FMF and IMET would break faith with those struggling for democratic reform in Indonesia. It would additionally weaken the hand of the civilian government vis-à-vis an Indonesian military whose reputation would only be burnished by increased US engagement.

Provision of FMF for Indonesia in FY06 would exacerbate ongoing violations and corruption by rewarding such behavior. It is imprudent and unjustified. Provision of IMET in FY04 is also entirely unwarranted.

We thank you for your serious consideration of this most important matter and look forward to your response.


John M. Miller, Media & Outreach Coordinator East Timor Action Network: 12 Years for Self-Determination & Justice, 48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA Phone: (718) 596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097 Mobile phone: (917)690-4391 Web site:

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