WASHINGTON - June 29 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) condemned last night's move by the House of Representatives lifting all restrictions on military assistance for Indonesia in the FY 2006 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The group urged Congress to continue restrictions as the best way to promote democracy, respect for human rights and democratic reform in Indonesia and justice for East Timor.
"We condemn the refusal of the House of Representatives to impose any restriction on the still unreformed, unaccountable, and intensely corrupt Indonesian military. This is a grave setback, which turns a blind eye to the ongoing violations and horrific record of the Indonesian military," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator for ETAN.
"For well over a decade, Congress led the effort to build a policy promoting human rights in East Timor and Indonesia. It would be a shameful disservice to the Indonesian military's countless victims should Congress renege on its important leadership," stated John M.Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.
"If the Bush administration and its allies in Congress were serious about promoting democratic reform and human rights inIndonesia, they would not be seeking to prop up the Indonesian military, the country's least democratic institution. The Chair of the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, Representative Jim Kolbe, has offered an all carrot and no stick approach toward Indonesia, surrendering the U.S. government's primary leverage to encourage reform,"commented Orenstein.
The House version of the FY 2006 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill removes the restriction of foreign military financing for Indonesia first put in place for FY 2000 following the Indonesian military's destruction of East Timor.
"Indonesia's armed forces have not met existing congressional conditions," said Orenstein. "It is critical that the Senate maintain restrictions on military assistance to Indonesia when considering their version of the bill. Strong restrictions must be included when the two versions of the bill are reconciled."
"Today's action, just six months after the tsunami devastated Aceh, represents a slap in the face for survivors who continue to be victimized by the Indonesian military. This military refuses toaccept a ceasefire and opposes any concessions toward a negotiated settlement," said Miller. "Further, under the new Indonesian president, humanitarian and human rights conditions have significantly deteriorated in West Papua and militarization of the entire archipelago has increased. Accountability for crimes against humanity in East Timor remains a distant goal."
In the past week and a half, Chair of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Kolbe (R-AZ) blocked Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) from including in the FY 2006 bill any restrictions on military assistance for Indonesia. Rep. Kolbe would only accede to are porting requirement, introduced by Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI),on whether Indonesia has met past congressional conditions, although Kennedy supports legislated restrictions. Both Lowey and Kennedy have championed human rights in East Timor and Indonesia for years.
Congress first voted to restrict Indonesia from receiving International Military Education and Training (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 military and its militia proxies razed East Timor.
At that time, Congress banned foreign military financing, IMET and export of lethal defense articles for Indonesia until awide range of conditions were met, including presidential certification that the Indonesian government is prosecuting members of the armed forces accused of rights violations or aiding militia groups and punishing those guilty of such acts.
In light of the late May visit of Indonesian President Yudhoyono to Washington, the Bush administration announced it would permit government sales of "non-lethal" military equipment and excess defense articles.
In recent years, Congress had maintained only one condition restricting full IMET: cooperation by Indonesian authorities with an FBI investigation into the 2002 ambush murder of two U.S. citizens and an Indonesian in West Papua. In late February, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice restored full IMET for Indonesia. But cooperation by Indonesia has been spotty at best. Just two days after IMET's release, the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices said, "Security force members murdered, tortured, raped, beat, and arbitrarily detained civilians and members of separatist movements, especially in Aceh and to a lesser extent in Papua.
"In May, 53 U.S. organizations urged President Bush not to offer military assistance to Indonesia. East Timorese and Indonesian NGOs have repeatedly called for maintaining restrictions on U.S. military assistance. Victims and survivors of the West Papua killings have called for IMET restriction to continue until their case is fully resolved. For additional background see "The Question of U.S.Military Assistance for Indonesia" (http://etan.org/news/2005/06quest.htmhttp://etan.org/news/2005/06quest.htm), (http://www.etan.org/issues/miltie.htm http://www.etan.org/issues/miltie.htm)
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.