Thursday, January 7, 2010

Indonesian General Sjafrie Sjamsuddin Not Fit for Civilian Defense Post

Contact: John M. Miller, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), +1-718-596-7668;

The appointment of Lieutenant General Sjafrie Sjamsuddin as Indonesia's Deputy Minister of Defense undermines human rights accountability and civilian control of the military, said the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).

"This is Suharto redux, leaving the military in charge of itself" said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "Sjamsuddin appointment clearly demonstrates that the 'reformer' President Yudhoyono would rather reward former military colleagues than hold them accountable. This sets back the limited efforts to bring the Indonesian military under civilian control."

"Sjafrie is a poster boy for the argument that U.S. military training does noth instill respect for human rights in Indonesian officers, especially those belonging to Kopassus," said Miller. The Obama administration is currently considering resuming training of Kopassus.

General Sjamsuddin has spent most of his career in Indonesian military's brutal Kopassus special forces. Trained in the U.S. in 1985 and Australia in 1993, he is accused of coordinating several of the most notorious events in East Timor, including the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre and the post-referendum violence in 1999. He was military commander in Jakarta at the time troops opened fire on protesters in May 1998.

Human rights groups in Indonesia have protested Sjamsuddin appointment citing his human rights record. They also point out that the appointment violates Indonesian law, which prohibits the promotion of active duty soldiers to political posts.

"Sjamsuddin not only defends the military's system of territorial command, he has little understanding of the need for civilian supremacy over the military," said Miller.

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