Amnesty International USA opposes US ties to Indonesian “Kopassus” unit

Amnesty International USA opposes US ties to Indonesian “Kopassus” unit until
crimes committed by members are investigated and legally resolved

Amnesty International USA opposes renewing US military training and other ties to a particular branch of the Indonesian military, Kopassus, a “special forces” unit tied to many unprosecuted serious crimes. Amnesty advises that it would be counterproductive to United States and Indonesian interests to override existing prohibitions against support of Kopassus until the Indonesian government meets agreed-to obligations to legally resolve crimes committed by Kopassus members. Otherwise, engagement with Kopassus is unjustifiably premature.
Prohibitions mentioned fall under what is collectively referred to as the Leahy Law, which affects both Defense and Foreign Policy appropriations. Leahy provisions apply to the Indonesian military as a whole (TNI), as well as to other governments whose military has been complicit in serious human rights abuses. The following observations, however, focus on Kopassus only.

Several recent developments suggest a change in US policy toward Kopassus. For example, the Administration’s National Security Council Senior Director for Asia hinted at future engagement with Kopassus. The Indonesian General commanding Kopassus visited US officials; the Indonesian Minister of Defense stated that he expects resumption of US/Kopassus cooperation.

In March President Obama delayed a scheduled trip to Indonesia until June. Before the delay, Amnesty International and other international and Indonesian human right organizations published open letters to the President Obama defining human rights issues we hoped the he would address. In our letter to President Obama, we wrote in part:
“US – Indonesia military cooperation should ensure the development of a professional security force in Indonesia and should be linked to bringing those involved in human rights abuses to face trial. Of special concern are recent attempts to engage the Special Forces group “Kopassus.” …US–Indonesia military cooperation should be linked to genuine security sector reform, including bringing “Kopassus” officers involved in human rights abuses to trial.” (See here)

Despite promises by the Indonesian government, despite repeated assurances by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during visits to the United States, Kopassus officers involved in serious human rights crimes have never been brought to legal accountability.

Credible but unconfirmed news reports in March 2009 and in the last weeks assert that members of Kopassus and other Indonesian military were active in the province of Aceh, Indonesia during lead-up to an election in the province. That period was marked by several unsolved assassinations of men previously associated with the Free Aceh resistance movement. Indonesian military activity in Aceh would violate terms of a peace agreement ending hostilities between the Indonesian government and Aceh resistance forces. The unconfirmed presence of illegal military personnel has led to suspicions of complicity in pre-election- crimes. Therefore, Amnesty recommends that these reports be independently investigated, and that journalists not be intimidated by threats of arrest for criminal defamation charges– an unfortunately prevalent practice. Amnesty would welcome an investigation of the unsolved murders in Aceh by Komnas HAM, Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission.

Amnesty appreciates that the Indonesian government including President Yudhoyono is moving to reform the Indonesian military, with some successes. We strongly believe that engagement with yet-unreformed Kopassus will short-circuit much progress.