Thursday, July 22, 2010

United States to Lift Ban on Indonesia's Brutal Special Forces, Kopassus

Visiting US Secretary of Defense Robert M Gates announced on Thursday that the US Department of Defense was lifting a decade-old ban on cooperation with the Army’s elite Kopassus special forces that was put in place over alleged human rights abuses by the unit.

When it imposed the ban in 1999, the United States said that members of Kopassus had been accused of repeated human rights abuses while responding to pro-democracy activists in Papua, Aceh and East Timor between 1997 and 1999.

The US Congress bars the United States from training military units that are credibly believed to have engaged in human rights abuses, unless the units take steps to improve. Defense officials in Washington were quoted by The New York Times as saying that the American military would have limited engagement with Kopassus to start, perhaps only in staff-to-staff meetings, and that there would be no immediate military training. The officials said that the Defense Department was not seeking funding from Congress for the renewed engagement with Kopassus. The US State Department would be in charge of vetting individual members of Kopassus before allowing them to participate in training with the American military.

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