Open Letter to President Obama from West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) and East Timor and Indonesia Act

(ETAN)For Immediate Release

Contact: John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668; mobile: +1-917-690-4391,
john@etan.org

Ed McWilliams, +1-575-648-2078, edmcw@msn.com

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

November 15, 2011

Dear President Obama,

President Obama meets with President Yudhoyono at the Istana Merdeka
State Palace Complex in Jakarta, Nov. 9, 2010. (Official White House
Photo by Pete Souza)

We urge you to seize the opportunity of your imminent return to
Indonesia to consider the challenges and opportunities posed by the
U.S.-Indonesia relationship more realistically than you have up to
now. Your Administration urgently needs a policy that addresses the
problems created by the Indonesian security forces’ escalating
violations of human rights and criminality and its failure to submit to
civilian control. The recent 20th anniversary of the 1991 Santa Cruz
massacre in Dili. East Timor (Timor-Leste), when hundreds of peaceful
protesters were massacred by Indonesian troops wielding U.S. supplied
weapons, reminds us that a lack of accountability for past crimes — in
Timor-Leste and throughout the archipelago — keeps those affected from
moving on with their lives, while contributing to impunity in the
present.

Indonesian military and police forces continue to operate without any
accountability before the law. Only in rare instances are individual
personnel brought before military tribunals for crimes against
civilians, often because of international pressure. Prosecution is
woefully inadequate and sentencing, in the rare instance of conviction,
is not commensurate with the crime.

Indonesia’s security forces, including the Kopassus special forces and
U.S.-funded and -trained Detachment (Densus) 88, continue to employ
against civilians weaponry supplied by the U.S. and to use tactics
developed as result of U.S. training. In West Papua, these security
forces have repeatedly attacked civilians, most recently participants
in the October 16-19 Congress and striking workers at theFreeport
McMoRan mine. Those assaulted were peacefully asserting their right to
assemble and freedom of speech. At the Congress, combined forces,
including regular military units, Kopassus, the militarized police
(Brimob) and Detachment 88, killed at least five civilians, beat scores
more, and were responsible for the disappearance of others.

Moreover, in the central highlands of West Papua, these same forces
regularly conduct so called “sweeping operations,” purportedly in
search of the very small armed Papuan resistance. These operations have
led to the deaths of many innocent civilians and driven thousands from
their village into forests where they face life threatening conditions
due to inadequate access to shelter, food and medical care.

Indonesian military and police forces continue to operate without any
accountability before the law. Only in rare instances are individual
personnel brought before military tribunals for crimes against
civilians, often because of international pressure. Prosecution is
woefully inadequate and sentencing, in the rare instance of conviction,
is not commensurate with the crime. Several videoed incidents of
military torture of civilians — widely discussed during your November
2010 visit to Indonesia — concluded in just such failures of justice.
The concept of command responsibility is rarely considered in the
military tribunals.

International monitoring of these developments in West Papua is
severely hampered by Indonesian government restrictions on access to
and travel within West Papua by foreign journalists, diplomats,
researchers, and human rights and humanitarian officials. The
International Committee of the Red Cross remains barred from operating
an office in West Papua. Indonesian journalists and human rights
officials face threats and worse when they try to monitor developments
there.

Elsewhere in Indonesia, too many times security forces have stood by or
actively assisted in attacks on minority religions, including deadly
attacks on Ahmadiyah followers.

The Indonesian security forces — especially the military — are
largely unreformed: it has failed to fully divest itself of its
business empire, its remains unaccountable before the law, and
continues to violate human rights. These forces constitute a grave
threat to the continued development of Indonesian democracy. The
upcoming national elections in Indonesia present a particularly urgent
challenge. The Indonesian military is in position to pervert the
democratic process as it has in the past. The military has frequently
provoked violence at politically sensitive times, such as in 1998 when
it kidnapped tortured and murdered democratic activists. For many
years it has relied on its unit commanders, active at the District,
sub-District and even village level to influence the selection of party
candidates and the elections themselves. The territorial command system
is still in place. In the past, U.S. restrictions and conditions on
security assistance have resulted in real rights improvements in
Indonesia. Your Administration should learn from this history.

Given this threat to democracy and to individuals posed by Indonesian
forces, it is essential that the U.S. employ the significant leverage
that comes from Indonesia’s desire for U.S. security assistance and
training to insist on real reforms of Indonesian security forces.
Rhetorical calls for reforms are clearly insufficient. These
exhortations have manifestly not worked and readily brushed aside.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recent expression of
“concerns about the violence and the abuse of human rights” in Papua
were dismissed by a spokesperson for Indonesia’s President Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono , who called the escalating rights violations “only
isolated incidents.”

In the past, U.S. restrictions and conditions on security assistance
have resulted in real rights improvements in Indonesia. Your
Administration should learn from this history and quickly suspend
training for those units whose human rights records and impunity are
especially egregious, as required by the Leahy law. We specifically
urge you to end plans to re-engage with Kopassus and to end assistance
to Detachment 88. These actions would demonstrate U.S. Government
seriousness in pursuit of real reforms of the security forces in
Indonesia.

Sincerely,

Ed McWilliams for WPAT

John M. Miller for ETAN

see also
On 20th Anniversary of Timor Massacre, Rights Network Urges Justice,
ETAN Says U.S. and UN Must Act (November 12, 2011) Statement of East
Timor and Indonesia Action Network on President Obama’s Visit to
Indonesia (November 5, 2010) West Papua Advocacy Team: Open Letter to
President Obama on The Eve of His Visit to Indonesia (November 4) ETAN:
Open Letter to President Barack Obama on His 2010 Visit to Indonesia
(March 18, 2010)

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180 responses to “Open Letter to President Obama from West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) and East Timor and Indonesia Act

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