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TAPOL calls on British government to suspend training of Kopassus

29 June, 2009

TAPOL has today called on the British Government to suspend its plan to conduct training for Kopassus, Indonesia’s special forces, in October this year in view of reports of abuses perpetrated by members of the force in Merauke, province of Papua.

Last week, one of the world’s leading human rights organisations, Human Rights Watch, published a report documenting a number of serious abuses of Papuans over the past year. The report describes how Papuans have been seriously maltreated by members of the force.

One victim, a 21-year old Papuan, described how he was seized late one night and maltreated by twelve Kopassus soldiers. He is quoted as saying:

‘They beat me on the face repeatedly. My face was bleeding. Once, one soldier held my chest and another kicked my stomach.’ As a result of the assault, he started vomiting blood. The following morning he was forced to chew hot chillies which caused intense pain in the mouth because of his habit of chewing betel nuts which leaves cracks in the mouth.

Another victim told Human Rights Watch investigators how he and his brother were chased by soldiers firing in the air, after a friend asked a soldier for a cigarette. They hid themselves but were dragged out and beaten. ‘They repeatedly beat us on the face, blood was everywhere. I don’t know the reasons. I assume they didn’t like (my brother’s) friend asking for a cigarette.’

The UK’s Joint Counter Terrorist Training and Advisory Team is due to conduct training for members of Kopassus in October this year at the Kopassus training facility in Batujajar, Central Java. The training is taking place following claims that the force which has been responsible for acts of brutality for many years has distanced itself from politics and now respects human rights.

In a letter to Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL called on the British Government to press Indonesia to investigate the latest information about the behaviour of Kopassus troops in West Papua and to make it clear that such training can only be considered if members found guilty of these abuses are called to account. ‘Until such time as Kopassus troops have been called to account, training programmes for members of the force should be suspended,’ she said.

Click here to read the letter and the response received by Tapol from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.