Address Military Impunity, Freedom of Religion and Expression
July 19, 2011
(New York) – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should raise military accountability for abuses, freedom of expression, and the rights of religious minorities during her visit to Indonesia on July 21 to 24, 2011, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Secretary Clinton released today.
Clinton is to arrive in Bali a year after Robert Gates, the US defense secretary at that time, formally announced the resumption of US military relations with Indonesia’s special forces, Kopassus, which removed the last significant barrier to full-fledged US-Indonesian military ties.
“Closer US military ties with Indonesia were a reward for better behavior by Indonesian soldiers, yet one year later atrocities by the military still go unpunished,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This is an important opportunity for Clinton to speak publicly about the need for genuine military reform.”
On July 22, 2010, Secretary Gates announced that the Indonesian Defense Ministry “publicly pledged to protect human rights and advance human rights accountability and committed to suspend from active duty military officials credibly accused of human rights abuses, remove from military service any member convicted of such abuses, and cooperate with the prosecution of any members of the military who have violated human rights.”
However, the Indonesian military has failed to live up to its pledges to the US government to improve accountability, Human Rights Watch said. In one example, in January, three soldiers received light 8-to-10 month sentences for “disobeying orders” in the May 2010 torture of two farmers in Papua. None were charged with torture despite video evidence showing the soldiers kicking the victims, threatening one with a knife to his face, and repeatedly jabbing the second in the genitals with burning wood. Yet, a US Defense Department official characterized the prosecution of this case as “a success.”
Human Rights Watch also urged Clinton to raise concerns about several laws that criminalize the peaceful expression of political, religious, and other views. Clinton should call on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to release immediately the more than 100 activists currently behind bars in Indonesia for peaceful acts of free expression, Human Rights Watch said.
Longstanding impunity for violence against religious minorities in Indonesia has fostered larger and more brutal attacks by Islamist militants. Since President Yudhoyono issued a decree restricting activity by the Ahmadiyah religious community in 2008, more than 180 attacks against Ahmadiyah mosques and other properties have been recorded. The Ahmadiyah, who consider themselves Muslims, have long been the targets of violence and persecution in Indonesia because some Muslims view them as heretics. Clinton should urge Yudhoyono to withdraw the 2008 anti-Ahmadiyah decree and take other actions to protect religious freedom in the country, Human Rights Watch said.
“Laws stifling dissent are used against peaceful critics, and violent attacks on religious minorities are getting worse,” Pearson said. “If the US really wants to support Indonesia as a rights-respecting democracy, then Clinton should not shy away from stressing the importance of rolling back practices that undermine freedom of religion and speech.”
© Copyright 2010, Human Rights Watch
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September 22, 2010
Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment
Statements available for download are hyperlinked:
- The Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, (click here for online sharing version)
- Mr. Joseph Y. Yun,
- Mr. Robert Scher,
- Pieter Drooglever, Ph.D.,
- Mr. Octovianus Mote,
- Mr. Henkie Rumbewas,
- Mr. Nicholas Simeone Messet,
- Mr. Salamon Maurits Yumame,
- S. Eben Kirksey, Ph.D.,
- Sophie Richardson, Ph.D
- Powerpoint Preseentation:
Mr. Joseph Y. Yun Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs U.S. Department of State
Mr. Robert Scher Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Asian and Pacific Security Affairs U.S. Department of Defense
Pieter Drooglever, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus Institute of Netherlands History
Mr. Octovianus Mote Founder, West Papua Action Network President, Papua Resource Center
Mr. Henkie Rumbewas
Mr. Nicholas Simeone Messet West Papua, Independent Group Supporting Special Autonomy as Part of the Republic of Indonesia
Mr. Salamon Maurits Yumame Head of FORDEM (The Democratic Forum)
S. Eben Kirksey, Ph.D. Visiting Assistant Professor The Graduate Center The City University of New York
Sophie Richardson, Ph.D. Asia Advocacy Director Human Rights Watch
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Indonesia: Free ‘Balloon Activists’ in Ambon
Ill-Treatment of Political Prisoners in Earlier Episodes Raises Grave Concerns
August 10, 2010
Prosecuting Political Aspiration
Indonesia: Stop Prosecuting Peaceful Political Expression
Indonesia’s Not-So-Well-Kept Secret
Sadly, free speech in Indonesia is about as sturdy as the detained activists’ balloons. The Indonesian government publicly claims that it respects freedom of expression, so it should live up to its word and free these peaceful protesters immediately.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch
(New York) – The Indonesian authorities should immediately release the activists for Moluccan independence arrested in Ambon at the beginning of August 2010, Human Rights Watch said today. The activists were allegedly planning to float banned Moluccan independence flags attached to balloons to protest an August 3 visit by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Local sources reported that between 7 and 15 activists were arrested in connection with balloon launch plans to express political opposition to Indonesian rule in the Moluccas Islands. The police reportedly confiscated as evidence 133 posters that read “Free Alifuru and Papua Political Prisoners,” two copies of the June 2010 Human Rights Watch report “Prosecuting Political Aspiration,” 17 separatist Southern Moluccas Republic (Republik Maluku Selatan or RMS) flags, and one 12-pound gas cylinder to be used to fill the balloons. Yudhoyono was in Ambon to open the “Sail Banda” event, organized by the Tourism Ministry and the Moluccas Islands government to promote tourism in the Banda Sea.
