Rights group urges Esper to rescind invite to Indonesia’s Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto banned from entering U.S. since 2000

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The United States must rescind an invite extended to Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s Defense Minister who has been implicated in crimes against humanity, Amnesty International USA said on Tuesday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has scheduled a meeting with Prabowo Subianto on October 15 in Washington, D.C.

Subianto has been banned since 2000 from entering the U.S. due to his alleged direct involvement in human rights violations.

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“The State Department’s recent decision to lift the ban on Prabowo Subianto is an abrupt, complete reversal of longstanding U.S. foreign policy which has been in place for several decades. The invitation must be rescinded as it would be catastrophic for human rights in Indonesia,” Amnesty International USA’s National Director of Advocacy and Government Relations, Joanne Lin said in a statement on Tuesday. “The U.S. government’s decision in 2000 to blacklist Prabowo Subianto due to his human rights violations represented an extremely important commitment to human rights.  The U.S. government’s policy over the last 20 years has brought much needed hope and relief to the victims who suffered torture and other ill treatment under his special forces.”

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper meets with Romanian Minister of Defense Nicolae Ciuca at the Pentagon, Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2020. (DoD Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper meets with Romanian Minister of Defense Nicolae Ciuca at the Pentagon, Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2020. (DoD Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

Amnesty International Indonesia and Amnesty International USA issued a letter calling on the United States to investigate Subianto, and if there is sufficient admissible evidence that he is criminally responsible for torture, bring him to trial or extradite him to any other country willing to exercise jurisdiction over the alleged crimes. as mandated by article 5 (2) of the Convention Against Torture.

Prabowo Subianto served as commander of the army’s special forces under Soeharto and has been implicated in crimes against humanity, including enforced disappearances, by Indonesia’s human rights commission.  Prabowo Subianto has been widely accused of being involved in human rights violations, including the abductions of pro-democracy activists in the months leading up to the end of Soeharto’s rule.  Official independent investigations mandated to investigate serious human rights violations in 1998 concluded that Prabowo Subianto was aware of the violations and as the commander of the army’s special forces, was ultimately responsible for the abductions of pro-democracy activists in 1997-98. The allegations against him have never been tried in court.

Under the Leahy laws, the U.S. Government is prohibited from using funds to assist units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of a gross violation of human rights, including torture, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, and rape.  The State Department Leahy law includes an exception permitting assistance to a unit if the Secretary of State determines and reports to Congress that the government of the implicated foreign security forces unit is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members to justice. Survivors of the serious violations that Proabowo Subianto has been accused of, have been waiting for over 20 years for justice, accountability, and reparation.

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