Will Obama Cut Ties With Indonesian Torture?

By Carole Marzolf, Indonesia Country Specialist for Amnesty International

Filep Karma, imprisoned in Indonesida for raising a flag

President Obama will visit his childhood home of Indonesia in early November in his first official visit since taking office.  While his visit may bring back fond memories of his youth, there is nothing fond about the years of rampant human rights abuses carried out by Indonesia’s Special Forces that are about to receive renewed support from the US.

Indonesia may be perceived as a country gaining clout in the international arena but it is wrecked by massive corruption and its security forces get away with torture in total impunity, and those with opposing views may find themselves muzzled and thrown in jail.

As President Obama readies for his visit to Indonesia, join us in asking your Representative to support House Resolution 1355 calling for an end to human rights abuses and freedom for prisoners of conscience in Indonesia.

Although since the fall of President Suharto in May 1998 Indonesia saw a period of rapid reform, twelve years on, the process seems to have severely crumbled away.  According to Transparency International which measures corruption perceptions worldwide, Indonesia ranked 110th in 2010 on an equal footing with Gabon, Senegal or Bolivia. As a comparison, the United States ranked 22nd, while Malaysia ranked 56th and China 78th.

According to an Amnesty International report published last year, Indonesia’s security forces – both the police and military – regularly carry out horrific human rights abuses including torture.  Most recently, the Indonesian government acknowledged that men torturing Papuans in a video that circulated online are from the military.

Amnesty activists protest at the White House

Censorship has increased to the point where dozens of books and other media items have now been prohibited on Indonesian soil and authors and journalists have faced criminal prosecution simply for what they say and write.  Peaceful political activists, such as Prisoner of Conscience Filep Karma, have been jailed for nothing more than raising a flag. He was arrested in 2004 and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence.

Despite evidence of human rights abuses, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced last July that ties between the US and Indonesian Special Forces (KOPASSUS) would be gradually renewed. Cooperation with KOPASSUS is currently prohibited under the “Leahy Law” which bans U.S. military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.  During his visit to Indonesia, President Obama must enforce the “Leahy Law” by not renewing US ties with KOPASSUS. Write or call your Representative to tell about the situation in Indonesia, and urge him or her to support House Resolution 1355 which calls for the release of political prisoners in Indonesia.

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30 thoughts on “Will Obama Cut Ties With Indonesian Torture?

  1. This article does not mention the genocide in East Timor during the Indonesian occupation from 1975 to 1999.

    Is 1999 so long ago that we already can just forget about it and sweep another genocide under the rug and the President should pretend this genocide never happened just like so many pretend do with the Turkish genocide of the Armenians?

    The UN's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor put the death figures at at least 102,800: 18,600 unlawful executions directly at the hands of the Indonesian military and another 84,200 starvation deaths caused by planned deliberate famines created by the Indonesian military and government.

    Needless to say, not one Indonesian war criminal has ever been prosecuted for even one of these Nazi scale crimes, especially not any of the many still currently serving today highest ranking officers of the Indonesian military, the guilty ones who personally carried out these murders.

  2. This article does not mention the genocide in East Timor during the Indonesian occupation from 1975 to 1999.

    Is 1999 so long ago that we already can just forget about it and sweep another genocide under the rug and the President should pretend this genocide never happened just like so many pretend do with the Turkish genocide of the Armenians?

    The UN’s Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor put the death figures at at least 102,800: 18,600 unlawful executions directly at the hands of the Indonesian military and another 84,200 starvation deaths caused by planned deliberate famines created by the Indonesian military and government.

    Needless to say, not one Indonesian war criminal has ever been prosecuted for even one of these Nazi scale crimes, especially not any of the many still currently serving today highest ranking officers of the Indonesian military, the guilty ones who personally carried out these murders.

  3. Dear Judo,

    Thank you for commenting this blog post and for sharing your knowledge of past human rights abuses with other readers. Though not explicitly mentioned in the post, past human rights abuses committed by the Indonesian Special Forces Kopassus in such areas as East Timor, Aceh and Papua, justified that Amnesty International USA publish last July a response to announcements of renewal of cooperation between the US and Indonesian Special Forces.
    Amnesty International USA response is accessible here : http://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/indonesia/i/K

    Amnesty International USA opposes indeed renewing US military training with Kopassus, a unit tied to many unprosecuted serious crimes including in East Timor. Amnesty International USA urged the Indonesian government to meet agreed-to international obligations to legally resolve crimes committed by Kopassus members before any such cooperation resume. Amnesty International USA considers resuming cooperation with Indonesia's Kopassus would moreover be a breach to the Leahy Law imposed by the US Congress on units known for committing human rights violations and failing to be held accountable for such violations.

