Supporters of self-determination with the Morning Star, the West Papuan liberation flag. Photo: PMC

Pacific Scoop
By Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch.

Dear President Obama,

We write as you prepare to depart for Jakarta to launch the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership. We urge you to seize this opportunity to reaffirm that human rights and the rule of law are essential pillars of US engagement in Indonesia. We ask that you do this by publicly calling for the Indonesian government to make critical human rights improvements and by implementing the Comprehensive Partnership in ways that will ensure that cooperation with the United States leads to improvements, rather than setbacks, in Indonesia’s human rights record.

Your family ties and past experience living in Indonesia provide you with a close connection to the country. They also provide you with a unique capacity to understand the serious human rights challenges facing the Indonesian people and to appreciate the role that the US can play in strengthening respect for human rights and the rule of law in Indonesia in the future.

Over the course of the last decade, Indonesia has taken many important steps to move from an authoritarian state to an emerging, rights-respecting democracy. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should be commended for encouraging a number of those efforts, particularly for solidifying peace and encouraging reconstruction in Aceh and for permitting Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission to prosecute a number of graft cases involving government officials and public figures.

Yet in the 13 months since you took office, some worrying human rights trends have begun to emerge in Indonesia, particularly with respect to the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and religion. On issues such as the military’s business activities or accountability for abuses by the security forces, critical reform efforts have stalled, raising serious questions about President Yudhoyono’s commitment to subjecting the Indonesian military to the rule of law. In other areas, the US has a strong interest in encouraging Indonesia to pursue fledgling reform efforts, including increasing protection for Indonesia’s domestic workers and combating endemic corruption, a subject about which the Indonesian public seems particularly angry.

There are those who contend that in entering into the Comprehensive Partnership, the United States should avoid explicitly addressing past and ongoing human rights violations in Indonesia. We believe that would be a mistake and instead urge you to include a public pledge of enhanced respect for human rights as a central plank of the partnership and condition deepened US engagement upon concrete human rights commitments and improvements from Indonesia. Such action would not only reaffirm America’s commitment to the promotion of human rights and democratic values at home and abroad, but would also strengthen Indonesia’s ability to serve as a reliable and stable strategic partner, to the advantage of the American and Indonesian people, in the coming years.

US officials recently have taken some important steps that demonstrate growing attention to promoting human rights in Indonesia. For example, in September 2009 US officials declined to approve the visa applications of Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, who has been implicated in serious past human rights abuses, and Maj. Gen. Pramono Edi Wibowo. In addition, we note that to date the US military has refrained from resuming ties with the Indonesian army’s notorious Special Forces (Kopassus).

However, if the US hopes to secure lasting gains in many of its areas of interest in Indonesia, including maritime and regional security, cooperation on climate change, and promoting democracy in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, it needs to go beyond these steps and promote significant improvements in human rights by the Indonesian government. During his presidency, President Yudhoyono has indeed demonstrated a commitment to democratic principles, but he has failed to safeguard freedom of expression and religion in a number of significant ways, leaving the foundations of democracy in Indonesia dangerously weak. He has frequently declined to subject powerful public and private figures to the rule of law and to hold them accountable for serious abuses, undermining the reliability of the government’s commitments for reform in law enforcement, the military, and the forestry sector. And while the Indonesian military has indeed formally withdrawn from politics, its enduring business interests and impunity for past abuses provide it with a significant degree of independence from the civilian government and call into question its fitness as a security partner for the US. If the US government hopes to achieve its objectives with respect to its relationship with Indonesia, it should encourage a number of institutional reforms intended to address these issues.

As detailed below, we urge that you seek concrete commitments in five areas: freedom of expression and religion, conditions in Papua, military reform and accountability, treatment of household domestic workers, and corruption, particularly forestry-sector corruption that threatens possible climate change initiatives.