“Sadly, free speech in Indonesia is about as sturdy as the detained activists’ balloons,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Indonesian government publicly claims that it respects freedom of expression, so it should live up to its word and free these peaceful protesters immediately.”
Human Rights Watch expressed grave concern that past torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners in Ambon puts the recently detained activists at serious risk. The detainees should have immediate access to family members and legal counsel, Human Rights Watch said.
Those arrested include Benny Sinay, Izak Sapulete, Andy Marunaya, Edwin Marunaya, Ongen Krikof, Marven Bremer, Steven Siahaya, and Ony Siahaya. Jacob Sinay, who lost his civil service job in December 2009 because of his political activism, is also being held. Most were arrested at their homes on August 2 and 3. Some were also arrested because they publicly unfurled the separatist RMS flag in some places in the archipelago, including on Ambon and Saparua islands.
Observers at the Sail Banda event in the Yos Sudarso seaport in Ambon described what they considered to be a very large deployment of police officers and military personnel. The security forces apparently sought to prevent a repeat of Yudhoyono’s June 29, 2007 visit, when 28 local Moluccan dancers were able to enter the Ambon stadium, dance the cakalele war dance, and unfurl the RMS flag.
More than 70 men were arrested after the 2007 dance. Many were tortured after being handed over to Anti-Terror Unit 88 forces based in Ambon. The Ambon district court convicted more than three dozen of them, including the dance leader Johan Teterisa, of treason and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 5 to 20 years. Teterisa was sentenced to 15 years and is in the Malang prison in eastern Java.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern that Ambon authorities confiscated the recent Human Rights Watch report, “Prosecuting Political Aspiration,” as possible evidence in a case against the activists. The report profiles the cases of 10 prominent Papuan and Moluccan activists currently behind bars for expressing their political views, and details ill-treatment they suffered in detention and violations of their due process rights.
In June, Human Rights Watch discussed the findings of the report in Jakarta with officials from the Law and Human Rights Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the National Commission on Human Rights. At least 100 Papuans and Moluccans are in prison in Indonesia for peacefully expressing their political views.
“By arresting the Ambon activists, the Indonesian authorities are repeating the very mistakes that raised doubts globally about Indonesia’s commitment to improving human rights,” Robertson said. “The government should release these peaceful protesters immediately and spare the country further international condemnation.”
Human Rights Watch takes no position on claims to self-determination in Indonesia or in any other country. Consistent with international law, Human Rights Watch supports the right of all individuals, including independence supporters, to express their political views peacefully without fear of arrest or other forms of reprisal.
Most of the current political prisoners in Indonesia were convicted of makar (treason) under articles 106 and 110 of the Indonesian Criminal Code.
However, freedom of expression is protected both in Indonesia’s constitution and international human rights law. The constitution in article 28(e) states, “Every person shall have the right to the freedom of association and expression of opinion.” Article 28(f) provides, “Every person shall have the right to communicate and obtain information for the development of his/her personal life and his/her social environment, and shall have the right to seek, acquire, possess, keep, process, and convey information by using all available channels.”
In December 2007, the Indonesian government issued Government Regulation 77/2007, which regulates regional symbols. Article 6 of the regulation bans display of flags or logos that have the same features as “organizations, groups, institutions or separatist movements.” Both the Papuan Morning Star flag and the RMS flag are considered to fall under this ban.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in 2006, also protects the right to free expression. Under article 19, “[e]veryone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
HRW: US Resumes Military Assistance to Abusive Force Obama Administration Lifts Ban Despite Military’s Lack of Reform, Accountability
Reposting from HRW
Indonesia: US Resumes Military Assistance to Abusive Force
Obama Administration Lifts Ban Despite Military’s Lack of Reform, Accountability
July 22, 2010
Letter to US Department of Defense Regarding US Military Assistance to Indonesia
Letter to US Departments of Defense and State Regarding US Plans to Reengage with Indonesia’s Special Forces
“What Did I Do Wrong?”
