The decision of the Obama Administration to begin “gradual and limited” engagement with the Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) ignores more than a decade-old, bi-partisan, bi-cameral Congressional consensus opposing assistance to that organization.

Opposition to U.S. military cooperation with Kopassus is based on that unit’s undisputed record of human rights abuse, criminality and unaccountability before the law. U.S. Administration claims that the organization has recently adopted a reform course is belied by credible independent reporting that Kopassus continues to abuse human rights with impunity. A June 2009 Human Rights Watch report detailed Kopassus abuse of civilians in Merauke in the troubled province of West Papua.

Administration claims that those Kopassus personnel “convicted” of human rights abuse have been removed from the organization ignores the reality that the impunity enjoyed by Kopassus personnel for decades has ensured that only a handful of Kopassus personnel have ever faced justice in a credible criminal court. In a rare example of judicial action, seven Kopassus officers were convicted of the 2001 murder of the leading Papuan political figure, Theys Eluay. Of the seven convicted of what the judge in the case termed a “torture-murder,” all remain on active duty after serving brief sentences (the longest being three and one half years imprisonment). Six left Kopassus but one remains in the organization.

Administration assurances that any Kopassus candidate for U.S. training will undergo “vetting” by the State Department ignores past failures of the State Department to screen out Kopassus rights abusers and criminals.

The Administration announcement correctly notes that since the fall of the dictator Suharto, with whose military the U.S. military maintained close ties, Indonesia has been on a democratic course. But the Administration fails to acknowledge that the gravest threat to ongoing democratic progress is the Indonesian military which continues to evade civilian control. Despite 2004 legislative requirements that the military divest itself of its vast empire of legal and illegal businesses by 2009, the military retains this source of off-budget funding.

Kopassus and other military personnel continue to enjoy impunity before the law for human rights abuse and criminal activity including people trafficking and drug running as acknowledged in past U.S. State Department human rights reporting.

The Indonesian military, and particularly Kopassus and intelligence agencies continue to repress peaceful protest, most notably targeting the people of West Papua. The military, especially Kopassus, but also the U.S.-funded “Detachment 81” and the militarized police (BRIMOB), routinely intimidate, threaten and accost Papuans who non-violently resist denial of fundamental rights, illegal expropriation of their lands and marginalization. Military and police units have repeatedly conducted purportedly anti-rebel “sweep operations” in the remote Central Highlands forcing thousands of villagers into the forests where they suffer lack of food, shelter and access to medical care. Twenty percent of Kopassus personnel (approximately 1,000 personnel) are stationed in West Papua.

The U.S. Administration’s decision to resume cooperation with the most criminal and unreformed element of the Indonesian military removes critical international pressure for reform and professionalization of the broader Indonesian military. It signals to Indonesian human rights advocates who have born the brunt of security force intimidation that they stand alone in their fight for respect for human rights and genuine reform in Indonesia.

contact: Ed McWilliams,, +1-575-648-2078

News from West Papua: Two Papuans on trial for rebellion; Deputy governor condemns Freeport for Lying

Abridged in translation

Bntang Papua, 21 July 2010

Two Papuans, Semuel Yaru and Luther Wrait are on trial for taking part in a flag flying event recently outside the office of the MRP, Majelis Rakyat Papua. Both men have been charged with rebellion. At the court hearing yesterday, the prosecutor presented his demand for sentencing the accused. He called on the court to sentence Sem Taru to three years and to sentence Luther Wrait to eighteen months. He said that the sentence for Sem Yaru should be higher because this is his second offence.

Lawyers acting for the defendants said that proposed verdicts were unacceptable – he called them ‘crazy and misguided’ – because the two men had not demanded secession from Indonesia. ‘As so often happens in demonstrations, there are speeches, flags are flown and other things that generally occur during a demonstration.’

The lawyer Iwan Niode said that what the men had been saying was that special autonomy for Papua had been a failure and had not been beneficial for the people.

The prosecutor said the men should be sentenced under article 106 of the Criminal Code (on rebellion) and articles 56 and 110 of the Criminal Code. He was referring to an incident on 10 November 2009 when the two men, along with Alex Mebri and about fifty other people took part in a demonstration outside the MRP office, when they handed out leaflets and unfurled the Morning Star flag.

While holding the flag aloft, Sem Yaru had called special autonomy a failure and said that the people had enjoyed no benefits and that, since special autonomy had failed, it would be better to be independent. The other people in the demonstration responded with calls for ‘merdeka’ He said there were no mitigating circumstances for the two men, one of whom should be sentenced to three years and the other to 18 months.

Deputy governor calls Freeport ‘a Big Cheat’

Sarmi: Amid all the confusing information about Freeport-Indonesia and the news about the company illegally mining uranium, which is not in accord with its contract of work, the deputy governor of Papua, Alex Hesegem, said during a visit to the island of Liki in the district of Sarmi that the Papuan people refuse to be cheated in this way.

‘They are big cheats,’ he said. ‘We refuse to be nothing more than bystanders in our rich land while our people live in poverty.’ He said that other companies wanting to invest in Papua should ensure that they contribute to the traditional land-owners and not behave like Freeport.