*1. Political Prisoners, Freedom of Expression, and Freedom of Religion*

Indonesia made huge strides in opening space for free expression and the media in the years immediately after Suharto was forced to step down from power. But recent years have seen some troubling developments. Indonesian officials continue to enforce a number of laws that criminalize the peaceful expression of political, religious, and other views. These laws include offenses in Indonesia’s criminal code such as treason or rebellion (makar) and “inciting hatred” (haatzai artikelen), which have been used repeatedly against political activists, including those from the Moluccas and Papua.

Although not widely appreciated and counter to the narrative of Indonesia’s emerging democracy, Indonesia now has a significant and growing number of political prisoners, primarily individuals put behind bars for holding demonstrations and raising flags or displaying symbols that the Indonesian authorities interpreted as calls for independence.

Indonesian officials also continue to enforce a number of laws that effectively restrict the freedom of expression of anti-corruption activists, journalists, and citizens seeking to report misconduct or air consumer complaints. Often these restrictions are imposed in a manner that suggests bias or corruption on the part of the authorities. Human Rights Watch has identified over a dozen instances in the last three years in which public officials or influential private actors used criminal defamation laws, several of which contain heightened penalties for insulting or defaming a public official, as a tool of retaliation against critics. Occasionally, the targets of these attacks were detained by the authorities and even imprisoned, but even when they were sentenced to probation or acquitted of defamation, the criminal charges against them gave rise to a dangerous chilling effect throughout their communities and among members of their professions.

Indonesia continues to fail to safeguard freedom of religion as well, including via a “blasphemy” law that authorizes the imprisonment of those whom government officials consider to have deviated from the central tenets of one of the six officially recognized religions in Indonesia. On February 4, 2010, the Ministers for Religious Affairs and Law and Human Rights publicly defended the Blasphemy Law, which the Constitutional Court is presently reviewing, on the grounds that it is necessary “to endorse religious tolerance.”

In June 2008 the minister of religious affairs issued a decree ordering members of the Ahmadiyah religious movement to cease their public religious activities. Thereafter, Islamist militants forcibly closed or attacked several Ahmadiyah mosques and displaced adherents from their homes. In this and other instances, including one involving a Protestant congregation in the Besaki suburb of Jakarta in February 2010, law enforcement officials failed to intervene against organized groups of people seeking to forcibly close churches or otherwise block religious minorities from observing their faiths. Often, the groups justified their actions by reference to a ministerial decree requiring anyone building “a house of worship” to receive prior approval from the community. When the police have intervened, as in the case of a December 2009 attack on Ahmadiyah in the Tebet suburb of Jakarta, they have often detained the targets of the attack rather than their attackers.

Neither President Yudhoyono nor the minister of home affairs has spoken out against or invalidated dozens of local bylaws in force throughout Indonesia that improperly restrict the rights to equality under law, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion, for example by restricting women’s movement at night and their attire, and by requiring candidates for legislative office to pass a Quran reading test. President Yudhoyono similarly took no public action when in October 2009 the provincial parliament of Aceh passed a criminal bylaw authorizing stoning as a punishment for adultery by married people and lashing for homosexual conduct.

While the legal status of that particular bylaw remains disputed, since 2006 the province of Aceh has implemented sharia (Islamic law) in a manner that is explicitly discriminatory, restricting Muslim women’s choice of attire and forbidding close proximity between unmarried Muslim women and men who are not their guardians. In January 2010 officials in Aceh’s sharia police force confirmed that they were conducting patrols in “vice-prone areas,” establishing road blocks to monitor the attire of vehicle passengers, and raiding universities with the assistance of Muslim student groups in an effort to identify and lecture women considered to be violating Muslim dress codes or behavioral rules. Representatives of a local women’s rights group have reported that Aceh’s sharia police frequently harass and mistreat women they apprehend. In January 2010 three sharia police officers are alleged to have detained a woman for walking in the company of a male companion and then gang-raped her. While one local sharia police chief was dismissed as a result of the incident, Jakarta has not called for broader accountability for sharia police officers nor for the reform of Aceh’s inherently discriminatory and repressive laws and policies.