The Obama administration has just failed a key test. This is not the way to encourage reform with a military that has yet to demonstrate a genuine commitment to accountability for serious human rights abuses. This decision rewards Kopassus for its intransigence over abuses and effectively betrays those in Indonesia who have fought for decades for accountability and justice.
Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch
(New York) – The Obama administration’s decision to lift a more than decade-long ban on US military assistance to Indonesia’s abusive special forces seriously undermines its commitment to promoting respect for human rights in Indonesia and weakens US standards for military cooperation globally, Human Rights Watch said today. The US secretary of defense, Robert Gates, announced a limited program of engagement with the elite force, Komando Pasukan Khusus (Kopassus), while in Jakarta today.
Kopassus has been responsible for numerous serious human rights abuses – including killings, enforced disappearances, and torture – since the 1990s. The Indonesian government’s failure to remove Kopassus soldiers convicted of serious abuses from the military, and its recent appointment of officers credibly linked with abuses to leadership posts within Kopassus and the Defense Ministry made repealing the ban particularly inappropriate, Human Rights Watch said.
“The Obama administration has just failed a key test. This is not the way to encourage reform with a military that has yet to demonstrate a genuine commitment to accountability for serious human rights abuses,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “This decision rewards Kopassus for its intransigence over abuses and effectively betrays those in Indonesia who have fought for decades for accountability and justice.”
Defense Secretary Gates said that initial reengagement with Kopassus “will take place within the limits of US law and do[es] not signal any lessening of the importance we place on human rights and accountability.”
The administration has apparently detailed to the Indonesian government various criteria to resume interactions with Kopassus: that personnel convicted of human rights violations be removed from the special forces; that the military and Kopassus pledge to cooperate with future civilian or military investigations and prosecutions of human rights abuses; that anyone convicted of human rights abuses in the future be prohibited from serving in the military; and that personnel credibly alleged to have committed human rights abuses in the future be suspended pending an investigation. However, Human Rights Watch noted that those criteria are not currently being met, and in any case, are far from adequate to address the problem.
“These standards disregard the difficulty of prosecuting Indonesian military personnel for even the most serious abuses,” said Richardson.
The Indonesian military justice system presently has exclusive jurisdiction over military personnel except in cases in which they are accused of genocide or crimes against humanity, or are alleged to have committed crimes with civilian accomplices. Human Rights Watch pointed to the structural weaknesses of the military court system, which has repeatedly failed to investigate and adequately prosecute alleged abusers in the past, in an April 2010 letter to a key Indonesian lawmaker urging him to support a bill that would transfer jurisdiction over such cases to civilian courts.
“The Indonesian justice system rarely vigorously investigates or prosecutes anyone from the military, so forces like Kopassus will likely still be able to commit abuses with impunity and still meet the Obama administration’s standards,” said Richardson. “It’s hard to see the administration’s decision as anything other than a victory for abusive militaries worldwide.”
The US government cut off all aid to the Indonesian military in 1999 as a result of widespread human rights violations in East Timor and has refused to resume aid to Kopassus in particular because of ongoing concerns about its record and lack of accountability. Human Rights Watch has acknowledged important human rights improvements in Indonesia since the end of the authoritarian Suharto regime, but has also expressed ongoing concerns that security sector reform in Indonesia has stalled in critical areas, such as accountability for human rights violations.
Kopassus members have been implicated in serious human rights abuses, including abducting and “disappearing” student activists in 1997-98, launching a scorched-earth campaign and forming deadly militia forces in East Timor in 1999, and abducting and killing Papuan activist and traditional leader Theys H. Eluay in 2001. In 2003, Human Rights Watch documented allegations that Kopassus soldiers engaged in torture during military operations in Aceh. A 2009 Human Rights Watch report entitled “What Did I Do Wrong?” found that Kopassus soldiers were engaging in a pattern of arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of civilians in Merauke, Papua.
In none of these cases did the Indonesian military take sufficient steps to ensure that perpetrators were held accountable. A series of ad hoc trials of soldiers implicated in crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999 ultimately failed to convict a single defendant. A number of the soldiers convicted by a military court for the student disappearances remained in the Indonesian military as of 2007, and two remained in Kopassus until March 2010. One of the seven Kopassus members convicted of mistreatment and battery leading to Eluay’s death, Colonel Tri Hartomo, was later promoted to a senior position in the Kopassus leadership and as of March 2010 serves elsewhere in the Indonesian military. Kopassus has denied the allegations in “What did I do Wrong,” and to Human Rights Watch’s knowledge has not sanctioned any of the soldiers implicated in the misconduct documented in the report.
