ETAN: Response to State Department Informational Report on Indonesia, FY 2008

Introduction

As required by the US Congress, in Sections 682 and 679 of the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2008 (hereafter “Foreign Operations Act”), the State Department recently provided reports to Congressional offices addressing progress made by the government of Indonesia in several areas of concern.

In Section 682 of the Foreign Operations Act Congress asked the State Department to report on the government of Indonesia’s progress in confronting the following issues:

• Steps taken by the government of Indonesia to deny promotion, suspend or prosecute military officers charged with serious crimes.
• The government of Indonesia’s response to the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR), and the recommendations of the Council of Experts to Review the Prosecution of Serious Violations of Human Rights in Timor-Leste.
• Steps taken to end Indonesian military corruption, especially the maintenance of a massive business empire that includes both illegal and legal businesses.

In Section 679 of the Foreign Operations Act Congress mandated an additional report concerning Indonesia’s progress in the following as a condition for the release of $2.7 million of the $13.7 million appropriated by Congress for Foreign Military Financing in FY 2008:

• Prosecuting officers shown to have committed gross human rights violations in Timor Leste.
• Enhancing the transparency and accountability of Indonesia’s military.
• Creating a plan to effectively provide for accountability by the military.
• Allowing public access to West Papua.
• Investigating of the murder of human rights lawyer Munir Said Thalib.

Below we evaluate the State Department’s response to both sets of questions. In short, we can say that the government of Indonesia has made no measurable progress in any of these areas with the exception of the investigation into Munir’s assassination – though this progress is perhaps more limited than the State Department indicates.

While the State Department also reports no “sustained” progress in critical areas of accountability in the armed forces, the report includes overly positive assessments based on examples that are outdated, incomplete, or not germane to the question.

Part I: Section 682 Report

Sec. 682(1). Steps taken by the government to deny promotion, suspend from active service and pursue prosecution of military officers for serious crimes; the extent to which past and present military officials are cooperating with domestic inquiries into human rights abuses:

State Department Response:

The Government of Indonesia has made no sustained effort to deny promotion, suspend from active service, or pursue prosecution of military officers indicted for serious crimes. The limited progress that the government has made in pursuing accountability for past abuses of human rights has come largely in the form of rhetorical support by President Yudhoyono and others for the concept of accountability. A recent ruling by the Constitutional Court could provide a window for the Indonesian legislature to establish a stronger basis for pursuing accountability. Moreover, since the institution this decade of stronger human rights standards for current conduct, the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) has undertaken a number of investigations and prosecutions of soldiers and officers for misconduct, including misconduct involving the violation of citizens’ human rights. The investigation following the May 2007 shooting of civilians in Pasuruan, East Java, which resulted in four killed and eight injured, is a prominent recent example. The trial of the 13 Marines indicted in that incident began on March 26 of this year and is open to the public.

There have been some limited moves toward making the human rights records of officers a criterion for promotion to the senior-most positions. In late 2007, President Yudhoyono replaced the top echelon of the TNI command with the appointment of a new TNI Chief of Staff and new Army, Air Force, and Navy chiefs. The four, who were drawn from the ranks of the TNI, are all known for their professionalism and clean records on human rights. President Yudhoyono chose not to select several strong candidates with problematic human rights records. LTG Sjafrie Sjamsuddin, who was in line to become the next Army Chief in late 2007, was reportedly passed over because of his problematic human rights record. TNI senior leadership has begun to take definitive actions against incompetent and ineffective officers. The 2007 Pasuruan shootings are, again, instructive ­ Major Husni Sukarwo, the Commander of the Graff Marines Training Area Center where the Marines accused of the shooting were based, was removed from his position and returned to a regional training facility headquarters.

The administration has often argued that increased U.S. military engagement with Indonesia is warranted by progress made so far in human rights and military reform or that engagement would encourage additional progress. Full and accurate answers to the questions posed by Congress would clearly show that engagement with the military has not effectively reduced widespread impunity, continued resistance to civilian control and oversight, lack of budget transparency, or the persistent emphasis on internal security.