Recently, President Yudhoyono has taken a number of steps that call into serious question the depth of his commitment to the principles of freedom of expression and religion. In 2008, President Yudhoyono’s party supported a new law authorizing up to six years’ imprisonment for internet-based defamation. The authorities have used this law to detain two individuals who tried to report campaign violations by supporters of the president’s son, a candidate for parliament, in advance of the April 2009 legislative elections. As recently as February 5, 2010, in response to increasingly colorful anti-government demonstrations, President Yudhoyono’s spokesman publicly called for the government to strengthen the laws prohibiting “blaspheming state symbols,” such as the president. Such a step would be more reminiscent of the Suharto era than of an emerging democracy.

As Kurt M. Campbell, the State Department’s assistant secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, stated in January 2010, “The freedom to speak your mind and choose your leaders, the ability to access information and worship how you please are the basis of stability. We need to let our partners in the region know that we will always stand on the side of those who pursue those rights.”

During your trip to Indonesia, we urge you follow through on this statement of US policy, and specifically, to call on President Yudhoyono to:

    * Order the release of those currently imprisoned for non-violent expression and peaceful assembly, including participating in demonstrations, raising flags, and holding unorthodox religious views.

    * Take steps to repeal statutes and regulations that improperly restrict the rights to free expression and freedom of religion, including “insult” laws, criminal defamation laws, anti-blasphemy laws, and the ministerial decree banning the religious practices of the Ahmadiyah.

    * Amend overbroad laws, including those prohibiting treason, rebellion, and “inciting hatred,” used to criminalize non-violent expression.

    * Reaffirm the principles that the religious activities of one group should never be beholden to the approval of others, and that the Indonesian government has a duty to protect members of religious minorities from violent attacks.

    * Order the repeal of the ministerial decree requiring community approval for the construction of houses of worship (used by religious majorities to deny sites to religious minorities).

    * Invalidate all local laws, in Aceh and elsewhere, that infringe upon the rights to freedom of religion and expression.

We also urge that assistance provided pursuant to the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership promotes freedom of expression and religion in Indonesia.

*2. Papua*

There is a long history of political tensions in Papua, including serious human rights violations by Indonesian security forces against residents of the province. In recent years, both army troops and police units, particularly mobile paramilitary units (Brimob), have continued to engage in largely indiscriminate village “sweeping” operations through the Central Highlands in pursuit of suspected militants, often mistreating and at times summarily executing civilians. In Merauke, Kopassus soldiers have routinely arrested Papuans without legal authority. In Jayapura, the authorities have tortured inmates at Abepura prison. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been expelled from Papua.

Contributing to the ongoing abuses by law enforcement and security forces in Papua is their complete lack of accountability. Indonesia has been able to maintain this climate of impunity by keeping abuses out the global spotlight through the maintenance of tight restrictions on access for foreign human rights monitors, journalists, and even diplomats.

We urge you to call on President Yudhoyono to:

    * End restrictions on access to the province for independent observers, including diplomats, foreign journalists, and human rights organizations.

    *Allow the ICRC to resume its operations in Papua.

    * Repeal government regulations that conflict with the 2001 Papuan Special Autonomy Law, which permits the display of symbols of Papuan identity, including flags and songs.

    * Order an independent and impartial investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Papua, including killings, torture, and arbitrary arrest and detention, which has the power to bring the perpetrators of such abuses to justice.

    * Establish an independent team to investigate and hold accountable abusive guards and officials at the Abepura prison in Papua, where torture, beatings, and mistreatment by guards are reportedly rampant, and to open the prison to international monitoring.

We also urge you to ensure that assistance provided pursuant to the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership:

    * Reinforces the principle that the police, not military troops, should be responsible for law enforcement activities in Papua; and

    * is contingent on accountability for human rights violations committed by Indonesian security forces and law enforcement officials in Papua.