    If you disagree with the US military training Indonesia's Kopassus, let you Representative know it by writing to her or him before President Obama visits Indonesia on November 9-10 : http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocac

  4. Dear Judo,

    Thank you for commenting this blog post and for sharing your knowledge of past human rights abuses with other readers. Though not explicitly mentioned in the post, past human rights abuses committed by the Indonesian Special Forces Kopassus in such areas as East Timor, Aceh and Papua, justified that Amnesty International USA publish last July a response to announcements of renewal of cooperation between the US and Indonesian Special Forces.
    Amnesty International USA response is accessible here : http://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/indonesia/i/K

    Amnesty International USA opposes indeed renewing US military training with Kopassus, a unit tied to many unprosecuted serious crimes including in East Timor. Amnesty International USA urged the Indonesian government to meet agreed-to international obligations to legally resolve crimes committed by Kopassus members before any such cooperation resume. Amnesty International USA considers resuming cooperation with Indonesia's Kopassus would moreover be a breach to the Leahy Law imposed by the US Congress on units known for committing human rights violations and failing to be held accountable for such violations.

    If you disagree with the US military training Indonesia's Kopassus, let you Representative know it by writing to her or him before President Obama visits Indonesia on November 9-10 : http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocac

  5. Dear Judo,

    Thank you for commenting this blog post and for sharing your knowledge of past human rights abuses with other readers. Though not explicitly mentioned in the post, past human rights abuses committed by the Indonesian Special Forces Kopassus in such areas as East Timor, Aceh and Papua, justified that Amnesty International USA publish last July a response to announcements of renewal of cooperation between the US and Indonesian Special Forces.
    Amnesty International USA response is accessible here : http://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/indonesia/i/K

    Amnesty International USA opposes indeed renewing US military training with Kopassus, a unit tied to many unprosecuted serious crimes including in East Timor. Amnesty International USA urged the Indonesian government to meet agreed-to international obligations to legally resolve crimes committed by Kopassus members before any such cooperation resume. Amnesty International USA considers resuming cooperation with Indonesia's Kopassus would moreover be a breach to the Leahy Law imposed by the US Congress on units known for committing human rights violations and failing to be held accountable for such violations.

    If you disagree with the US military training Indonesia's Kopassus, let you Representative know it by writing to her or him before President Obama visits Indonesia on November 9-10 : http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocac

  6. Dear Judo,

    Thank you for commenting this blog post and for sharing your knowledge of past human rights abuses with other readers. Though not explicitly mentioned in the post, past human rights abuses committed by the Indonesian Special Forces Kopassus in such areas as East Timor, Aceh and Papua, justified that Amnesty International USA publish last July a response to announcements of renewal of cooperation between the US and Indonesian Special Forces.
    Amnesty International USA response is accessible here : http://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/indonesia/i/KopassusResponse.pdf

    Amnesty International USA opposes indeed renewing US military training with Kopassus, a unit tied to many unprosecuted serious crimes including in East Timor. Amnesty International USA urged the Indonesian government to meet agreed-to international obligations to legally resolve crimes committed by Kopassus members before any such cooperation resume. Amnesty International USA considers resuming cooperation with Indonesia’s Kopassus would moreover be a breach to the Leahy Law imposed by the US Congress on units known for committing human rights violations and failing to be held accountable for such violations.

    If you disagree with the US military training Indonesia’s Kopassus, let you Representative know it by writing to her or him before President Obama visits Indonesia on November 9-10 : http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/index.aspx?c=jhKPIXPCIoE&b=2590179&template=x.ascx&action=14040

  7. Are we going to drool over the past or are we going to move forward to a future where we can ensure that a tie with USA could ensure that Indonesia will not repeat the mistakes of the past ???

    Are we seeing the blinded tunnel vision of Amnesty international Again here??