Our Response:

The State Department’s response states there has been no sustained progress in denying promotion to officers who committed serious crimes. However, the report then cites a trial of marines involved in the May 2007 killings of civilians in a land dispute between villagers and the Indonesian navy in Pasuruan, East Java, as indicative of “limited moves” toward accountability. This limited move is not presented with the necessary context.

Indeed, as prosecutors have charged only one low-ranking officer and 12 enlisted personnel in this case, and have in fact failed to investigate command responsibility or the unit’s involvement with a private firm on whose behalf the unit was acting, this case could more appropriately be taken as further evidence of entirely inadequate accountability and transparency in the Indonesian military. The marines involved were sentenced to light terms from 18 months to 3 and ½ years on August 15, 2008. No one of higher rank has been charged.

Against this example of “progress” one must weigh a few facts more pertinent to the questions posed by Congress concerning accountability in the armed forces.

For example the report does not mention the recent appointment of special forces officer Major-Gen Soenarko (Sunarko) to the senior command position in Aceh province notwithstanding that officer’s role in military-directed attacks on civilians, on UN personnel and institutions and on foreign citizens in East Timor prior to the 1999 referendum. He was previously commander of the army’s notorious Special Forces Command (Kopassus).

The report is also silent on the appointment of Colonel Siagian to a command position in West Papua notwithstanding that he has been twice-indicted by the UN-backed serious crimes process for his involvement in human rights violations in 1999 in East Timor. In August of 2008 Siagian was transferred out of West Papua following pressure from human rights groups, but there has been no effort to prosecute him for past violations or cooperate with international warrants issued for his arrest.

Finally, the government of Indonesia has failed to establish a human rights court tasked with investigating and prosecuting human rights violations during the Aceh conflict even though its creation was mandated by the 2005 agreement ending the conflict.

It is also worth noting that the prosecution of those responsible for disappearances and killings of student activists around the close of the Suharto regime has been completely impeded due to a procedural dispute between the National Human Rights Commission, the legislature, and the Attorney General’s office about their respective roles, exacerbated by the refusal of the senior retired generals Wiranto, Prabowo and & Syamsoedin to appear before the commission. Both the executive and legislative branches should take immediate action resolve the dispute.

Sec. 682(2). Responses of the government of Indonesia and Timor-Leste to the Final report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste and the June 2006 report of the Secretary-General of the Commission of Experts to review the Prosecution of Serious Violations of Human Rights in Timor-Leste in 1999:

State Department Response:

Eighteen alleged perpetrators of violence in 1999 were tried in a special ad hoc human rights trial in Indonesia. All but six were acquitted, and five of those six convictions were overturned on appeal. The conviction of the sixth, Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres, was overturned on appeal on April 4 of this year. Guterres was sentenced to ten years in prison on November 27, 2002 and was in prison from May 4, 2006, until April 7, 2008. Guterres’ separate appeal followed his request for a special judicial review of his case by the Supreme Court. In June 2007, Guterres’ defense team petitioned the Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality of Decree No. 26/2000 creating the special human rights court that had convicted Guterres. In February 2008, the Constitutional Court overturned specific legal provisions regarding the manner in which the court had been established. The broader implications of that decision are still being determined, but potentially they could render the actions and decisions of the human rights court legally void, which in turn could offer a legal avenue for rehearing all 18 cases.