*3. Military Reform*

We understand that in recent months US and Indonesian officials and legislators have called on the US to deepen relations with the Indonesian military, in particular to resume military training for members of the Special Forces, Kopassus. We believe that increased US assistance, without adequate preconditions or safeguards in place, will set back military reform efforts in Indonesia.

Since 1998, the Indonesia government has adopted several measures intended to reduce the military’s influence on politics and independence from civilian authorities and curtail its serious human rights abuses. While some of these measures have been moderately successful, reform efforts have stalled in a number of essential areas, and President Yudhoyono has failed to address several major problems that remain. Among the most pressing concerns are ending current abuses, ensuring accountability for human rights violations, and ending the military’s business activities.

/Lack of Accountability/

Indonesia has failed to ensure accountability for members of the Indonesian security forces, and particularly members of Kopassus, who have been implicated in both past and more recent human rights abuses. In a snub to the United States and other countries that pressed for accountability, all those convicted for atrocities in East Timor in 1999 by an ad hoc tribunal established by Indonesia in response to international pressure were eventually acquitted.

The few soldiers who have been convicted by military tribunals for abuses have largely been reinstated into the ranks and promoted, including seven of 11 military personnel convicted of kidnapping student activists in 1997 and 1998. Col. Tri Hartomo, who was supposedly discharged from the military following his conviction in connection with the death of Papuan activist Theys Eluay in 2001, currently holds a senior position in Kopassus.

Thus far, President Yudhoyono has failed to implement necessary reforms that would ensure accountability for members of the armed forces. Instead, in January 2009 President Yudhoyono appointed Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsuddin to the position of deputy defense minister, despite his being implicated in several notorious human rights abuses for which he has never been credibly investigated.

In September 2009 the Indonesian parliament, acting on a report by the National Human Rights Commission, recommended the creation of an ad hoc court to investigate the enforced disappearances of student activists in 1997 and 1998; President Yudhoyono, whose authorization is required for the court’s creation, has yet to act on the recommendation. Finally, while there is broad-based agreement in Indonesia on the urgent need to reform the military justice system, the Indonesian parliament has thus far failed to implement reforms, for example by subjecting military personnel to the jurisdiction of civilian courts when they are accused of committing crimes against civilians.

Years ago, President Yudhoyono said that assigning responsibility for the 2004 murder of prominent human rights activists Munir S. Thalib would be “the test of [Indonesia's] history.” Yet today, the architects of the killing remain free. On February 9, 2010, a team established by the National Human Rights Commission determined that the 2008 trial of former deputy state intelligence chief and one-time Kopassus commander Muchdi Purwopranjono acquitting him on charges of orchestrating Munir’s murder had suffered from serious shortcomings. The team found that the prosectutors handling of the case was “unprofessional,” the district court judge failed to summon at least two key witnesses for the prosecution, and the appellate court judges lacked experience in conducting criminal trials. The examination team recommended that prosecutors file for a “case review” of Muchdi’s acquittal or that the police reopen the investigation into Munir’s murder.

/Failure to End Military Businesses/

Since its creation, the Indonesian military has operated a vast business network, the effect of which has been to enrich officers while undermining civilian supremacy and contributing to human rights violations, as documented in Human Rights Watch’s 2006 report, “Too High a Price.” In September 2004 the Indonesian parliament passed a law that required the government to shut down or take over all military businesses by October 16, 2009. But the government has repeatedly missed its own deadlines for action. It recently failed to implement the required transfer of businesses and as the five-year deadline passed, the armed forces still retained extensive holdings.

On October 11, 2009, President Yudhoyono issued a decree creating an inter-agency Oversight Team to review the military’s business interests. However, the decree and implementing regulations do not require the military to give up its businesses, but merely provide for a partial restructuring of the entities-military cooperatives and foundations-through which it holds many of its investments. It also disregards other independent sources of military income outside the approved budget process: criminal enterprises, individually owned businesses, and security payments from private companies. Moreover, the Oversight Team lacks independence, as a majority of its members, including the chair, are serving members of the military, and the team operates primarily from the Ministry of Defense, which lacks independence from and authority over the military. The government’s process, as outlined in the presidential decree and accompanying regulations, also does not provide for transparency and accountability. These critiques are elaborated in our January 2010 report, “Unkept Promise: Failure to End Military Business Activity in Indonesia.”

Foreign Military Assistance/

Human Rights Watch believes that under appropriate conditions, foreign military assistance can help the Indonesian military develop into a professional, rights-respecting partner in defense, peacekeeping, and national and maritime security. However, without necessary reforms in place, such assistance may facilitate continued violations of human rights in Indonesia, reinforce impunity, and create the potential for political instability. We urge you to follow through on the commitment expressed to Human Rights Watch in an August 2009 letter from Elizabeth K. Mayfield, acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, in which she stated, “[w]e will continue to urge the Indonesian security forces, including Kopassus, to respect human rights in Papua and throughout Indonesia, investigate allegations of human rights violations, and hold accountable all those responsible for past abuses, regardless of rank.” We urge you to uphold this commitment by placing conditions on the implementation of the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership that will make Indonesia a more reliable partner and reduce the likelihood of future abuses.

To address the poor human rights record of the Indonesian military, we urge you to:

    * Call on President Yudhoyono to ensure that allegations of serious human rights violations by members of the Indonesian military, including those with command responsibility, are credibly investigated, and that those responsible are appropriately punished.

    * Condition even limited reengagement with Kopassus upon the satisfaction of the US that: (1) Kopassus has permanently discharged any personnel previously convicted for human rights abuses; and (2) an ad hoc tribunal has been established on the student “disappearances,” as recommended by the Indonesian parliament, and Kopassus has committed in writing to making all relevant personnel and documentation available to investigators. Thereafter, provide training only to carefully vetted participants, and restrict training to non-combat related activities.

    * Condition full re-engagement with Kopassus on essential structural reforms to the military, including: (1) genuine progress in eliminating military businesses and enhanced transparency and independence for the Oversight Team, including the release of information on overall military budgets and spending; (2) credible investigations and prosecutions of all military personnel involved in serious violations of human rights; (3) jurisdictional reforms that allow the civilian criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute alleged criminal acts by military personnel against civilians.

    * Convey that relations with the Ministry of Defense have been complicated by the appointment of Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin to the position of deputy defense minister, and that fresh, credible, and independent investigations into allegations of Sjamsoeddin’s involvement in human rights violations are necessary.

    * Call for the conclusive resolution of the 2004 murder of leading human rights lawyer Munir Said Thalib by having prosecutors file for a “case review” of Kopassus commander Muchdi Purwopranjono’s acquittal or having police reopen the investigation into Munir’s murder.

    * In providing any form of military assistance to Indonesia, whether through training, foreign military financing, or anti-terrorism assistance, encourage civilian supremacy over the armed forces and support the shift of the armed forces’ orientation away from internal security. Robustly monitor the provision of all such aid, and resume bans on US assistance should allegations of serious abuses by the armed forces not be credibly investigated and prosecuted, including of allegations of abuse by those with command responsibility.

    * Call on the Indonesian government to release complete and detailed information on military budgets and spending, and convey support for a more transparent Military Business Oversight Team, the elements of which should include greater independence, the public release of all financial and legal audits, mandatory reporting on the activities of the team, and civil society participation.

*4. Domestic Workers*

In June 2009 the US ranked Indonesia in “Tier 2″ in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, citing its inadequate efforts to prevent and respond to human trafficking, particularly in the area of domestic servitude both at home and abroad. More than a million Indonesian women work abroad in Malaysia, Singapore, and the Middle East as live-in domestic workers. Several Human Rights Watch reports in the past five years have documented how these women often encounter a range of abuses, including recruitment-related abuses, labor exploitation, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse, and situations of forced labor and slavery-like conditions. Indonesia contributes to the abuses its migrant workers face through its failure to regulate, monitor, and penalize the recruitment agencies that send its workers abroad, often after charging workers significant recruitment fees that leave them heavily indebted to their employers and providing them with deceptive or incomplete information about the work conditions they will face and avenues for recourse should they encounter abuse.

Following several high-profile cases of abuse and deaths of domestic workers, Indonesia froze new migration of domestic workers to both Malaysia and Kuwait in 2009 pending the adoption of strengthened protections through bilateral agreements. Indonesia is on the verge of concluding negotiations to revise a 2006 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Malaysia on migrant domestic workers. The current draft contains new provisions to protect migrant women’s right to keep their passports and to have a weekly day of rest, but fails to outline a strategy for making important national-level labor and immigration reforms, or to address the crucial issue of exorbitant recruitment fees and long-term debt arrangements that put migrant domestic workers at high risk of trafficking and debt bondage.

Domestic workers within Indonesia face significant challenges as well. As Human Rights Watch documented in a February 2009 report, “Workers in the Shadows,” hundreds of thousands of girls in Indonesia, some as young as 11, are employed as domestic workers in other people’s households. Many girls work 14- to 18-hour days, seven days a week, with no day off. Many employers forbid these child domestic workers from leaving the house where they work, withhold paying any salary until the child returns home, and then fail to pay the children at all or pay less than what they promised. In the worst cases, girls are physically, psychologically, and sexually abused by their employers or their employers’ family members. Presently, Indonesia’s labor law excludes all domestic workers from the basic labor rights afforded to formal workers, such as a minimum wage, overtime pay, an eight-hour workday and 40-hour workweek, weekly day of rest, and vacation. This exclusion has a discriminatory impact on women and girls, who constitute the vast majority of domestic workers, and devalues domestic work and domestic workers.

As you may be aware, your sister Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng has also written powerfully on this issue in the Indonesian publication Kompas, calling on Indonesia to implement and enforce minimum labor protections for domestic workers, particularly those who are children, and to compel law enforcement authorities to respond effectively to complaints of abuse by domestic workers. In a promising move, the legislative council of the Indonesian parliament recently placed a Domestic Worker’s Law on the legislative agenda for 2010.

The US has a particular interest in urging Indonesia to improve its human rights record with respect to Indonesian domestic workers at home and abroad. The US Department of Labor has committed to provide $5.5 million towards funding programs on child labor in Indonesia, with a particular focus on child domestic workers. Moreover, the United States has taken a leadership role in fighting trafficking in persons around the world and has devoted significant attention and funding to Indonesia in particular.

We urge you to:

    * Congratulate the Indonesian parliament on placing the Domestic Worker’s Law on its agenda.

    * Encourage President Yudhoyono to support a strong law that provides domestic workers with the same basic labor protections as workers in the formal sector and contains special protections for child domestic workers.

    * Make effective reforms to Indonesia’s recruitment practices a central factor in Indonesia’s tier ranking in the 2010 TIP report.

    * Urge President Yudhoyono to strengthen protections for its citizens who pursue domestic work abroad, emphasizing the need to effectively regulate and monitor the behavior of recruitment agencies, including their charging of recruitment fees. The Indonesian government should take advantage of opportunities to make such reforms as it revises Law 39 on migration this year and as it finalizes bilateral agreements with Malaysia, Kuwait, and other destination countries.

