Call for an International Military Embargo on Indonesia


The following statement was issued by  90 signatories on June 23, 2003. Signatory groups include the Indonesian Human Rights Campaign Tapol, and other groups in Indonesia, East Timor and West Papua, as well as solidarity organisations and progressive and humanitarian groups in the Philippines, the UK, Australia, the US, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland and Switzerland.

We are organisations and groups concerned about human rights in Indonesia and about the adverse impact on human rights of Indonesia’s military relations with other countries. This statement arises out of our alarm at the complete deterioration of conflict resolution and military reform efforts in Indonesia and the concurrent rise in the Indonesian military’s lawlessness and brutality.


Recent developments include:

* the massive military offensive in Aceh following the Indonesian Government’s declaration of martial law on 19 May 2003;

* an ongoing military campaign currently underway in the Central Highlands of Papua;

* the Indonesian military’s failure to cooperate with independent investigations into its suspected involvement in the 31 August 2002 killing of one Indonesian and two American schoolteachers inside the Freeport copper-and-gold mining project area in West Papua;

* the military’s well-documented assassination of respected and non-violent community leaders and its perpetration of numerous massacres in Papua, East Timor and Aceh and its failure to engage constructively in peace initiatives such as the establishment of Papua as a Land of Peace;

* military training and funding of violent militias in Aceh and Papua;

* military non-cooperation with Indonesia’s ad hoc human rights court on East Timor;

* draft legislation prepared by the Indonesian military (TNI) that grants it authority to carry out operations without prior presidential order; and

* the TNI’s continuing resistance to budgetary transparency and proper civilian oversight of its finances.


The TNI, which has not needed to defend Indonesia against an external attack for 40 years, has regularly used weaponry and combat skills obtained in part through foreign training and military assistance programs against civilians, including Indonesians, East Timorese, West Papuans, Acehnese and others.


The military offensive in Aceh, which is Indonesia’s largest military operation since the invasion of East Timor in 1975, is now proceeding at a level that is causing widespread civilian loss of life and the destruction of Aceh’s public infrastructure.


Human rights groups fear massive violations of human rights and are especially concerned about the safety of human rights defenders and civil society activists. Numerous reports of extra-judicial killings and torture are emerging from Aceh, including of students and boys as young as 12.


Several NGOs have been forced underground because of dire warnings from the Martial Law Authority. Their activists have been threatened with arrest and as a result many have gone into hiding. Acehnese communities are being targeted in Jakarta and other cities outside Aceh.

In an attempt to isolate Aceh and suppress the truth about the war, the government has banned foreign aid workers and international NGOs from entering Aceh and rendered the position of those already there extremely tenuous. It has imposed severe restrictions on press freedom. Tens-of-thousands of people have been internally displaced and villagers are afraid to tend their land. The military says it plans to forcibly relocate up to 200,000 civilians. The UN has expressed concern about a looming humanitarian crisis as food supplies run dangerously low.

In Papua, the military continues to provoke situations designed to strengthen its power there and to undermine peace and stability in the territory. Indonesian special forces (Kopassus) personnel, presumably carrying out orders from the military leadership, assassinated popular Papuan community leader Theys H. Eluay in November 2001.


In April of this year, Kopassus and other military units launched a widespread operation in Papua’s Central Highlands, causing more than one thousand villagers to flee their homes. The military have detained pastors, human rights defenders and others, one 35-year-old detainee has died while in custody, and additional deaths among internally displaced civilians suffering from lack of food and shelter have been reported.


Although there have been strenuous efforts by the US administration to restore full military ties with Indonesia in furtherance of the “war against terror”, and President Bush has thanked President Megawati for her co-operation, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed on May 21, 2003 to reinstate a ban on military training for FY 2004 unless the administration certifies that the Indonesian Government is co-operating fully with the FBI investigation into the killings in the Freeport project area in August 2002. Indonesian police and NGO investigations have implicated the TNI in the attack.


The TNI is infamous for its brutality and lack of accountability in areas of conflict. The Indonesian Police, especially the special forces known as Brimob, also has an appalling human rights record.


In September 1999, the US imposed restrictions on arms exports and military relations with Indonesia following the TNI’s campaign of murder and mayhem in East Timor. The EU introduced similar restrictions at the same time, but they were lifted after four months.


There has been no meaningful progress towards reform of the military or the ending of impunity in the intervening period. On the contrary, the TNI is seeking to enhance its political role. The proceedings at Indonesia’s ad hoc human rights court on East Timor have helped to entrench impunity rather than end it. Recently, the most senior officer charged with crimes against humanity, Major-General Adam Damiri missed several days of his trial in order to help prepare the TNI for its assault on Aceh.


Military equipment supplied by other countries - especially the US, the UK, Germany, France, and the Netherlands - is now being used by the TNI in Aceh and has been used extensively in Papua and East Timor in the past. We hold those countries complicit in any attacks with such equipment on civilians and regard those countries as accessories to consequent breaches of human rights and international humanitarian law.


Although there is currently a ban on the transfer of US weapons to Indonesia, the TNI is using weapons supplied before the ban. OV-10 Bronco counter- insurgency planes are rocketing villages in Aceh while C-130 Hercules transport aircraft have dropped hundreds of paratroopers over the region. Indonesia is preparing other US equipment for use, including F-16 fighter jets, S-58 Twinpack helicopters and numerous small arms.


British-supplied Hawk aircraft and Scorpion tanks have been deployed to the area. The Hawks are reportedly being used to attack and bomb villages. Government ministers and TNI spokesmen have said that they have no intention of complying with assurances given to Britain that the equipment would not be used for counter-insurgency purposes, for offensive operations or to suppress human rights.


Warships from the former East Germany, sold by Germany, have also been deployed to Aceh and may be used in a naval blockade of ports there in violation of contractual restrictions stating that they would not be used in any domestic conflict. There is evidence that French AMX-VCI and Russian PT-76s, BTR-50s, and BMP-2s armoured vehicles are also being used. Russia recently signed a deal to supply four Sukhoi jet fighters and two MI-35 helicopters to Indonesia.

Other countries with significant military ties with Indonesia include Australia, which is pushing to resume relations with Kopassus, Poland which is planning extensive co-operation in the field of military relations and arms sales, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden. Some governments are seeking to restore and expand training for members of the TNI and to collaborate with the TNI in seminars and conferences as well as joint exercises.


We are convinced that the TNI represents a grave threat to the stability and security of Indonesia and we believe that the policy of western countries to strengthen their military ties with Jakarta as part of the “war against terror” is wholly misguided and dangerous. Given the backdrop of mounting casualties, wanton killings and human rights abuses attributable to the TNI in Aceh and Papua, we believe it is intolerable for governments to engage with the TNI on a business-as-usual basis.


We therefore call upon all governments to:

1. Impose an embargo on the supply of military, security and police equipment to Indonesia, to include contracts agreed before the entry into force of the embargo;

2. Insist on the withdrawal from Aceh of all military equipment they have previously supplied to Indonesia;

3. Suspend all forms of co-operation with the Indonesian military and police special forces to include training, participation in seminars and conferences, joint exercises and senior level military exchanges;

4. Press the Indonesian Government to end the military operations in Aceh and to resolve the conflict by means of peaceful dialogue, and to halt military operations in Papua and withdraw the special forces troops now operating in the Central Highlands.