Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 13 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds   

Suspend Training and Funding of Indonesian Police Unit Detachment 88

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   1 comment
Message John Miller
The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) today urged that the U.S. government to suspend all funding and training of Indonesia's Detachment 88 police unit pending review of charges leveled against the unit for systemic human rights violations, including use of torture.
"U.S. funding and training should not go to a security force that has repeatedly and credibly been charged with human rights violations including torture of those engaged in peaceful dissent," said WPAT's Ed McWilliams.

"Indonesian authorities have consistently failed to prosecute Detachment 88 personnel for these widely reported abuses," he added.

"Detachment 88 has been funded and trained by the U.S. from its inception. With that history, how can anyone believe that U.S. assistance will improve the human rights behavior of other units, like Kopassus," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN.

"While the reported withdrawal of Detachment 88 from the province of Maluku will end its persecution of peaceful protesters there, we are concerned that the unit will continue to operate in West Papua," said McWilliams. "We urge the Indonesian government to stop treating pro-independence activists as terrorists and to deal with the underlying issues."

Indonesian and international non-governmental organizations and media regularly report on the counter-terrorism police unit-s brutal methods, including torture against nonviolent protesters and suspects.

In addition to suspending assistance to Detachment 88, ETAN and WPAT urge:

a) that the U.S. Government urge the Indonesian government to investigate credible charges of human rights violations and other illegal activity by Detachment 88 personnel and to prosecute these personnel as necessary;

b) that the U.S. Government review its own procedures for providing funding to foreign security units to ensure that in the future all credible reports of human rights violations and other illegal activity by these units are promptly and thoroughly investigated by U.S. officials to ensure that U.S. funds and other forms of assistance are not used to support such activities;

c) that the U.S. Government review its "vetting" procedures which is supposed to ensure that no personnel involved in human rights violations or other illegal activity are members of units receiving U.S. government assistance.


Detachment 88 (Densus 88) was created by the Indonesian government statement in 2003 with the assistance and encouragement of the U.S. Government. The U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Services used funds appropriated under the Anti-Terror Assistance Program to support the initiative, which was in response to the 2002 Bali bombings. In addition to providing funding for the unit, the U.S. government has trained its personnel, drawing on the resources of various agencies.

Though the unit has drawn praise for its successful actions against small numbers of militants, it has also gained a reputation for brutality in its more than 500 arrests, including allegations of torture.

The unit has increasingly been used by the Indonesian government in its suppression of separatist activities around the country. In 2007, Detachment 88 members arrested and tortured 22 civilians after they unfurled the Maluku independence flag in front of Indonesia-s President. Yusuf Sipakoly, who in 2007 was sentenced to 12 years for possessing a "separatist flag- recently died in prison. He had told the Sydney Morning Herald: "I was tied with nylon [by the Detachment 88 officers] and my head was covered with a bucket," he said. "Then they started beating me until I urinated in my underwear-"

The Herald also reported that the United States had secretly banned some Detachment 88 members in Maluku from receiving assistance in May 2008 because of concerns over human rights violations. However, abuses continued. In August 2010, 12 activists were allegedly detained and tortured at the hands of Detachment 88 members. The activists had planned to "to float dozens of the distinctive rainbow flags attached to helium-filled balloons during Ambon's Sail Banda regatta" which Indonesia-s President planned to attend. Following an outcry, the unit was disbanded in Maluku in September, but the unit-s commander Brig. General Tito Karnavian has said that the unit will stay in Papua.

In April 2010, members of Detachment 88 detained 28 West Papuan activists for organizing a peaceful demonstration in Manokwari. Some of these detainees were sentenced to three and three and a half years in prison for talking about freedom and for holding a Morning Star Flag. In December 2009, Detachment 88 personnel shot Papuan independence figure Kelly Kwalik, allowing him to bleed to death without medical intervention. On October 18, 2007, the prominent Papuan human rights lawyer Iwanggin Sabar Olif was arrested by Detachment 88 on charges of "incitement of hatred and rebellion," after forwarding a text message to colleagues criticizing the Indonesian President and military. The U.S. reportedly provided Detachment 88 with the technical capacity and other support to intercept SMS and possibly other messages among civilians.

The U.S. government has paid for training costs, instructors- salaries, weapons and wire tapping devices. For example, as of late 2005 Washington had provided at least $12 million for Detachment 88 for training an initial 400 officers. Australia has also provided substantial aid to the unit. In 2004, Australia pledged US$35 million over five years for Indonesia to build a training center.

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

John Miller Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

John M. Miller is National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). He is Treasurer of the War Resisters League.
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Justice Needed as UN Meets on Anniversary of Timor Massacre

Statement on Human Rights Accountability in the Run-up to the Indonesian Presidential Elections

East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)

Suspend Training and Funding of Indonesian Police Unit Detachment 88

East Timorese Deserve Justice!

Congress can take a stand in support of rights in West Papau

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend