Rights groups say Kopassus still ‘far from reformed’

Rights groups say Kopassus still ‘far from reformed’
, 24 July 2010

Human rights bodies in the country said Friday the US should not lift its ban on ties with the Indonesian Army Special Forces (Kopassus) as it had not reformed, a claim refuted by the military.

Papang Hidayat from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said the Indonesian government had not fulfilled several conditions demanded by the US government before the ban was lifted.

“Kopassus members implicated in human rights abuses, such as those from the Rose team, who were punished and released, have been promoted and hold strategic positions in military as well as civil institutions,” he said without elaborating further.

The Rose team is believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of political activists in 1998.

Papang said the military had not yet officially admitted the rights abuses allegedly committed in the past, let alone issued a report similar to the one produced by Indonesia and Timor Leste’s Truth and Friendship Commission.

“Such a report is important to uncover Kopasssus’ involvement in human rights violations, such as in Aceh and Papua,” Papang said.

He added that the mechanism to punish military perpetrators of rights violations through military courts, which did not satisfy victims and victims’ families, had not changed. “The revision of the law regulating this is not finished and a legislative draft on it met with resistance from the military,” he said, adding that this proved the military’s unwillingness to be held accountable.

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) said in a statement Friday that the US decision to resume engagement with Kopassus, announced Thursday during the visit of US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Jakarta, was “a betrayal of the brutal unit’s many victims in Timor Leste, West Papua and throughout Indonesia”.

Mugiyanto from the Association of Families of Missing Persons (Ikohi) said victims and their families were living witnesses to the lack of efforts from the state to tackle past human rights violations.

“The government should show its accountability in dealing with the issue. So far we have not seen either judicial accountability or non-judicial accountability,” said Mugiyanto, who was kidnapped by Kopassus members in 1998 when he was an activist with the Indonesian Student Solidarity for Democracy.

He added that judicial accountability meant that the government had to bring perpetrators of human rights abuses to court and punish them as well as uphold the victims’ rights.

“This has not happened. The government uses false diplomacy to assure the US government that everything is fine here.”

US senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont criticized the US administration’s decision to resume cooperation with Kopassus, saying the military force “remains unrepentant, essentially unreformed and unaccountable”, Agence France-Presse reported.

Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. I Wayan Midhio said the issue of human rights had been politicized in the US.

He insisted the Indonesian government had made efforts to reform Kopassus, including punishing perpetrators of human rights abuses, including members of Kopassus’ Rose team.

Midhio said the resumption of joint activities with US forces would be conducted with certain restrictions to conform to the military reforms promised by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.