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The Role of the International Community

In general, the international community was strongly supportive of the Wahid administration but deeply concerned about the regional conflicts, both in terms of the human cost as well as the impact on Indonesia's democratization policies and long-term political stability.

United Nations

Important U.N. concerns in 2000 also included protection of refugees in West Timor, justice for the 1999 scorched earth destruction of East Timor, and efforts to mitigate the impact of continuing economic crisis on Indonesia's poor.

On January 31, 2000, a U.N. commission of inquiry issued a report concluding that the systematic and large-scale nature of the East Timor crimes warranted the establishment of an international criminal tribunal. The U.N. Security Council, however, declined to establish such a court, deferring instead to the Indonesian government's stated intention to bring those responsible to justice. In a cover letter accompanying release of the international commission's report, Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that he would "closely monitor progress" of the Indonesian effort to ensure that it was a "credible response in accordance with international human rights principles." In early August, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson met with victims of the violence in East Timor as well as with Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, reiterating that the U.N. would call for an international war crimes tribunal if Jakarta failed to bring the perpetrators of the Timor violence to trial.

The Security Council and Secretary-General also denounced continuing violence in West Timor. In a February visit to Indonesia, Annan complained to President Wahid about continuing harassment by militias in the refugee camps. After a Nepalese soldier serving with U.N. peacekeepers was shot and killed on August 11 by militias who had crossed the border into East Timor, the second peacekeeper killed in as many months, Annan issued a statement calling on Indonesia to take effective measures to control the militias and stop the incursions. In a unanimous resolution on September 8, the Security Council condemned the murder of the three U.N. refugee workers in West Timor and insisted that the Indonesian government take immediate steps to disarm and disband the militias believed to be responsible.

Asia-Pacific Region

Relations between Indonesia and China warmed following President Wahid's December 1999 visit to Beijing. Despite prior visits to other countries, Wahid called the December trip his first "formal" state visit to highlight the importance of the relationship. Wahid sought and obtained Chinese statements in support of the territorial integrity of Indonesia and against separatist movements in Aceh and Papua. In July, Indonesia lifted onerous visa requirements to make it easier and cheaper for Chinese citizens to visit Indonesia. Also in July, the two countries signed a bilateral agreement promising mutual legal assistance in fighting transnational crime.

Indonesia lobbied successfully to keep any reference to the continued bloodshed in the Moluccas out of the joint communique issued at the end of the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting held in Bangkok in July, although instability in Indonesia was discussed by the ministers. Under the leadership of President Wahid, who had requested a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi during a visit to Myanmar in 1999, Indonesia had been expected to move a step closer toward an ASEAN foreign policy of "flexible engagement," as recommended by Thailand and the Philippines. Instead, its actions hardened ASEAN's existing "non-intervention" policy.


In its bilateral relations with Indonesia, which received U.S. $1.6 billion in loans and grants in 1999 (latest figures published by the foreign ministry), Japan emphasized support for President Wahid's democratization efforts and for preserving the country's territorial integrity as it addressed regional violence. In April, Japan said it would reschedule $5.8 billion in Indonesian debt. Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori met with Wahid when he came to Tokyo in April and again in early June at the time of former Prime Minister Obuchi's funeral, and urged a constructive solution to regional conflicts. Japan was also considering providing police training to Indonesia. But the foreign ministry was reluctant to raise specific human rights concerns with Jakarta, or to send observers to trials in Aceh, though it did provide assistance for people displaced by the Aceh conflict. On October 18-19, Japan was scheduled to co-host with the World Bank the annual donor consultative conference for Indonesia.


Relations with Australia continued to be strained by Indonesian anger over Australia's role in East Timor and perceived slights to Jakarta in 1999, notwithstanding strong economic ties. Australia organized and commanded the International Force for East Timor (Interfet) that entered East Timor on September 20, 1999 to put an end to the militia violence. Australian troops were vilified in much of the Indonesian press. Although there were improvements in relations during the year, including increased ministerial contacts initiated by a January 24 meeting in Jakarta of Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and President Wahid, each setback in West Timor reopened the diplomatic rift. A long awaited visit by President Wahid to Canberra was postponed in October when leading Indonesian legislators spoke out against the trip.

European Union

On January 17, the E.U., noting with approval the democratic developments in Indonesia and the election of President Wahid, decided not to renew the sanctions imposed in September 1999 in the wake of the violence in East Timor, including a ban on arms shipments. The United Kingdom quickly resumed sales of Hawk jet fighters. The E.U. insisted, however, that its policy regarding arms exports would be governed by "strict implementation of the E.U. Code of Conduct" and that the E.U. would continue to monitor closely developments in Indonesia.