The Governments of Indonesia and Timor-Leste are pursuing a bilateral approach for both governments to acknowledge responsibility for serious violations of human rights in 1999. The final report of their bilateral Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) was due in early 2008. We expect the report to be released this spring. The final CTF report will draw from the Timor-Leste Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation (CAVR – the Portuguese acronym) and the UN Serious Crimes Unit reports, as well as the report of a special investigative team (KPP-HAM) the Indonesian government formed in 1999 and information from the Indonesian Attorney General’s Office. To the extent that either government has reacted publicly to date to these reports or to the report to the UN Secretary-General of the Commission of Experts to Review the Prosecution of Serious Violations of Human Rights in Timor-Leste (then East Timor) in 1999, it has been to reaffirm their commitment to the CTF process, inaugurated in August 2005. The Commissioners have expressed the importance they place on the international credibility of the report as well as its importance as a vehicle for the governments to accept responsibility for crimes committed in 1999. The two governments appear to be moving toward a common understanding of the format and content of the final document.

Our Response:

The State Department essentially sidesteps the question. The government of Indonesia has not seriously addressed the report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR) or the findings of the Council of Experts (CoE). Indeed, at the time of their release Indonesian officials were dismissive of these reports findings and recommendations. Indonesia’s Foreign Minister rejected the CoE’s recommendation to set up an international tribunal to try senior officials for crimes against humanity should Jakarta continue to fail to hold accountable senior figures responsible for the 1999 violence.

Further, Indonesia was so angered by the results of the CAVR report that it delayed a meeting with Timor’s President Xanana Gusmao. At the time of its release, Indonesia’s foreign minister dismissed the report as “a war of numbers and data about things that never occurred.” Current Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta has acknowledged the far-reaching nature of the CAVR’s recommendations and committed to “endeavor to implement them,” saying “We owe it to the people, we owe it to the victims, we owe it to the current generation and the future generation so that Timor-Leste can live in peace.”

The State report also does not acknowledge that the Indonesian Government has refused to cooperate with international warrants for individual Indonesian military officers and others indicted in Timor-Leste for their roles in the 1999 violence.

Rather than address these facts, the report raises the prospect that eighteen senior ranking Indonesian military personnel and other alleged perpetrators of violence during 1999 referendum might face a rehearing.

Though not asked to comment on it, the State report then proceeds to misconstrue the history and purpose of the bi-lateral Truth and Friendship Commission (CTF) and thus creates a false impression that the CTF is in some sense a follow up to the work of the CAVR and CoE.

While the CTF certainly had access to the work of these earlier commissions, the timing and mandate of its commission indicates that the CTF was created in a failed effort to avoid the appointment of the Commission of Experts. The State Department report also fails to acknowledge the reality that the CTF could not assign individual responsibility and was barred from making any recommendations for judicial action against the perpetrators and organizers of the 1999 destruction and violence.

Thus, far from constituting a “vehicle for the governments to accept responsibility for crimes committed in 1999,” it is likely to perpetuate impunity for human rights crimes perpetrated by the Indonesian security forces. The United Nations rejected the CTF process because it did not meet international human rights standards, refusing to allow its personnel to participate in that process.

The State Department report ignores the much stronger and more specific conclusions and recommendations of the bodies cited in the question. The CAVR and CoE urged international action against the perpetrators and organizers of violence during Indonesia’s illegal occupation of Timor Leste in the event domestic efforts prove inadequate, as they clearly have.

Sec. 682(3). Steps taken by the Indonesian military to divest itself of illegal businesses:

State Department Response:

The TNI and its members have historically operated a wide variety of legal and illegal businesses. Illegal businesses have included resource extraction, toll collection, protection rackets, prostitution, smuggling, gambling, and other illicit ventures. Military elements are to some extent still involved in these activities today.

It is difficult to quantify the extent or to judge accurately the rate at which such activities are being reduced, but it appears that in recent years TNI leadership has grown less tolerant of such activities. Prosecutions of soldiers involved in illegal activities have taken place and have been publicized. In one recent case in late 2007, a military court found 15 soldiers guilty of involvement in illegal logging in East Kalimantan and sentenced them to one year in prison. The commander of those soldiers was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to 16 months in prison.

