Washington will continue to train Kopassus despite torture

Washington will continue to train Kopassus despite torture
South East Asian Times, 24 October 2010

The United States military will continue to train Indonesia’s notorious military unit Kopassus despite the country’s political, legal and security minister Djoko Suyanto having confirmed that video footage of the country’s soldiers torturing Papuans is authentic.


The Indonesian government “…have undertaken, under democratic law, specific reforms and we will continue to work with them, United States State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley told reporters. “What they announced today is consistent with terms under which we resumed limited security cooperation with Kopassas.”

Defence Secretary Robert Gates announced a resumption of links with Kopassus – the military unit essential to the suppression of dissent during the Soeharto presidency - after 12-year hiatus when he visited Jakarta in July. But engagement would be limited until the army undertakes reforms, the defence secretary said.


Former Air Chief Marshal and Commander-in-Chief of the National Armed Forces and now political, legal and security minister Djoko Suyanto, 59, told reporters on Friday: “The preliminary explanation is that the incident really took place and it is true that the perpetrators are members of the military.”


The Antara News Service quoted defence minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro as having said that soldiers found to have acted excessively in the interrogating prisoners could be go before a court martial.


“There was indeed a firefight at the time and those questioned were detainees. But it is not impossible that our soldiers behaved excessively. That will be dealt with. The president… Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono… used the words ‘court-martial,’” he said.


The Sydney-based West Papua Association asked the Australian government to explain how the military aid and training Canberra provides the administration of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyo was used after the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission posted video footage on its website of Indonesian soldiers torturing indigenous Papuans.


The commission’s executive director Wong Kai Shing said in an explanation of the video that it was received from people in West Papua who must remain anonymous.


The video was reportedly shot in Puncak Jaya’s Tingginambut District which is still a Military Operational Region because it is reportedly the base of the armed separatist group the Free Papua Movement.


The Papuan Indigenous Council has confirmed to tempointeraktif.com that “security” troops burnt houses and churches in the Puncak Jaya region of the western-central highlands of West Papua between June and October this year.
“It's true. We have evidence,” said council chairman Forkorus Yoboisembut.
“Such incidents happened over and over again.”


In September, The Jakarta Post reported that a new detachment of 140 Mobile Brigade personnel from Bogor, West Java, had been dispatched to Puncak Jaya.
Former Kopassus or Special Forces officer Major General Hotma Marbun was installed as the military commander of West Papua last January.


The Muslim from northern Sumatra succeeded Major General Azmyn Yusri Nasution.
Both the Australian and United States military now help train both Mobile 88 and Kopassus as part of the continuing “war against terror.”


US to keep Indonesia engagement despite torture
AFP, 24 October 2010

WASHINGTON — The United States on Friday praised Indonesia as upfront in its investigation of torture of Papuan detainees and said it would not affect a resumption of military ties.


Human rights activists have criticized the US decision this year to restart military training to the elite military unit Kopassus, pointing to what they call a culture of impunity for abuses.


But State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said that the Indonesian government had promised a "full and transparent investigation" after an online video surfaced of the beating and humiliation of detainees.


"They have undertaken, under democratic law, specific reforms and we will continue to work with them," Crowley told reporters.


"What they announced today is consistent with terms under which we resumed limited security cooperation with Kopassas," he said.


The United States has been seeking to expand relations with Indonesia, seeing the moderate Muslim-majority nation as an ideal ally. President Barack Obama is due next month to visit Indonesia, where he spent part of his childhood.


Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Indonesia in July and announced a resumption of ties with Kopassus after a 12-year hiatus but said the engagement would be limited until the army undertakes reforms.


In the video, soldiers are seen applying a burning stick to the genitals of an unarmed man and threatening another with a knife as they interrogated them over the location of a weapons cache.


Foreign media have minimal access to Papua, whose people are racially distinct from the majority of Indonesians and have long spoken of ill treatment.