On February 2, the European Commission issued an important policy paper, "Developing Closer Relations between Indonesia and the European Union." It signaled the importance of human rights in those relations, calling promotion of those rights a prerequisite for democracy and sustainable development. The paper called for better delivery of justice, support for the Attorney-General's legal reform efforts, regular contacts with human rights organizations, and close cooperation with Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights. It noted the "slow progress" of refugee repatriation from West Timor and of Indonesia's own investigation into human rights violations in East Timor. The "enhanced" partnership was officially launched on June 14 in a meeting between Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab and E.U. foreign ministers. Chris Patten, External Affairs Commissioner, visited Indonesia at the end of May, raising concerns about obstacles to democratization and civilian supremacy; earlier in April, a delegation of members of the European Parliament went to East Timor and Indonesia. The European Parliament adopted a strong resolution on the Moluccas, urging Jakarta to permit international observers and allow NGOs free access. In September, the E.U. presidency issued a statement strongly condemning the deaths of UNHCR workers and continued insecurity in West Timor.

The E.U. consistently declared its support for Indonesian national integrity but urged dialogue as a means of resolving regional conflicts. It formally welcomed the May 12 M.O.U. ceasefire between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement, but distanced itself from the June 3 call of Papuan leaders for independence. On August 17, ECHO, the humanitarian aid office of the E.U., granted EUR $2 million to be spent, among other things, aiding displaced persons in the Moluccas and West Timor.

The third biannual Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), held in Seoul October 20-21, was dominated by the issue of North Korea, with the United Kingdom and Germany announcing they would establish diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, while France said that progress on human rights and security issues must take place as a precondition for diplomatic relations. The final communique said ASEM III participants would "promote and protect all human rights...and fundamental freedoms," language that was adopted over China's objections.

Five ambassadors representing the E.U. visited Ambon and the north Moluccas in Indonesia from October 12-14 to assess the human rights and humanitarian situation.

United States

U.S. officials repeatedly and publicly expressed support for President Wahid but also spoke out strongly against the failure of the Indonesian military to rein in militias in West Timor and resolve the refugee crisis.

Early in the year, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright identified Indonesia as one of four priority emerging democracies for U.S. foreign policy. President Clinton welcomed Indonesian President Wahid to the White House shortly after Wahid assumed the Presidency, and numerous U.S. officials-including secretaries of treasury, defense, and state, as well as U.N. Ambassador Holbrooke-made high profile visits to the country. U.S. bilateral assistance to Indonesia was increased to U.S. $125 million. Priorities included judicial reform and justice for past gross abuses, improving civil-military relations, police training, and professionalizing national and local parliaments. Even as the U.S. stepped up its efforts to assist democratization, leading officials spoke out forcefully on the need to disarm and disband militias in West Timor, and for accountability for past military atrocities, including the 1999 violence in East Timor.

The Clinton Administration in late August lifted an eleven-month ban on commercial military sales to Indonesia, approving the sale of spare parts for C-130 transport planes just one week before three U.N. refugee aid workers were killed in West Timor. The ban originally had been imposed in response to the 1999 East Timor violence. Congressional restrictions remained in place on military training and direct U.S. military sales. U.S. Defense Secretary Cohen visited Jakarta in mid-September. Prior to his visit, he confirmed that the Pentagon had decided to "re-engage" with the Indonesian military, inviting officers to conferences and participating in joint humanitarian exercise, but that the U.S. would stop short of directly selling arms. The State Department strongly condemned the abduction and murder of Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, urging at the highest levels a full investigation and prosecution, and supported the humanitarian pause in Aceh. Members of Congress expressed concern about the violence in the Moluccas; several House of Representatives members wrote to President Wahid in July urging him to invite international observers and humanitarian aid groups to the region and to prosecute members of the laskar jihad responsible for instigating new violence.

International Financial Institutions

In advance of the World Bank-convened annual consultative group conference in Tokyo in October, the president of the World Bank took the extraordinary step of sending a personal letter to Wahid urging his intervention in West Timor and warning that donor commitments could be affected. The donors pledged a total of $4.8 billion to support the Indonesian government's budget, plus an additional $530 million for Indonesian NGOs. Several donors addressed the government's response to crises in West Timor, Maluku, Aceh, and West Papua. The U.S. said it would condition its aid on Indonesia's full compliance with the UN Security Council's resolution on West Timor.

In 2000, the World Bank had outstanding commitments of $ 5.5 billion to Indonesia; of those funds, $ 2.8 billion had yet to be disbursed as of mid-September. In fiscal year 1999, the World Bank had said it would provide another $ 2.7 billion in future loans. Meanwhile, a new letter of intent was signed by the government with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in September, opening the way for a package of U.S. $400 million in loans. In June, the IMF had approved a $372 million loan after it reviewed Indonesia's compliance with fiscal and structural reforms mandated by the IMF. Overall the IMF had offered $5 billion in assistance to Indonesia, contingent on progress in its reform efforts.

Relevant Human Rights Watch


Forced Expulsions to West Timor and the Refugee Crisis, 11/99

Human Rights and Pro-Independence Actions in Papua, 1999-2000, 5/00

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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