Thursday, July 22, 2010

Secretary of Defense Gates Goes to Jakarta Bearing Kopassus Gift

UPDATE: See ETAN's media release here

ETAN is disgusted to learn that while Secretary of  Defense Robert Gates was in Jakarta, he announced that U.S. will for the first time since 1998 provide training for Indonesia's notorious Kopassus special forces. This can only undermine reform and violate the Leahy Law, which prohibits military assistance to units with unresolved human rights violations. Kopassus has failed to reform and officers accused of the human rights crimes continue to serve with unit. While Gates spoke of  future changes, he did not mention accountability for past human rights crimes. While Gates met with Indonesia's Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, news and other reports do not say whether or not Gates met with his deputy, former Kopassus;General Sjafrie Sjamsuddin, who has been barred from travel to the U.S. because of his history of human rights violations.

As ETAN said in March:
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."
As we were learning about the Gates announcement, I was tracking down photos of torture during Indonesia's illegal occupation of East Timor (Timor-Leste) for an author with a book coming out soon. While the exact circumstances of the photos I was looking at are not known (they were taken by TNI soldiers and then bought or taken by the resistance), I have no doubt that Kopassus soldiers were involved in these or similar rights violations. None of these soldiers have been brought to justice for these and other human rights crimes.

Secretary Gates and President Yudhoyono meet, Jakarta, Indonesia, July 22, 2010. DoD photo by Cherie Cullen
 In his statement after bringing the news to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Gates said
I was pleased to be able to tell the president that as a result of Indonesian military reforms over the past decade... the United States will begin a gradual, limited program of security cooperation activities with the Indonesian Army Special Forces.

I noted to the president that these initial steps will take place within the limits of U.S. law and do not signal any lessening of the importance we place on human rights and accountability. What's more, our ability to expand upon these initial steps will depend upon continued implementation of reforms within Kopassus and TNI as a whole.'
However, there is no evidence that international assistance has ever improved the behavior of the Indonesian military. Just ask the hundreds of thousands people and their relatives, who were killed, tortured, disappeared, and raped in East Timor, Aceh, West Papua and elsewhere while the U.S. was most engaged with Indonesia's security forces.

Poengky Indarti from Imparsial told Reuters,
We regret this development very much. Until now, the perpetrators of past human rights abuses in East Timor, Aceh and Papua are still free. There is still impunity in the Indonesian military, especially in Kopassus." 
She added "We are confused about the position of Barack Obama. Is he pro-human rights or not?"

In May, a number of senior members of Congress wrote Secretary Gates raised a number of concerns about any plan to train Kopassus members.

ETAN is available for media comment on the announcement. Contact 718-596-7668 or 917-690-4391.

more to come

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