There is a process in place for the divestment of legal TNI businesses. A September 2004 law banned military commercial activities and mandated that the government assume ownership of “all business activities owned and operated by the military, both directly and indirectly,” within five years. President Yudhoyono signed in April of this year a regulation formally creating the National Team for the Transformation of TNI Businesses, whose mandate is to complete the transfer of legal businesses before September 2009. The team is headed by a credible, reform-minded former deputy director of the government’s Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK), though it is still unclear how extensively the Team will seek to execute its mandate. A previous team, the TNI Business Supervision and Transformation Team had compiled a list of 1,520 identifiable businesses and in mid-2006 reported the results to the legislature (DPR). In June 2007, the government announced that only businesses with assets worth over roughly $2 million would be transferred, meaning that only six to twelve of the businesses would be affected. This left 324 smaller enterprises, 1,071 non-profit cooperatives and 25 foundations, whose function the government maintained was largely to serve the daily needs of soldiers and their families.

A key reason that TNI business operations continue at all is that current TNI budgets cover only about a third of the TNI’s basic funding needs. Indonesia’s 2008 defense budget is $3.5 billion, barely one percent of its GDP and much less than what its closest neighbors spend on a per capita basis. Although the 2008 appropriation is up from the 2007 funding level, the 2008 defense budget represents a smaller share of the overall budget. An adequate budget is essential for the TNI to develop into a modern, professional force.

Our Response:

The State Department response notes that “it is difficult to quantify the extent or to judge accurately the rate at which such activities are being reduced,” nonetheless concluding that “it appears that in recent years TNI leadership has grown less tolerant of such activities.” The State response fails to acknowledge that since the enactment of legislation banning military commercial activities in 2004, the military has successfully resisted reform through significant delays and a narrowing of scope of the businesses to be removed from military control.

The President has delayed action in the face of military opposition. The 2004 legislation must be fully implemented by 2009, but only recently did President Yudhoyono enact regulations essential to that implementation. The delays allowed the assets of some of the targeted businesses to be looted. The Indonesian government has failed to publish the inventory of TNI businesses, which is needed to adequately monitor and evaluate the divestment process.

As the report notes, smaller businesses and foundations remain in military hands, leaving this part of the reform process unfinished. The 2004 law states clearly, “Within five years from the passage of this bill, the government must take over all business activities that are owned and operated by the military, both directly and indirectly.” There is no distinction as to size or class of business, and it was certainly not intended to cover merely half a dozen of the largest enterprises.

The State response also reports without correction the false Indonesian Government contention that military foundations exist “to serve daily needs of soldiers and their families.” As revealed by respected Indonesian and international human rights organizations, the foundations provide little substantive assistance to enlisted personnel while providing valuable sinecure for senior officers.

The State response also repeats the Indonesian military contention that a “key reason” for the military business empire is that “current TNI budgets cover only about a third of the TNI’s basic funding needs.” As demonstrated by published research, including some conducted by the Indonesian government, many of military businesses are near financial collapse after having been bled dry by corrupt military management and pose serious financial liabilities. Many legal businesses and most illegal businesses within the military’s business empire exist as channels of wealth for powerful retired and active duty military figures and their private collaborators/patrons. Even legal businesses open the door to ancillary illegal businesses, corruption, and human rights violations, such as the Pasuruan shootings that followed a dispute over village land that military was leasing to a private business.

Part II: Section 679 Report

S. 679(a)(2)(A)(i). Steps taken by the government of Indonesia on the prosecution and punishment, in a manner proportional to the crime, for members of the Armed Forces who have been credibly alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights in Timor-Leste and elsewhere, and cooperation by the Armed Forces with civilian judicial authorities and with international efforts to resolve cases of gross violations of human rights:

State Department Response:

Indonesia continues to undergo a dramatic democratic transition, but among the country’s enduring features is a deep, fervent, and widespread nationalism fostered by its long experience of colonial rule until shortly after World War II. The great majority of Indonesia’s people today view accountability for past abuses of human rights through the lens of nationalism and view the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) as having defended the integrity of a nation that was, and to a much lesser extent still is, beset by separatist pressures. As with many transitioning nations that have grappled with the legacies of authoritarian regimes, Indonesians themselves will have to recognize that accountability matters not merely to the victims of the abuses and their families, but to the country as a whole, and that achieving it will be a mark of the maturity of Indonesia’s democracy and a guarantee of justice for all its people. The U.S. government relays that message on a regular basis to the Indonesian government and people.