  8. Amnesty International USA does not oppose any form of cooperation between the US and Indonesia. Quite the opposite : Amnesty International reports include recommendations for foreign donors for cooperation we are more than willing to encourage and support. For a comprehensive view at the US aid agency USAID cooperation programs with Indonesia, please visit 'USAID Indonesia' here : http://indonesia.usaid.gov/en/home

    What Amnesty International USA specifically opposes is renewed ties between the US and Indonesian Special Forces. Amnesty International USA doubts any such cooperation would help Indonesia's sustainable development, while it would obviously be a breach to the US own legislation which prohibits cooperation with foreign military units either currently involved in or still awaiting judgment for human rights violations. Kopassus have been indeed involved in past human rights abuses, but it is also widely believed that "members of Kopassus continue to engage in abuses, particularly in the provinces of Papua and West Papua", as stated in Human Rights Watch October 27th 2010 letter to Australian Prime Minister : http://www.hrw.org/node/93944

  9. Amnesty International USA does not oppose any form of cooperation between the US and Indonesia. Quite the opposite : Amnesty International reports include recommendations for foreign donors for cooperation we are more than willing to encourage and support. For a comprehensive view at the US aid agency USAID cooperation programs with Indonesia, please visit 'USAID Indonesia' here : http://indonesia.usaid.gov/en/home

    What Amnesty International USA specifically opposes is renewed ties between the US and Indonesian Special Forces. Amnesty International USA doubts any such cooperation would help Indonesia's sustainable development, while it would obviously be a breach to the US own legislation which prohibits cooperation with foreign military units either currently involved in or still awaiting judgment for human rights violations. Kopassus have been indeed involved in past human rights abuses, but it is also widely believed that "members of Kopassus continue to engage in abuses, particularly in the provinces of Papua and West Papua", as stated in Human Rights Watch October 27th 2010 letter to Australian Prime Minister : http://www.hrw.org/node/93944

  10. Amnesty International USA does not oppose any form of cooperation between the US and Indonesia. Quite the opposite : Amnesty International reports include recommendations for foreign donors for cooperation we are more than willing to encourage and support. For a comprehensive view at the US aid agency USAID cooperation programs with Indonesia, please visit 'USAID Indonesia' here : http://indonesia.usaid.gov/en/home

    What Amnesty International USA specifically opposes is renewed ties between the US and Indonesian Special Forces. Amnesty International USA doubts any such cooperation would help Indonesia's sustainable development, while it would obviously be a breach to the US own legislation which prohibits cooperation with foreign military units either currently involved in or still awaiting judgment for human rights violations. Kopassus have been indeed involved in past human rights abuses, but it is also widely believed that "members of Kopassus continue to engage in abuses, particularly in the provinces of Papua and West Papua", as stated in Human Rights Watch October 27th 2010 letter to Australian Prime Minister : http://www.hrw.org/node/93944

  11. Are we going to drool over the past or are we going to move forward to a future where we can ensure that a tie with USA could ensure that Indonesia will not repeat the mistakes of the past ???

    Are we seeing the blinded tunnel vision of Amnesty international Again here??

  12. Torture is not the way to go no matter what country you're in. The fact that Guantanamo Bay was even practicing it is frightening. I'm more worried right now about the other "t" word which is terrorism, but what's happening over in Darfur. Ever since I saw Attack On Darfur, I've been paying close attention to the problems surrounding Sudan. Everyone should definitely check out the film for themselves.
    http://bit.ly/9Een8H

  13. Torture is not the way to go no matter what country you're in. The fact that Guantanamo Bay was even practicing it is frightening. I'm more worried right now about the other "t" word which is terrorism, but what's happening over in Darfur. Ever since I saw Attack On Darfur, I've been paying close attention to the problems surrounding Sudan. Everyone should definitely check out the film for themselves.
    http://bit.ly/9Een8H

  14. Torture is not the way to go no matter what country you're in. The fact that Guantanamo Bay was even practicing it is frightening. I'm more worried right now about the other "t" word which is terrorism, but what's happening over in Darfur. Ever since I saw Attack On Darfur, I've been paying close attention to the problems surrounding Sudan. Everyone should definitely check out the film for themselves.
    http://bit.ly/9Een8H

  15. Amnesty International USA does not oppose any form of cooperation between the US and Indonesia. Quite the opposite : Amnesty International reports include recommendations for foreign donors for cooperation we are more than willing to encourage and support. For a comprehensive view at the US aid agency USAID cooperation programs with Indonesia, please visit ‘USAID Indonesia’ here : http://indonesia.usaid.gov/en/home

    What Amnesty International USA specifically opposes is renewed ties between the US and Indonesian Special Forces. Amnesty International USA doubts any such cooperation would help Indonesia’s sustainable development, while it would obviously be a breach to the US own legislation which prohibits cooperation with foreign military units either currently involved in or still awaiting judgment for human rights violations. Kopassus have been indeed involved in past human rights abuses, but it is also widely believed that “members of Kopassus continue to engage in abuses, particularly in the provinces of Papua and West Papua”, as stated in Human Rights Watch October 27th 2010 letter to Australian Prime Minister : http://www.hrw.org/node/93944

