Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Indonesian military deny Aceh killing accusations

As predicted yesterday, the Indonesian military has strongly denied claims by American journalist Allan Nairn that it carried out a campaign of political assassinations in Aceh last year.

The Jakarta Globe today reports Sagam Tamboen, a spokesman for the armed forces (TNI), as saying: "We would like the public to ignore any rumors being spread by certain people who want to divide our country by saying negative things about our military institutions."

Sagom said that the military had not investigated the killings of nine members of the Aceh Party last year because it had not received any complaints. He cast doubt on Nairn's sources and suggested that the military may consider taking legal action.

"If he is a good journalist and if he does have evidence, then he should come forward with the information that he has,” the TNI spokesman said. "But the problem is that [Nairn] hasn’t been able to give us any clear evidence or tell us who his sources are. So how can we believe him?”

Separately, campaign group Human Rights Watch has written to the Wall Street Journal, opposing the WSJ's call in an editorial for the US Congress to lift a ban on training the Indonesian special forces, or Kopassus.

"Since Suharto's ouster in 1998, Kopassus has been implicated in numerous serious human-rights abuses in East Timor, Aceh, and Papua," Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, wrote in the letter. "Of the few Kopassus soldiers who have been convicted of human-rights abuses, the majority continue to serve, and some have been promoted to senior ranks. Until the Indonesian government holds abusers accountable, and Kopassus shows that it can act as a professional force, Senator Leahy and other members of Congress are right to reject it as a counterterrorism partner and to focus on strengthening the capacity of the Indonesian police."

 Disclosure: I'm currently working as an editor at the Jakarta Globe.

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