FAO Newsdesks - Tuesday 26 October 2004
Campaign Against Arms Trade and TAPOL (Indonesia Human Rights Campaign)
Government ignored human rights when relaxing conditions for use of UK arms in Indonesia
LONDON: Anti-arms trade campaigners have today attacked the Government for ignoring human rights considerations in its decision to relax the end-use undertakings on the use of UK-supplied military equipment in war-torn Aceh, despite Indonesia s appalling human rights record in the territory. The Government has previously admitted the Indonesian Army has breached end-use undertakings in Aceh.(1)
MPs on the Quadripartite Committee on Strategic Exports in May 2004 criticised the Government for relaxing the end-use undertakings for Aceh in September 2002. At the time, Indonesian military operations were causing grave human rights abuses in the territory.
The changes opened the way for the use of UK-supplied Hawk jets and armoured personnel carriers in Indonesia’s 2003/04 martial law offensive in Aceh, its largest military operation since the invasion of East Timor in 1975.
The Government yesterday published its response (pdf) to the criticisms.
Speaking on behalf of the two organisations which provided evidence for the MPs’ conclusions - Campaign Against Arms Trade and TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, Nicholas Gilby called the Government's response "irresponsible and inadequate."
He continued "The Government admits that its decision to allow Indonesia to use UK-supplied equipment in Aceh did not take into account the deteriorating human rights situation on the ground, displaying a shameful and callous disregard for the human rights of the Acehnese."
He added "The rest of the response is woefully inadequate and fails to seriously address the grave issues the MPs have raised. It also fails to acknowledge previous Government admissions of Indonesian breach(es) of its assurances and tacitly accepts the MPs’ criticisms that it does not seriously monitor the use of UK-supplied equipment in Aceh ."
Campaign Against Arms Trade and TAPOL are appalled by the inadequacy of the Government s response and will be taking the matter up with the Quadripartite Committee, so the Government is properly held to account for its actions. A serious risk remains of UK-supplied equipment being used to commit human rights violations in Aceh. We reiterate our call for an immediate UK arms embargo on Indonesia.
For more information please contact:
CAAT Press Officer Andrew Wood on 020 7281 0297
or Paul Barber at TAPOL on 01420 80153.
A detailed commentary on the Government's response is below.
In September 2002, the Government controversially weakened the conditions under which equipment previously exported to Indonesia could be used, allowing British equipment to be used in Aceh at a time when the human rights situation was dire and deteriorating. Previously, the use of British equipment in Aceh was not permitted under any circumstances unless advance notification was provided to the British Government. The Committee concluded that:
"there has been a serious lack of clarity in the Government’s explanation to us of its rationale for allowing the Indonesian authorities to alter end-use undertakings regarding their use of British-built military equipment" (para. 86).
In its response to the report (para 18) the Government says it took into account a number of important considerations in relaxing the conditions, specifically Indonesia s democratic development, past misuse of UK-supplied equipment, and the fact that the conditions pre-dated the introduction of the EU Code of Conduct for the licensing of arms exports.
This is a totally inadequate response. Human rights considerations in Aceh are notable by their absence in the Government s response. The Government fails to address the key point that relaxing the conditions on the use of UK-supplied equipment when human rights violations were rampant and escalating sent a signal to the Indonesian Army that the UK did not care about the atrocities it was committing.
The suggestion that the conditions need to be in line with the EU Code of Conduct is nonsensical. Operative provision 2 of the criteria allows member states to operate tighter restrictions than other EU states. In any event the response fails to mention that the conditions of use of equipment in Aceh were first laid down in March 2001(2), after the EU Code of Conduct was implemented, showing the Government s reasoning to be false. As no satisfactory explanation has yet been given for the relaxation of the conditions CAAT and TAPOL will be writing to the Quadripartite Committee to ask it to inspect the relevant Government documents so the real reasons for the decision are put in the public domain.
The Government states (para 20) that it takes account of information from NGOs, journalists and others when monitoring end-use of UK-supplied equipment in Aceh. The Government fails to address the key issue that NGOs, journalists and others are unable to properly monitor the situation in Aceh as the Indonesian Army have effectively closed the province to the outside world.
Additionally, the Government can only cite two instances in the two years since the conditions were relaxed where UK officials visited Aceh for monitoring, and the first was not until 18 months after the relaxation! The Government is therefore tacitly admitting no real monitoring exists, again demonstrating its lack of interest in the use of UK-supplied equipment and, therefore, the worthlessness of the assurances it has. It cannot argue that because it has assurances from Indonesia concerning the use of lethal equipment, there is no risk from the continued supply to one of the world s worst human rights abusers.
The Government claims (para 20) that the Indonesian Government is very much aware of the importance of the assurances and what the UK Government would do if they were breached. The Government neglects to mention it has already admitted breach of Indonesian Government assurances about the use of UK equipment in Aceh (Hansard, 26 February 2002, col 1188W).
In 1999 the Indonesian Government gave assurances about ensuring security in the referendum on East Timor s independence the (as yet unpunished) crime against humanity the Indonesian Army committed afterwards gives an indication of the worth they attach to assurances they give.
1. Hansard, 26 February 2002, col 1188W and para 18 of the Government's response.
2. Letter from Foreign and Commonwealth Office to CAAT, 23 March 2004.