Although the record of accountability for past abuses remains disappointing, Indonesia’s record on more recent cases of alleged human rights abuses is positive, as is the TNI’s overall reform effort. These efforts constitute an implicit recognition by the TNI and Indonesian society of the unacceptability of human rights abuses occurring now or in the future. Reforms to date have included the TNI’s withdrawal from political office, separation of the police from the TNI as an independent force subject to civilian control, initial steps toward the TNI’s divestment of businesses, and the requirement that TNI soldiers undergo human rights training.

The new TNI leadership has made some moves toward accepting responsibility for known human rights abuses. In January 2008, newly installed TNI commander Djoko Santoso pledged TNI cooperation with two separate investigations by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM): the 1989 Talangsari case, in which Army soldiers allegedly killed approximately 200 civilians in the town of Talangsari, Sumatra, and the May 2007 shooting of civilians in Pasuruan, East Java, over a land dispute, which resulted in four killed and eight injured. The U.S. government is guardedly optimistic that the opening to the public of the trial of Marines accused in the 2007 shooting could establish a precedent for future accountability in a broader array of cases. The investigations for the two cases are currently in progress. In March, a military tribunal in Jayapura sentenced four TNI soldiers to, prison for their role in a rape case. A second lieutenant and another soldier are in custody in Papua, while the TNI investigates a fatal shooting in Tinginambut, Papua, in January 2008.

Another significant recent action was a February 2008 Constitutional Court verdict that provides an opportunity to advance or resume previously stalled domestic investigations into gross violations of human rights. Currently, the legislature (DPR) has not provided a legal basis for establishing ad hoc human rights courts for several major cases. The recent Court decision requires the legislature to heed the legal findings of investigations into past abuses by Komnas HAM and the Attorney General’s Office ­ the only organs with the legal authority in Indonesia to make determinations of the severity of past abuses ­ ostensibly by establishing a legal avenue for a judicial process. This ruling may result in some as-yet-untried cases moving forward.

President Yudhoyono has endorsed trying members of the military in civilian courts, which will require the revision of the Code of Military Justice, Uniform Criminal Code, and several other statutes. The DPR has had some initial debates on the design of these laws, and the government has reportedly begun drafting appropriate laws. In Indonesia, a law typically takes several years to move its way through the cumbersome legislative process.

By comparison, the Indonesian government’s overall record on accountability for past human rights abuses is less encouraging. There has been no serious accountability for the gross human rights violations credibly alleged to have been committed before and in the aftermath of the 1999 referendum in which Timor-Leste’s people chose independence from Indonesia. Nor has there been serious accountability for gross human rights violations credibly alleged to have occurred in Aceh or elsewhere, or during the protests leading to the fall of former President Soeharto. Although the United States regularly discusses with the government of Indonesia the need for accountability to restore full confidence in the Indonesian Armed Forces with respect to past human rights violations and makes the same case publicly, the prospect for any significant accounting in the immediate future is uncertain at best.

Our Response:

The State response contends erroneously that “although the record of accountability for past abuses remains disappointing, Indonesia’s record on more recent cases of human rights violations is positive, as is the TNI’s overall reform effort.” This error is based on citations to “reforms to date” as the “TNI withdrawal from political office, separation of the police from the TNI and initial steps toward TNI divestment of businesses and the requirement that TNI soldiers undergo human rights training.” In fact these reforms have been partial or half-hearted, and have not included an end to the territorial command structure, the dismantling of the military businesses empire, or other prerequisites to genuine civilian control.