  16. Torture is not the way to go no matter what country you’re in. The fact that Guantanamo Bay was even practicing it is frightening. I’m more worried right now about the other “t” word which is terrorism, but what’s happening over in Darfur. Ever since I saw Attack On Darfur, I’ve been paying close attention to the problems surrounding Sudan. Everyone should definitely check out the film for themselves.

    http://bit.ly/9Een8H

  17. Carole !

    How can it be OK for USA to have ties with many other armed forces including Israel who are worst human rights violators and not have with Indonesia ? Shouldn't it be equal to all ?

    Tell me one country in this world that has not had a bad HR record in your context in the past 50 – 100 years?? If we go beyond that, you will find that the very people who shout for HR are the people who were worst criminals. What I am saying is that, it is about moving forward…. forgetting the past, in a way where you ensure any kind of tie between any party would be betterment of the future. You can't always look at people with a crooked eye and a negative manner. In case of Indonesia, such tie would most probably make them behave carefully and ensure they protect HR to the future….

  18. Carole !

    How can it be OK for USA to have ties with many other armed forces including Israel who are worst human rights violators and not have with Indonesia ? Shouldn’t it be equal to all ?

    Tell me one country in this world that has not had a bad HR record in your context in the past 50 – 100 years?? If we go beyond that, you will find that the very people who shout for HR are the people who were worst criminals. What I am saying is that, it is about moving forward…. forgetting the past, in a way where you ensure any kind of tie between any party would be betterment of the future. You can’t always look at people with a crooked eye and a negative manner. In case of Indonesia, such tie would most probably make them behave carefully and ensure they protect HR to the future….

  19. Dear Joe,

    President Obama's visit to Indonesia is actually prompted by the recently concluded US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership. This agreement encompasses many cooperation areas, such as education and climate chnage. But its security component is believed to be the most important one.

    Former US Defense Attaché in Jakarta gives more details in his article posted on the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies blog (http://cogitasia.com/2010/09/30/the-u-s-indonesia-comprehensive-partnership-the-security-component/) about what kind of cooperation is expected to derive from the agreement : maritime security, counter-terrorism, military assistance, nonconventional missions, peacekeeping operations, education and training, Announced renewed cooperation between the US and Indonesian Special Forces would fall under this bilateral agreement.

    That is why Amnesty International USA urges all stakeholders to tell their Representative and the White House not to renew ties with Kopassus and to urge for an end to impunity in Indonesia.

  20. Dear Don Juan,

    Amnesty International USA is indeed very critical toward Israel human rights record. Please visit Amnesty International USA 2010 Annual Report for Israel : http://www.amnestyusa.org/annualreport.php?id=ar&…

    Amnesty International USA points out breaches to legally-binding treaties and conventions that States, as sovereign countries, have deliberately decided to adhere to. Indonesia ratified a number of Human Rights international conventions and instruments, as did the US. Besides this, the US Congress imposed restrictions to the US Administration in terms of which military units it should maintain or develop relations with. This is called the Leahy Laws. Amnesty International USA simply calls for respect of the law.

  21. Dear Joe,

    President Obama's visit to Indonesia is actually prompted by the recently concluded US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership. This agreement encompasses many cooperation areas, such as education and climate chnage. But its security component is believed to be the most important one.

    Former US Defense Attaché in Jakarta gives more details in his article posted on the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies blog (http://cogitasia.com/2010/09/30/the-u-s-indonesia-comprehensive-partnership-the-security-component/) about what kind of cooperation is expected to derive from the agreement : maritime security, counter-terrorism, military assistance, nonconventional missions, peacekeeping operations, education and training, Announced renewed cooperation between the US and Indonesian Special Forces would fall under this bilateral agreement.

    That is why Amnesty International USA urges all stakeholders to tell their Representative and the White House not to renew ties with Kopassus and to urge for an end to impunity in Indonesia.

  22. Dear Joe,

    President Obama's visit to Indonesia is actually prompted by the recently concluded US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership. This agreement encompasses many cooperation areas, such as education and climate chnage. But its security component is believed to be the most important one.

    Former US Defense Attaché in Jakarta gives more details in his article posted on the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies blog (http://cogitasia.com/2010/09/30/the-u-s-indonesia-comprehensive-partnership-the-security-component/) about what kind of cooperation is expected to derive from the agreement : maritime security, counter-terrorism, military assistance, nonconventional missions, peacekeeping operations, education and training, Announced renewed cooperation between the US and Indonesian Special Forces would fall under this bilateral agreement.

