March 30, 2012 - Ninety organizations today urged the U.S. government and Congress not to provide deadly attack helicopters to Indonesia. Indonesia has announced that it plans to buy eight AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the United States.
The groups warned that the helicopters will escalate conflicts in Indonesia, especially in the rebellious region of West Papua: "Providing these helicopters would pose a direct threat to Papuan civilians."
The Indonesian military (TNI) regularly conducts "sweep operations," involving attacks on villages where innocent villagers are forced from their homes. The groups write that "Papuan civilians either flee the attacks to neighboring villages or into the surrounding forests where many die or face starvation, cut off from access to their gardens, shelter, and medical care." Sweep operations are now underway in the Central Highlands region of West Papua.
The letter was organized by the U.S.-based East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and the West Papua Advocacy Team and signed by human rights, religious, indigenous rights, disarmament and other organizations based in 14 countries.
Signers include: Faith-based Network on West Papua, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Peace Action, International Lawyers for West Papua, Land Is Life, KontrS (Indonesia), and Pax Christi Australia. A complete list of signers can be found here: http://www.etan.org/news/2012/03helicop.htm
The AH-64 is designed for air to ground attack. It can operate day or night and is armed with high caliber chain guns and equipped to fire missiles.
ETAN was formed in 1991. It celebrated its 20th anniversary this December 10, advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. See ETAN's web site: http://www.etan.org
Text of Letter
As organizations concerned about human rights in Indonesia and West Papua, we are writing to urge the U.S. government and Congress not to allow the sale of AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to the Indonesian military (TNI). Providing these helicopters would pose a direct threat to Papuan civilians, who have been the target of deadly TNI assaults for many years.
The sale of this weapons system to the TNI -- notwithstanding its long record of disregard for civilian casualties, corruption, human rights violations and impunity in East Timor, Aceh and elsewhere -- would only increase the suffering of the Papuan population.
Indonesia's Deputy Minister of Defense Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin told the Antara news agency, that Indonesia intends to buy eight AH-64 Apache helicopter from the United States.
The heavily-armed AH-64 is a highly lethal weapon which can be used to escalate conflict within Indonesia and in West Papua. These aircraft will substantially augment the TNI's capacity to prosecute its "sweep operations" in West Papua and thereby, almost certainly lead to increased suffering among the civilian populations long victimized by such operations.
TNI "sweep operations," including several now underway in the Central Highlands region of West Papua, involve attacks on villages. Homes are destroyed, along with churches and public buildings. These assaults, purportedly to eliminate the poorly armed Papuan armed resistance, force innocent villagers from their homes. Papuan civilians either flee the attacks to neighboring villages or into the surrounding forests where many die or face starvation, cut off from access to their gardens, shelter, and medical care.
The AH-64 is designed for air to ground attack. It can operate day or night and is armed with high caliber chain guns . It is also equipped to fire missiles.
Congress must be notified of major weapons sales. We urge Congress to oppose the sale of these helicopters.
Contact: John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668; mobile: +1-917-690-4391, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ed McWilliams, +1-575-648-2078, email@example.com