Thursday, March 4, 2010

U.S. Training of Kopassus: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Not Come

new media release from ETAN. Some excerpts. Read the whole thing here.

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) warned President Barack Obama against renewing any U.S. training for Indonesia's notorious special forces.

"Training Kopassus will set back efforts to achieve accountability for past and recent human rights violations and will do little or nothing to discourage future crimes," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "This is a bad idea whose time has not come."

It's impossible to credit Kopassus with human rights reform when it retains active duty soldiers convicted of human rights violations. These include soldiers convicted of killing West Papuan leader Theys Eluay and the kidnapping and disappearances of Indonesian activists in 1997 and 1998.


The Obama administration is considering resuming training of Kopassus and may announce a change in policy when President Obama visits Indonesia later this month.

"It's impossible to credit Kopassus with human rights reform when it retains active duty soldiers convicted of human rights violations," said Miller. These include soldiers convicted of killing West Papuan leader Theys Eluay and the kidnapping and disappearances of Indonesian activists in 1997 and 1998.

"For decades, the U.S. military provided training and other assistance to Kopassus, despite the demonstrated failure of international assistance to improve its behavior. Its widely acknowledged abuses and criminal activity simply continued," he said.

"Restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia provide leverage to support democracy and human rights in Indonesia. Working with Kopassus, which has a long history of terrorizing civilians, will undermine those fighting for justice and accountability in Indonesia and East Timor," said Miller.  

The initial offer of training is likely to involve Kopassus Unit 81, which focuses on counter-terrorism. Unit 81 was co-founded as Kopassus Group 5 by then-captain Prabowo Subianto, who later admitted his involvement in the kidnapping of student activists in the late 1990s. He recently ran for Vice President of Indonesia.

The U.S. has praised Indonesia's successes in fighting terrorism, but it is the police – not the military - who have the major role.

"Greater Kopassus involvement in counter-terrorism will undercut police and civilian primacy in this effort, while strengthening the military's controversial internal territorial role. This will only undermine the reforms that the U.S. claims to support," he said.
 

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