The TNI continues to maintain its “territorial system,” in effect a shadow government that extends from the level of the central government down to sub-district and even village level. The TNI uses this intrusive presence to overpower civilian control. For example, the TNI recently decided which retired military officer would run for Governor of Central Java. In recent months, as national elections near, there has been an increasing flow of senior offices into retirement and immediately into politics.

The separation of the police from the TNI was a significant step, but one that occurred nearly eight years ago. As noted above, 2004 legislation demanding TNI divestment of illegal and legal businesses by 2009 has not been effectively implemented. The State response itself notes that the recent Presidential decree limits the businesses affected to those capitalized at more than $2 million: “only six to twelve of the businesses would be affected… leaving 324 smaller enterprises, 1,071 non-profit cooperatives and 25 foundations” unaffected.

TNI soldiers have been exposed to human rights training since the late 1990s. This is not a new development, and, as illustrated by the 1999 violence in East Timor and numerous other cases since, has been little more than a public relations exercise.

The State response claims that TNI Commander Djoko Santoso pledged TNI cooperation with two separate investigations by the National Commission on Human Rights (i.e., the Talangsari and Pasuruan cases). In fact, Santoso told the media in January 2008 that with regard to retired TNI officers summoned in the Talangsari case “whether they comply with or ignore the summons is not TNI business.” Meanwhile, Defense Minister Sudarsono has strongly defended the retired generals’ defiance of the summons. The Talangsari case therefore stands out as a prime example of the failure to cooperate with the Commission.

Finally, the broad contention that “widespread nationalism” is a barrier to military reform ignores the extensive efforts of many Indonesians to secure real military reform and accountability before the law. It also ignores regular newspaper editorials and commentaries by prominent Indonesian intellectuals who urge reform.

Sec 679(a)(2)(A)(ii). Steps taken by the government of Indonesia on the implementation by the Armed Forces of reform to increase the transparency and accountability of their operations and financial management.

State Department Response:

While there has been a steady trend in the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) this decade toward increased professionalism, particularly in the lower ranks, overall progress toward greater transparency and accountability has been slow.

The TNI has had some success in inculcating an ethic of accountability in its ranks. Soldiers now are required to undergo human rights training and to carry an illustrated manual of rules of engagement. Allegations of gross violations of human rights involving the TNI are down sharply over the past three years. In those instances where allegations of human rights violations have arisen this decade, the TNI has generally undertaken efforts to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute the cases.

Implementing transparency of the TNI’s financial management is proceeding. The Indonesian Defense Department and the TNI have been cooperating with the United States and other partners providing foreign assistance to modernize and professionalize Indonesia’s defense management. The U.S.-sponsored Defense Resource Management Study, a multi-year project that began in 2006 and is slated for completion in 2009, is helping Indonesia develop a long¬-term planning and programming process to manage its defense resources in line with Indonesia’s strategic priorities. One goal of the study is to put defense spending on a sounder footing, thus relieving some of the pressure to engage in problematic business ventures. The study should give the Minister of Defense a managerial overview enabling his Ministry and other agencies, such as the State Planning Agency (BAPPENAS) and Department of Finance, to make better-informed decisions. This should also result in greater transparency of defense budgets, procurement, and planning for the legislature (DPR). Defense Minister Sudarsono has endorsed the interim results at several points. TNI has completed a National Defense Strategy Paper and a Defense White Paper, which provide the TNI a five-year plan for defense resources. The White Paper is currently with the Chief of Staff and we expect its publication in the near future.

Our Response:

Although it is correct that “soldiers now are required to undergo human rights training,” such training was undertaken even during the Suharto regime.