    That is why Amnesty International USA urges all stakeholders to tell their Representative and the White House not to renew ties with Kopassus and to urge for an end to impunity in Indonesia.

  23. Dear Don Juan,

    Amnesty International USA is indeed very critical toward Israel human rights record. Please visit Amnesty International USA 2010 Annual Report for Israel : http://www.amnestyusa.org/annualreport.php?id=ar&…

    Amnesty International USA points out breaches to legally-binding treaties and conventions that States, as sovereign countries, have deliberately decided to adhere to. Indonesia ratified a number of Human Rights international conventions and instruments, as did the US. Besides this, the US Congress imposed restrictions to the US Administration in terms of which military units it should maintain or develop relations with. This is called the Leahy Laws. Amnesty International USA simply calls for respect of the law.

  24. Dear Don Juan,

    Amnesty International USA is indeed very critical toward Israel human rights record. Please visit Amnesty International USA 2010 Annual Report for Israel : http://www.amnestyusa.org/annualreport.php?id=ar&…

    Amnesty International USA points out breaches to legally-binding treaties and conventions that States, as sovereign countries, have deliberately decided to adhere to. Indonesia ratified a number of Human Rights international conventions and instruments, as did the US. Besides this, the US Congress imposed restrictions to the US Administration in terms of which military units it should maintain or develop relations with. This is called the Leahy Laws. Amnesty International USA simply calls for respect of the law.

  25. Don Juan,

    Of course human rights are "used" by states for their own aims.

    But states are different from the human rights groups that reside within them.

    Dealing with a state's record & legacy of oppression is not living in the PAST.

    It is about rectifying those abuses so that we don't have to CONTINUE TO LIVE IN the past.

    Indonesia does.

    In East Timor.

    Inside Kopassus.

    Within the army.

    The same structures of oppression & chains of command retain the selfsame mindsets & practices of repression.

    In fact, US collaboration with these military oppressors in indonesia has ALWAYS seen a corresponding rise in the rate of rights violations by them.

    For they can parade before those they repress the very rewards for CONTINUING the past with full impunity.

    After all, maintaining repression is all about keeping the past alive & well in the present.

  26. Dear Joe,

    President Obama’s visit to Indonesia is actually prompted by the recently concluded US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership. This agreement encompasses many cooperation areas, such as education and climate chnage. But its security component is believed to be the most important one.

    Former US Defense Attaché in Jakarta gives more details in his article posted on the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies blog (http://cogitasia.com/2010/09/30/the-u-s-indonesia-comprehensive-partnership-the-security-component/) about what kind of cooperation is expected to derive from the agreement : maritime security, counter-terrorism, military assistance, nonconventional missions, peacekeeping operations, education and training, Announced renewed cooperation between the US and Indonesian Special Forces would fall under this bilateral agreement.

    That is why Amnesty International USA urges all stakeholders to tell their Representative and the White House not to renew ties with Kopassus and to urge for an end to impunity in Indonesia.

  27. Dear Don Juan,

    Amnesty International USA is indeed very critical toward Israel human rights record. Please visit Amnesty International USA 2010 Annual Report for Israel : http://www.amnestyusa.org/annualreport.php?id=ar&yr=2010&c=ISR

    Amnesty International USA points out breaches to legally-binding treaties and conventions that States, as sovereign countries, have deliberately decided to adhere to. Indonesia ratified a number of Human Rights international conventions and instruments, as did the US. Besides this, the US Congress imposed restrictions to the US Administration in terms of which military units it should maintain or develop relations with. This is called the Leahy Laws. Amnesty International USA simply calls for respect of the law.

  28. Don Juan,

    Of course human rights are “used” by states for their own aims.

    But states are different from the human rights groups that reside within them.

    Dealing with a state’s record & legacy of oppression is not living in the PAST.

    It is about rectifying those abuses so that we don’t have to CONTINUE TO LIVE IN the past.

    Indonesia does.

    In East Timor.

    Inside Kopassus.

    Within the army.

    The same structures of oppression & chains of command retain the selfsame mindsets & practices of repression.

    In fact, US collaboration with these military oppressors in indonesia has ALWAYS seen a corresponding rise in the rate of rights violations by them.

    For they can parade before those they repress the very rewards for CONTINUING the past with full impunity.

    After all, maintaining repression is all about keeping the past alive & well in the present.