*5. The Climate Change Agenda and Corruption*

Human Rights Watch recognizes that climate change initiatives will be a key component of the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership and that increased US cooperation with Indonesia and its forestry sector will be vital for the attainment of both countries’ climate change goals in the coming years. Not only has your administration expressed a preference for a cap-and-trade system, but Indonesia’s Copenhagen pledge to reduce its emissions by 26 percent is premised largely on plans to reduce deforestation and land clearing. However, we remain deeply concerned that if Indonesia fails to implement reforms, any influx of US funds from carbon trading and REDD “readiness” programs would further entrench the widespread corruption and weak governance that have plagued Indonesia’s attempts at reforms in forestry, finance, and law enforcement for the past decade. In turn, this corruption weakens the protection and enjoyment of human rights in Indonesia.

Human Rights Watch’s December 2009 report, “Wild Money: The Human Rights Consequences of Illegal Logging and Corruption in Indonesia’s Forestry Sector,” used the Indonesian government’s own data to demonstrate that roughly half of the timber harvested annually in Indonesia is illegal and that the government lost some $2 billion in one year alone (in 2006, the most recent year for which reliable data is available) due to corruption and mismanagement. Significantly, this figure, though staggering, does not include losses from tax arrears and uncollected penalties, nor from smuggled timber. Indonesian officials from the Ministry of Forestry have admitted that they have no mechanism for compelling local forest offices to report data on timber production and revenue collection, creating a lack of reliable data that calls into question the government’s ability to deliver verifiable emission reductions. Our research found that this corruption and foregone revenue also perpetuate a downward spiral of impunity by impeding transparency and civilian oversight and entrenching corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary. Further, the loss of billions of dollars in revenue cripples the government of Indonesia’s ability to provide core services to its citizens, such as basic health care.

During his first administration, President Yudhoyono took significant steps to reform the forestry sector and combat corruption. In addition, the US has provided Indonesia with a strong incentive to redouble reform efforts by amending the Lacey Act to prohibit importation of illegally harvested wood products, which will encourage Indonesia to adopt a “timber legality verification system” including chain of custody and revenue monitoring. While these are important steps, they also suffer from significant shortcomings. For example, the verification system applies only to large (> 50,000 ha) logging concessions, which currently make up less than one-fifth of Indonesia’s timber supply. The vast majority of Indonesian timber comes from forest clearing for plantations, which is intended to generate palm oil for biofuels and is not covered under the verification system.

Moreover, over the course of the last several months, Indonesia’s successful anti-corruption commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi, or KPK) has become the target of significant backlash from the national police, the Attorney General’s Office, and members of parliament, as demonstrated by an apparent attempt by senior law enforcement officials to frame two KPK deputies on charges of extortion and abuse of power in fall 2009. In the wake of the KPK controversy, President Yudhoyono did little to promote accountability, failing to call for any of the officials caught on a wiretapped phone conversation plotting to frame the KPK deputies to be investigated on criminal charges or for the implementation of any immediate reforms to prevent such backlash from impairing the KPK’s work. These events call into question President Yudhoyono’s willingness to deliver on his anti-corruption agenda and make it all the more critical that the US require Indonesia to implement certain reforms in the forestry sector before providing it with increased climate change funding.

We urge you to:

    * Link any climate change “capacity building” funding to Indonesia to measurable and verifiable benchmarks for data collection and accuracy, transparency, and outside oversight. * Ensure that any REDD scheme in which the US participates in Indonesia employs a rigorous and internationally recognized certification system.

    * Urge Indonesia to apply the Timber Legality Verification System to all timber sources from point of harvest to sale in order to comply with the import requirements of the Lacey Act and to contribute to real reductions in illegal logging.

    * Urge President Yudhoyono to take strong steps to safeguard the viability of existing anti-corruption initiatives, including the anti-corruption commission, and to support the commission’s efforts to reduce corruption in law enforcement institutions, in order ensure that any influx of climate change funds does not exacerbate corruption or have a negative impact on governance and human rights.

In these ways, we hope you will reaffirm that as the United States deepens its engagement in Indonesia, it will do so in a way that enhances its respect for and protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Indonesian people, strengthening both the rule of law and respect for democratic principles in a critical strategic partner in the years ahead.


Kenneth Roth

Executive Director