RI denies leaked US embassy cables on lifting Kopassus ban

RI denies leaked US embassy cables on lifting Kopassus ban
The Jakarta Post, 18 December 2010

The Indonesian government downplayed a leaked US embassy cable that said Jakarta used the recent state visit by President Barack Obama as a bargaining tool to force Washington to lift a 12-year-old ban on training a special army unit blamed for human rights abuses.

“We never did such a thing,” Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro was quoted as saying Friday at the Presidential Palace by news portal tempointeraktif.com.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Friday that Indonesia “threatened to derail a visit to Jakarta by President Barack Obama” unless he overturned the US ban on training Kopassus.

The newspaper obtained exclusive information from WikiLeaks, a whistle-blower website that has leaked about 250,000 US embassy cables.

The Foreign Ministry told The Jakarta Post on Friday that it would not comment on any diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks.

Human rights activists said they doubted that Indonesia’s threat to derail Obama’s visit last November was the real reason behind the lifting of the ban, but added that they suspected more diplomatic cables were to come from WikiLeaks to explain the reasons behind the lifting of the ban.

“I don’t think the US lifted the embargo on training the Army Special Forces [Kopassus] based on that alone,” Haris Azhar from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said.
The US administration placed the ban in 1999 due to gross human rights violations, including murder and torture during conflicts in Timor Leste and Aceh.

“The agreement to provide military aid was probably the last piece of negotiation before the visit,” Haris said, adding that Obama could have canceled the trip if the US administration did not agree to
the demand of the Indonesian government.

Obama canceled visits in March and June due to pressing issues before finally making his long-awaited visit in November. Haris said the leaked cables were just “one of many parts” and stronger reasons behind the lifting of the ban would surface as WikiLeaks continued to release the remaining cables in its cache.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is now embroiled in a legal battle, threatened that key parts of the entire archive of 251,287 cables would be released automatically if something should happen, as reported by The New York Times.

Haris said the cables showed that human rights took a back seat to other interests since human rights “was not really the main principal in carrying out diplomacy”.

“Human rights are non-negotiable between any two countries,” he added. “No government should give aid to the Indonesian Military before the units make efforts to supporting human rights and carry out reforms.”

The Herald reported that the US embassy in Jakarta supported the lifting of the ban, citing the Australian military’s ties with Kopassus as a reason. An April 2007 cable revealed said that “our Australian counterparts often encourage us to resume training for Kopassus’’.