Hesegem said that the governor, Barnabas Suebu was trying hard to convince investors to come and exploit our sea, land and air, on condition that the Papuan people become more prosperous instead of continuing to live in poverty.

‘Every year, we receive only 1% of their earnings which is nothing more than Rp 500 billion. We should be getting much more than that.’

These accusations were well justified considering that Freeport , while having helped empower people in the locality, had inflicted enormous damage and had had an impact on people’s traditional values.

Reports were now circulating that the company is engaged in mining practices which are not covered by its contract of work.

Howeever, as for the governor himself, he does not seem to have been concerned about the uranium reports, saying that this was a matter for the central government. He told journalists that they should raise the issue with the Department of Mines.

But the provincial legislative council, the DPRP, has called for a team to be set up to investigate reports about uranium mining by Freeport.

According to Bintang Papua, the company pays annual taxes to the government which amounted to $1.4 billion or approximately Rp 13 trillion at the current rate of exchange in 2009.

In addition, the company pays royalties of $128 million as well as dividends amounting to $213 million.


Military commander: Papua wont be free as long as the army remains there

Bintang Papua, 20 July 2010


The military commander of the Cenderawasih Military Command,
Major-General Hotma Marbun, said that the aspirations of some groups of
people to secede from the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia –
NKRI – will never be achieved as long as the Indonesian army remains in

‘As long at the army is in Papua, there will be no merdeka,’ he told the
press, after attending a meeting.with the governor.

The two-star general said that as long as the army remains there and
pursues its state duties in accordance with its assignment from the
state and the mandate from the Indonesian people to safeguard the
territorial integrity of the NKRI, the territory of Indonesia will
remain whole.

He referred to an incident when shots were fired against the security
forces as well as against civilians in Mulia, the district of Puncak
Jaya, which resulted in a number of casualties; regardless of whether
this was an act of subversion, security in the region is still the
responsibility of the police force, while the army only has a supporting

‘If the incident is an act of subversion whatever their objectives, it’s
a different matter, as there may be orders from the centre, if the aim
is to achieve meredeka, but there wont be any such thing as merdeka
until such time as we are ordered by the president to leave Papua and
then the army will go home and the police will go home. Then it will be
up to them to get merdeka or whatever they like,’ he said.

He was speaking during a recent visit to Puncak Jaya.

He said that conditions in the district of Puncak Jaya, especially in
Tingginambut, which is often referred to as the base of an armed
movement, have gradually been restored to normal.

Asked whether he thought that there would be no more shooting in Puncak
Jaya, the commander said the army can provide no guarantee that the
actions of the armed group have come to an end. ‘They are just a group
of individuals; they have got hold of weapons without a licence.’

He went on to say that the only citizens who may possess weapons are
people in possession of a licence. Anyone possessing weapons withough
permission will be arrested by the police. ‘Even members of the army are
not all permitted to take out their weapon unless they are on duty or
involved in special activities.’

Tingginambut is still the responsibility of the police which means that
the army has only a supporting role, the commander said.

West Papuan people preparing for fresh wave of independence protests demanding referendum

Bintang Papua

The chairman of the KNPB, the National Committee of West Papua, Buchtar Tabuni has told the press that his organisation is preparing to consolidate and mobilise large numbers of people to occupy town centres across West Papua to draw international attention to the cause and, making the following demands:

Pepera, the Act of Free Choice is unlawful and must be handed back. A referendum should be held as soon as possible. International Parliamentarians for West Papua, the IPWP, and International Lawyers for West  Papua, the ILWP, together with the Vanuatu government should facilitate efforts to challenge the legal and political status of West Papua at the UN. And the KNPB wants to mediate the referendum by the people.

‘This is the most democratic way forward,’ he said, ‘as the way leading to independence. The idea to hold a referendum came from the Majelis Rakyat Papua, the Papuan People’s Council.’

He said that the referendum is the middle way towards resolving the West Papua conflict. The pepera occurred in the 1960s, with a huge amount of manipulation, violating basic international standards.

At the present moment, this matter is before the international community, a move to convince the UN to understand the illegality of Papua’s status as part of the Indonesian republic, NKRI. The IPWP and the ILWP were set up to press for these issues to be taken to the UN, and its members have been lobbying governments in their respective countries.

The process has been promoted by the Vanuatu parliament and government which have agreed to take the issue to the UN, namely to the International Court of Justice, and seek an opinion about the political status of West Papua. Similar pressure is under way by the governments of the PNG and the UK. [Comment: There is little evidence at the moment that this statement is true.]

The  process needs to be supported by the mass of the Papuan people, solidly demanding a referendum. The international community is beginning to underrstand what the Papuan people want while Jakarta is closing its eyes and doing nothing to seek a solution, even though thousands of people have demonstrated in support of the decisions of the MRP.

Papuans need to recognise that Indonesia is a colonial power which cannot be expected to find a solution by means of a referendum.

On 2 August, a campaign will begin to point out that the pepera took place at a time of brutal military repression in Papua. This will be the moment when the Papaun people’s  rejection of pepera will become part of a national campaign throughout the territory of West Papua.

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