FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 22, 2010
CONTACT: East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)  John M. Miller 718-596-7668
U.S. Plan to Get Back in Bed with 's Kopassus Killers Indonesia
NEW YORK - July 22 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) today condemned the Obama administration's decision to resume engagement with Indonesia's notorious Kopassus special forces.
"Slipping back into bed with Kopassus is a betrayal of the brutal unit's many victims in Timor-Leste, West Papua and throughout
"For years, the
"Engagement with Kopassus would violate the Leahy Law, which prohibits military assistance to units with unresolved human rights violations," said Miller. "Even the previous Bush State Department's legal counsel thought so, ruling that the Leahy prohibition applied to Kopassus as a whole."
U.S. officials, speaking to the New York Times , distinguished between soldiers who were "only implicated, not convicted' in human rights crimes. Administration officials have said that some Kopassus soldiers convicted of crimes no longer served with the unit, however many of them remain on active duty, including Lt. Col. Tri Hartomo, convicted by a military court of the murder of Papuan leader Theys Eluay in 2001.
The official American Forces Press Service wrote  that a "senior defense official said Indonesia has pledged that any Kopassus member who is credibly accused of a human rights violation will be suspended pending an investigation, will be tried in a civilian court, and will be removed from the unit if convicted." Legislation transferring members of military to civilian courts for trials has yet to pass.
"The problem remains that the Indonesian military (TNI) as a whole and Kopassus in particular rarely take accusations of human rights violations seriously and few end up in any court," said ETAN's Miller. "Engaging Kopassus with only token concessions will not encourage reform, respect for rights or accountability. It may do the opposite."
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced in Jakarta  that the
Engagement with Kopassus has been opposed by human rights and victims associations in
In May 2010, 13 senior members of Congress wrote  the Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Clinton concerning plans to cooperate with Kopassus. The letter called for "a reliable vetting process critical... for identifying Kopassus officials who have violated human rights" and said "the transfer of jurisdiction over human rights crimes committed by members of the military to civilian courts should be a pre-condition for engagement with Kopassus." Legislation to transfer members of the military to civilian courts has long been stalled. Trials of some soldiers before ad-hoc human rights courts, such as on
Kopassus troops have been implicated in a range of human rights violations and war crimes in Aceh, West Papua, Timor-Leste and elsewhere. Although a few special forces soldiers have been convicted of the kidnapping of activists prior to the fall of the Suharto dictatorship and the 2001 murder of Theys Eluay, the perpetrators of the vast majority of human rights crimes continue to evade prosecution. Kopassus and other troops indicted by UN-backed prosecutors in Timor-Leste for crimes committed in 1999 during
Kopassus was involved in Timor-Leste from the killings of five Australian-based journalists at Balibo  in 1975 prior to
Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin , who served with Kopassus and is accused of human rights violations in
In 2005, the Bush administration exercised a national security waiver  that allowed for full engagement with the Indonesian military for the first time since the early 1990s. The conditions for
ETAN was founded in 1991 to advocate for self-determination for Indonesian-occupied Timor-Leste. Since the beginning, ETAN has worked to condition
URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2010/07/22-15
Published on Thursday, July 22, 2010 by Reuters
JAKARTA - Washington said Thursday it was dropping a ban on ties with Indonesia's special forces, imposed over human rights abuses in the 1990s, a move that may eventually allow combat training of the once-notorious unit.
The decision, announced during a visit by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to
Gates, after meeting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said the resumption of security cooperation activities would be "gradual" and "limited."
"These initial steps will take place within the limits of
Human rights groups have voiced concern, however, that the roughly 5,000-strong special forces unit, known as Kopassus, still harbors rights offenders who committed abuses in
"We regret this development very much. Until now, the perpetrators of past human rights abuses in
"We are confused about the position of Barack Obama. Is he pro-human rights or not?" she said.
Gates defended the Obama administration's commitment to human rights and said working with countries that make an effort to reform was better than "simply standing back and shouting."
"There has been a dramatic change in that unit over the last decade ... the percentage of suspicious bad actors in the unit is tiny," said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell.
"We are talking about probably a dozen, or a couple dozen people, that some regard as suspicious still in the unit. Obviously we are working to reduce that number to zero."
For the moment, the decision only re-establishes contacts between the
Actual combat training of
"Our ability to expand upon these initial steps will depend on continued implementation of reforms within Kopassus and (the Indonesian military) as a whole," Gates said.
The decision is meant to bolster the
Indonesia was hit by deadly bomb attacks on two luxury hotels in the capital Jakarta last year, blamed on a splinter group that had split from the Jemaah Islamiah militant group. Jemaah Islamiah was responsible for the 2002 bombings of the Indonesian resort
Human rights groups and some members of Congress have strongly resisted calls to restore funding to Kopassus without concrete steps taken to ensure that members suspected of committing abuses would not benefit from
"If the investigation proves that they were responsible and they were convicted, they will be removed," he said.
But those assurances did not apply to suspects of past abuses who were not convicted in
New York-based Human Rights Watch, in a letter to Gates and to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this year, singled out its concerns about the Kopassus counter-terror component known as Unit 81, "the entity whose members the Department of Defense presumably seeks to train."
"Members of what is now called Unit 81 have been credibly accused of serious human rights abuses or other improper conduct," it wrote.
It cited its suspected role controlling abusive pro-Indonesia militias in East Timor between 1986 and 1999 and the disappearance of student activists in 1997-1998 in
Kopassus has also been accused of rights abuses in secessionist hot spots such as resource-rich Papua, located on the western half of
(Additional reporting by Sunanda Creagh; Editing by Sara Webb and Alex Richardson)
© 2010 Reuters
URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/07/22-3
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