WASHINGTON -- February 7 -- Two human rights groups today called the U.S. Department of State's plan to allow Indonesia to again participate in the full International Military Education and Training (IMET) program short-sighted, a betrayal of the numerous victims of human rights violations by the Indonesian military (TNI), and a serious setback for justice.
"By pushing for release of IMET funds, the Bush Administration is taking advantage of post-tsunami politics to re-engage with the Indonesia military in direct contravention of U.S. law," said Abigail Abrash Walton for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights. "The Indonesian government has not cooperated fully with the FBI investigation of the brutal murders of two American teachers at the Freeport copper and gold mine in West Papua.At the same time, the U.S. Justice Department apparently has shown a remarkable lack of initiative in investigating evidence showing Indonesian military involvement in the killings."
The TNI has been implicated in the August 2002 attack within the mining concession of Louisiana-based Freeport-McMoRan, which also killed an Indonesian teacher and wounded 11 people, including a six-year-old child. Certification by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to Congress of cooperation in the investigation of these killings is the sole condition on provision of IMET. The State Department is reportedly ready to certify cooperation this week.
"The amount of money for IMET may be small but its symbolic value is enormous. The Indonesian military will view any restoration of IMET as an endorsement of business as usual," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for the East Timor Action Network. "Throughout the archipelago, business as usual has been nothing less than brutal human rights violations and impunity for crimes against humanity. In tsunami-stricken Aceh, the Indonesian military continues to manipulate relief efforts and to attack civilians as part of their counterinsurgency war."
"Saying the Indonesian military is cooperating, doesn't make it so," said Abrash Walton. "The only person indicted by the U.S. Justice Department in June 2004, Anthonius Wamang, has documented ties to the Indonesian military. He has yet to be brought into custody, much less questioned further about the Indonesian military's involvement in the August 2002 ambush. It seems that there has been absolutely no progress since June in resolving this criminal attack. How can the State Department credibly claim that more than seven months of stonewalling by Indonesian authorities constitutes 'cooperation'?"
"The TNI already receives millions of dollars worth of training. Given the TNI's dismal rights record and resistance to reform, the Bush administration's long-running resolve to lift the IMET restriction and coddle the TNI defies belief. Why remove remaining leverage?" asked Miller.
The groups urged members of Congress to again restrict IMET in upcoming appropriations legislation and to extend any conditions to counter-terrorism training, which is funded separately. "Congress should apply the same conditions on IMET and other military training that it has imposed on weapon sales," Miller said.
"Indonesia has yet to fulfill previous conditions on IMET, including accountability for rights violations in East Timor and Indonesia and transparency in the military budget. In fact, the TNI continues to violate human rights, especially in Aceh and West Papua. Many of those indicted for crimes against humanity in East Timor continue to maintain powerful positions," Miller said.
Arguing that "IMET for Indonesia is in the US interest," Secretary Rice recently informed a key members of Congress that Indonesia "has demonstrated cooperation as required" by law. The law requires the Indonesian government and armed forces to cooperate with the FBI's investigation into the August 31, 2002 ambush in the mining concession of Louisiana-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc. (FCX). The administration wants to spend $600,000 for IMET this year.
"The Indonesian people have suffered through so much because of the latest natural disaster, but we must not let the tsunami wash away the need to address human rights abuses from the past," Patsy Spier, who survived the attack in which her husband was killed, told the Associated Press in an interview in which she opposed Indonesian participation in IMET. "The whole point is just to have a proper investigation."
An Indonesian citizen, Anthonius Wamang, was indicted in June 2004 by a U.S. grand jury. The killings took place in an area under full TNI control. According to local human rights defenders, Wamang has extensive ties to the Indonesian military as a business partner of Kopassus, the Indonesian army's notorious special forces. In an August 2004 television interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Wamang said that he got his ammunition for the attack from Indonesian military personnel. He has told the FBI and local human rights groups that these officers knew that he was about to carry out an attack in the Freeport concession. The TNI routinely uses militia proxies to stage attacks, in hopes of covering up their role.
Wamang remains at large and does not face charges in Indonesia. In announcing the indictment, then-Attorney General Ashcroft ignored evidence of TNI involvement while saying the investigation is ongoing.
Congress first voted to restrict Indonesia from receiving IMET, which brings foreign military officers to the U.S. for training, in response to the November 12, 1991 Santa Cruz massacre of more than 270 civilians in East Timor by Indonesian troops wielding U.S.-supplied M-16 rifles. All military ties with Indonesia were severed in September 1999 as the TNI and its militia proxies razed East Timor.
A number of congressional offices have insisted that the condition on IMET should remain in place until the investigation is completed and those responsible for the August 2002 attack are brought to justice.
In a January interview, Spier said the Freeport ambush case "should remind us why the training funds were held up in the first place. They've got to be willing to bring to justice those people who committed crimes [in Aceh, Papua and East Timor] and are still in service... They must acknowledge what they did was wrong."
ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East Timor and Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975 to 1999 and for continued restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces. (See www.etan.org)
The RFK Center has monitored and reported on the human rights situation in Indonesia, with a special focus on West Papua, since 1993, when respected Indonesian human rights attorney Bambang Widjojanto received the annual RFK Human Rights Award for his work to defend the rights of West Papua's indigenous people. (See http://www.rfkmemorial.org/CENTER/)