AWPA (Sydney) Urges Moratorium on Australian aid to Detachment 88 torturers

Australia West Papua Association, Sydney
PO Box 28, Spit Junction, Sydney, Australia 2088

The Hon Julia Gillard MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House
ACT 2600

15  September 2010

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the Australia West Papua Association  (AWPA),  I am writing to you concerning the recent media reports about the torture of activists in Maluku by members of the Indonesian counter-terrorism unit Detachment 88. Detachment 88 also operates in West Papua where they have  also  been accused of human rights abuses. In December 2009  the West Papuan  leader Kelly Kwalik who was of great symbolic importance  to the West Papuan people was killed  by the Indonesian security forces  which included members of  Detachment 88.  We will not go into great detail of the human rights abuses committed by this unit and that of the other Indonesian Special Forces unit,  Kopassus.  These human rights abuses have been documented in numerous reports and the activities of the Indonesian security forces  are well know to the Australian people from their past history in East Timor, Aceh and the ongoing abuses in West Papua.  A recent Human Rights Watch report titled “What Did I Do Wrong?” Papuans in Merauke Face Abuses by Indonesian Special Forces,”  documents a number of cases of West Papuans who were tortured by Kopassus troops.
AWPA and other civil society organisations have written regularly to Australian Governments over many years about our ties with the Indonesian military. We have raised concerns that any aid or training given to the military would be used against the West Papuan people who are struggling for their right to self-determination.

Many of the NGO submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) concerning  the Lombok treaty, also raised  concerns about the past history of  the Indonesian military’s treatment of civilian populations.  Unfortunately these concerns have proven yet again justified in the case of the treatment of activists in West Papua and Maluku.

During the occupation of East Timor by Indonesia, the Australian Government appeared to believe that by continuing ties with the Indonesian military that  the professionalism of the Australian military would  rub off on the Indonesian military.  However, this  proved to be wishful thinking and a complete failure  as  was shown  by the behavior of the Indonesian military at the time of the referendum in East Timor. It is also a failure now.  To quote from the Human Rights Watch Report  “The cases in this report illustrate how violence thrives when a culture of impunity persists in  the heart of what is supposed to be one of Indonesia’s best trained fighting units”.

AWPA is urging you to put a moratorium on the training, funding and any ties between  the Australian military,  Detachment 88 and the special forces unit  Kopassus, until a full inquiry is held into the activities of these units in relation to  human rights abuses in the archipelago.

Yours sincerely
Joe Collins
AWPA (Sydney)

CC The Hon Kevin Rudd MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs
The Hon Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
Various human rights organisations

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