In April 2010, Col. Nugroho Widyo Utomo, who has been credibly accused of involvement in serious human rights abuses in East Timor as the commander of the Combined Intelligence Task Force in 1998, was appointed to the position of deputy commander of Kopassus. Widyo Utomo is alleged to have had an active role in establishing the militias that the Indonesian military used to intimidate, harass, and kill an estimated 1,400 East Timorese suspected of supporting independence from Indonesia in the run-up to a 1999 referendum – the events that prompted the United States to impose its ban on all aid to the Indonesian military. Widyo Utomo’s appointment follows the January 2010 appointment of Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, who was implicated in the 1997-98 student disappearances, abuses in East Timor in 1999, and the Santa Cruz Massacre in East Timor in 1991, to the position of deputy defense minister by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
“The Indonesian government’s recent appointment of two individuals implicated in the very abuses that led the US to cut off aid in the first place to senior positions within Kopassus and the Defense Ministry shows that it is not serious about reform, and the Obama administration ignores this at its peril,” said Richardson.
The debate over resuming US assistance to Kopassus began in early 2010, prior to President Barack Obama’s then-planned trip to Indonesia. In response to initial demands made by the administration, the Indonesian government shifted at least three officers previously convicted of human rights abuses from Kopassus to other positions within the Indonesian military and stated, through an interview by the minister of defense to an English-language newspaper, that soldiers found to have committed genocide or crimes against humanity would be suspended and questioned, and if found responsible by the military, would be brought before a civilian court. The US government appears to have considered these steps satisfactory to ensure future accountability, even though there are no judicial mechanisms sufficiently robust and independent to reliably deliver on the necessary kind of investigations or prosecutions envisioned under the plan.
Human Rights Watch called on the Obama administration to insist that more stringent and systemic standards be met prior to the resumption of training for security forces.
* encouraging passage of legislation in the Indonesian parliament that would transfer the prosecution of abuses committed by members of the military against civilians to civilian courts;
* that the military should permanently discharge personnel convicted of serious human rights abuses;
* that the government adopt transparent measures to ensure credible, impartial, and timely investigations into all future allegations of human rights abuse; and that
* President Yudhoyono should establish an ad hoc tribunal to investigate the enforced disappearance of student activists in 1997-98, as Indonesia’s House of Representatives recommended in September 2009.
“The Obama administration’s decision to start training Kopassus now risks undermining the limited progress towards professionalism that the Indonesian military has made thus far,” said Richardson. “The US is rewarding Indonesia for blocking justice, which sends the worst possible message for the future.”
Limitations mandated by the US Congress on providing training to foreign military forces under what is known as the “Leahy Law” bar the US from providing training, in the absence of corrective steps, to military units that are credibly alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights.
In a February 4, 2010 letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Human Rights Watch outlined three key steps Indonesia should take to address accountability for past and future abuses by Kopassus prior to resuming engagement with the force. First, the military should permanently discharge personnel convicted of serious human rights abuses. Second, it should adopt transparent measures to ensure credible, impartial, and timely investigations into all future allegations of human rights abuse. Third, President Yudhoyono should establish an ad hoc tribunal to investigate the enforced disappearance of student activists in 1997-98, as Indonesia’s House of Representatives recommended in September 2009.
In March 2010 four prominent Indonesian nongovernmental organizations called on the US to refrain from reengaging with Kopassus until it investigated past human rights abuses involving Kopassus, including by establishing the ad hoc court on the student disappearances, and took action to ensure that similar abuses would not occur. In a May 2010 letter, 13 members of the US Congress, including Senators John Kerry and Patrick Leahy, wrote to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates expressing serious concerns regarding their intention to resume training Kopassus and calling for prior consultation with Congress before such engagement began to ensure it met the requirements of US law. The letter also called for US government officials to encourage Indonesian legislators to enact a bill that would give the civilian courts the power to hear cases involving human rights offenses committed by members of the military and to condition US reengagement on the passage of such legislation.
Human Rights Watch has regularly raised concerns regarding the US government’s ability to effectively vet and monitor elements of Kopassus, and particularly its counter-terrorism unit, in a March, 2010 letter to Secretaries Clinton and Gates. Human Rights Watch also urged the Obama administration to refrain from providing unconditional assistance to Kopassus until Indonesia has adopted a number of structural reforms to address Kopassus’ lack of accountability, including making genuine progress in eliminating all forms of military business; launching renewed investigations into other serious human rights abuses in which security services have been implicated, such as the 2004 murder of Indonesian human rights activist Munir bin Said Thalib; and enacting legislation allowing civilian courts to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by military personnel against civilians.