TAPOL calls on British Government to suspend Kopassus training

TAPOL calls on British Government to suspend Kopassus training

TAPOL has today called on the British Government to suspend its plan to conduct training for Kopassus, Indonesia's special forces, in October this year in view of reports of abuses perpetrated by members of the force in Merauke, province of Papua.

Last week, Human Rights Watch, published a report documenting a number of abuses of Papuans over the past year. The report describes how Papuans have been seriously maltreated by members of Kopassus.

One victim, a 21-year old Papuan, described how he was seized late one night and maltreated by twelve Kopassus soldiers:

'They beat me on the face repeatedly. My face was bleeding. Once, one soldier held my chest and another kicked my stomach.'

As a result of the assault, the victim started vomiting blood. The following morning he was forced to chew hot chillies which caused intense pain in the mouth because of his habit of chewing betel nuts which leaves cracks in the mouth.

Another victim told Human Rights Watch investigators how he and his brother were chased by soldiers firing in the air, after a friend asked a soldier for a cigarette. They hid themselves but were dragged out and beaten. 'They repeatedly beat us on the face, blood was everywhere. I don't know the reasons. I assume they didn't like (my

brother's) friend asking for a cigarette.'

The UK's Joint Counter Terrorist Training and Advisory Team is due to conduct training for members of Kopassus in October this year at the Kopassus training facility in Batujajar, Central Java. The training is taking place following claims that the force which has been responsible for acts of brutality for many years has distanced itself from politics and now respects human rights.

In a letter to Foreign Secretary David Miliband (text below), Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL calls on the British Government to press Indonesia to investigate the latest information about the behaviour of Kopassus troops in West Papua and to make it clear that such training can only be considered if members found guilty of these abuses are called to account. 'Until such time as Kopassus troops have been called to account, training programmes for members of the force should be suspended,' she said.

ENDS

Contact Carmel Budiardjo on +44 208 771 2904 or Paul Barber on +44 1420 80153 or +44 774 730 1739

Text of letter:

29 June 2009

Dear Mr Miliband,

TAPOL is deeply concerned about the decision by the UK's Joint Counter Terrorist Training and Advisory Team to organise training for members of Indonesia's special forces, Kopassus, in October this year at the Kopassus training facility in Batujajar, Central Java.

We understand that the decision to undertake that training is justified on the grounds that Kopassus has distanced itself from politics and now respects human rights.

However, recent events in Merauke, Papua, Indonesia, show that Kopassus continues to be responsible for grave acts of brutality against the civilian population.

A report just issued by Human Rights Watch draws attention to a number of recent beatings and abuses. Their investigators documented six cases in which local people were subjected to abusive treatment by members of Kopassus.

One case concerns Antonius, a 21-year old Papuan who was seized late one evening late last year by members of Kopassus as he was leaving friends with whom he had been socialising. He describes how he was hit on the face repeatedly with a water hose while lying on the floor. Twelve Kopassus soldiers took part in the abuse.

The victim said: 'They beat me on the face repeatedly. My face was bleeding. My eyes were swollen. Once, one soldier held my chest and another kicked my stomach.' As a result of the abuse, he vomited blood. The following morning, he was forced to chew ten very hot chillies, which caused intense pain because of the cracks inside his mouth from chewing betel nut, a tradition among Papuan people.

'We are scared of Kopassus,' he said.

In another incident, two brothers, Nathan and Patrick were chased by Kopassus soldiers firing warning shots in the air after a friend had asked a soldier for a cigarette. When they tried to hide, soldiers dragged them out of their hiding place.

Describing what happened next, Nathan said: 'They repeatedly beat us on the face, blood was everywhere. I do not know the reasons. I assumed they didn't like Patrick's friend asking for a cigarette.'

Another victim, Petrus, who was a bystander to a fight was handcuffed by Kopassus soldiers, taken to their mess, beaten with a water hose and kicked in the chest with heavy boots. When he reported the beating to the police, they said it was too dangerous for them to do anything as Kopassus troops were not under their authority.

Kopassus have no legal authority to get involved in law and order which is the responsibility of the Indonesian police. Yet documented evidence show that they are perpetrating acts of brutality with impunity.

These incidents show that Kopassus troops engage in acts of terror towards Papuans even while they are engaged in simple, everyday activities, in violation of their basic human rights.

We urge the Government to press the Indonesian Government to investigate the latest information about the behavior of Kopassus troops in Merauke and to make it clear that training by the UK can only be considered if members of the force found guilty of these abuses are called to account.

Until such time as Kopassus troops have been called to account, training programmes for members of the force should be suspended.

Yours sincerely,

Carmel Budiardjo