The State Department’s claim that “allegations of human rights violations involving the TNI are down sharply over the past three years” ignores multiple credible reports of abuses. During the last three years TNI “sweeps” in the highlands of West Papua have displaced hundreds of civilians from their homes into surrounding jungles where they lack adequate food, shelter and health care. TNI units conducting the sweeps have impeded Papuan efforts to bring humanitarian relief to these besieged civilians, some of whom perished. The one significant reduction in abuses has been in Aceh, following the tsunami and the subsequent peace process.

The State response states “One goal of a (U.S.-sponsored Defense Resource Management Study) is to put defense spending on a sounder footing, thus relieving some of the pressure to engage in problematic business ventures.” In fact, TNI business ventures are often operated at a loss and, as noted above, serve mainly as sinecure for senior military offices. Tax avoidance and exploitation of government resources, assigning of no-bid government contracts to these businesses constitute a significant and direct cost to the government.

Sec. 679(a)(2)(B). that the government of Indonesia has written plans to effectively provide accountability for past violations of human rights by members of the Armed Forces, and is implementing plans to effectively allow public access to Papua and to pursue the criminal investigation and provide the projected timeframe for completing the investigation of the murder of Munir Said Thalib:

State Department Response:

We do not believe the Government of Indonesia has created or is implementing a systematic written plan to effectively provide accountability for past violations of human rights by members of the Armed Forces. Evidence of the government’s efforts to provide accountability is detailed above [see response to Sec. 679(a)(2)(A)]. We do, however, believe that the Government of Indonesia is implementing plans to effectively allow public access to Papua and West Papua provinces and to pursue a criminal investigation into the murder of Munir Said Thalib.

The Indonesian government requires foreign journalists, NGO officials, and diplomats to obtain permission to visit Papua or West Papua provinces on official business, although there is some indication that the government is reviewing this policy. There are no restrictions on Indonesian citizens traveling to Papua or West Papua for any purpose, nor are there restrictions on foreigners traveling for tourism or other non-official purposes.

Although the Indonesian government has not announced any new policy to provide greater openness in Papua and West Papua, access to the provinces has improved in recent years, although foreign visitors’ movements have been restricted and monitored. The imperative of continued improvement remains an integral component of the U.S. government’s dialogue with Indonesia.

In 2007 the Indonesian government allowed a number of high-profile international visitors to Papua and West Papua: United Nations Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders Hina Jilani (June); A TIME Magazine correspondent (September); United States Ambassador Cameron R. Hume and a delegation of Embassy officials (October); U.S. Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (November); United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak (November). High-level visitors through May 30, 2008 have included: Prince Andrew, the United Kingdom’s Special Representative for Trade and Investment (March).

We are aware of no cases where foreign diplomats, NGO officials or journalists were permanently denied permission to visit Papua or West Papua, although the Indonesian government has required that some visitors delay their travel or adjust their itineraries for security reasons. For example, Ambassador Hume had to delay his October visit to Timika, Papua, by one day because of rioting unrelated to his visit. Citing security reasons, the Indonesian government did not allow Delegate Faleomavaega to visit Jayapura and limited his stay in Papua to two-and-one-half days. In other cases, visitors have been forced to delay their travel to Papua or West Papua by several months.

In February 2008, the Indonesian government allowed a major delegation of diplomats and international development officials to attend the Second Development Partners’ Conference in Jayapura, Papua, without requiring them to obtain permission.

Progress on investigations and prosecutions for the murder of Munir Said Thalib is a significant sign of the government’s determination to pursue accountability for abuses of human rights allegedly committed by government officials. In January 2008, the Supreme Court re-convicted Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto of the murder and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. The Supreme Court had overturned a previous conviction for Pollycarpus for the crime in October 2006. The prosecution and police are continuing to pursue other suspects, including individuals at the National Intelligence Agency (BIN), whom they suspect of complicity in the murder. The investigation is ongoing although the government has not indicated a specific timeline for completing the investigative process. To an unprecedented degree, this trial has openly addressed the suspected involvement of security forces in Munir’s murder.

