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March 10, 2006

Secretary Rice Must Raise Human Rights in Dialogue with Indonesia

NEW YORK – Human Rights First today urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to raise human rights issues with Indonesian officials when she visits the country on Tuesday, March 14. Of particular concern are attacks on human rights defenders, the slow pace of military reform, and abuses by the police in the context of counterterrorism.

In a letter (http://www.humanrightsfirst.info/wp-content/uploads/pdf/06310-hrd-rice-ltr.pdf), Human Rights First urged Secretary Rice to inform Indonesian President Yudhoyono that the 2004 fatal poisoning of Munir, a leading human rights lawyer, remains a matter of concern to the international community. In particular the authorities should thoroughly investigate widespread allegations that senior former intelligence officials were connected to the murder.

Having waived the last congressional restrictions on aid to the Indonesian military last November, the State Department has a special responsibility to ensure that any cooperation supports, rather than undermines, reform. In the letter, Neil Hicks, Director of International Programs at Human Rights First, said: “The U.S. Government should insist on civilian control over the Indonesian military and that the military operates within the rule of law. Military assistance to Indonesia should be guided by progress on reform and accountability.”

The letter urges Secretary Rice to raise this issue with President Yudhoyono and to ensure that any military aid is carefully monitored and linked to genuine progress on reform. The letter also notes that the U.S.-supported police counterterrorism unit has been linked to arbitrary arrests, and urges particular efforts to ensure that it is not involved in further violations of human rights.