Our Response:

Munir: The document is correct in reporting the reconviction of Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto and his sentencing to 20 years in prison. However, the conclusion that the trial has openly addressed the suspected involvement of security forces “to an unprecedented degree” should not give the impression that this question has been adequately addressed by the government.

The report of the independent fact-finding team that first raised the issue of the involvement of intelligence officials has never been released, contrary to a provision in the presidential decree that created it. Furthermore, in Priyanto’s original trial, the prosecution portrayed him as motivated solely by a sense of patriotism, underplaying evidence he was an intelligence agent acting on orders from above.

Nonetheless, during the Supreme Court review of the decision, and the trials of two other airline employees, new facts came out about the role of intelligence officials. Together with a reinvigorated police investigation in 2008, this information led to a major step forward that took place after the State Department document was prepared: the arrest of retired General Muchdi Purwopranjono, a former deputy at the State Intelligence Agency. His trial began in August.

The question now is whether the prosecution will mount an effective case, and whether the possibility that Muchdi was in turn acting on orders is ever investigated.

West Papua: The report’s claim that “the Government of Indonesia is implementing plans to effectively allow public access to Papua and West Papua provinces,” is suspect as there have been few specific procedural changes in recent years.

In November 2007, Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, visited West Papua accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia. Rep. Faleomavaega subsequently sent a public letter to President Yudhoyono in which he described persistent interference with his visit by Indonesian security forces who attempted to prevent meetings with senior Papuan officials and civic leaders, as well as ordinary Papuans, and who arbitrarily truncated his visit. ( http://www.etan.org/issues/wpapua/1207faleoletter.htm)

In June 2007, Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, visited West Papua. Following her departure, Papuans with whom she had met faced threats and intimidation. Ms. Jilani expressed concern about this retaliation in her report and in separate messages to the Indonesian government during her visit. Her report also cited restrictions on travel to and movement within West Papua, including restrictions on the National Human Rights Commission investigations of human rights violations there. ( http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G08/103/40/PDF/G0810340.pdf)

Notwithstanding State Department claims, restrictions on travel to and movement within West Papua also extend to Papuans. In recent years, Indonesian security forces, including Kopassus special forces, have conducted military operations, notably in the central highlands, which regularly displace Papuan civilians. Indonesian security forces, as a mater of course, impede and at times prevent attempts by Papuan churches and humanitarian organizations to bring critical supplies to these displaced villagers, who face life threatening denial of food, medical care and shelter in the forests.

In 2005 Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) wrote a letter to the President of Indonesia, signed by 33 colleagues, calling for lifting of restrictions on international access to West Papua. “The travel permit (surat jalan) system, requiring travelers to report their own movements to local intelligence agencies, is contrary to the freedom of movement that is essential to a functional democracy. In all areas of West Papua outside of major urban centers, foreigners are required to carry surat jalan travel permits…We call on you to abolish the travel permit system,” they wrote. The surat jalan travel permit system remains firmly in place.

The congressional letter also urged abolition of visa policies “that restrict access of international journalists, researchers, and NGO workers to West Papua.” These visa restrictions have not been abolished. It is currently possible for members of the international community to visit West Papua on a 30-day tourist visa. However, human rights workers, journalists, and researchers have been imprisoned and deported while visiting West Papua with these visas. Applications for longer visas are rarely approved and routinely subject to long­and sometimes limitless­”procedural delays”.

The State Department report states: “We are aware of no cases where foreign diplomats, NGO officials or journalists were permanently denied permission to visit Papua or West Papua.” Yet, in at least one specific case, which has been brought to the attention of U.S. Embassy personnel in Jakarta, volunteers with a major international human rights organization were denied visas to enter West Papua in early 2008.

Prepared by John Miller and Tom Ricker, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
Ed McWilliams and Eben Kirsksey, West Papua Advocacy Team
Matthew Easton, Human Rights First

http://www.etan.org/news/2008/09state.htm

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