JAKARTA – Around 500 United States documents declassified and published on Wednesday show that Washington was aware of the abuses committed by the Indonesian security forces to contain protests during the economic and political crisis that led to the resignation of president Suharto in 1998.
The documents, published by the nonprofit National Security Archive at George Washington University, to which EFE had access, correspond to the period between 1997-1999 and prove that the Indonesian government covered up crimes committed by top military officials against students and activists protesting against the regime.
A May 1999 intelligence report reveals how an army official “admitted in front of his own staff that high level officer cover-ups were possible in these cases. But, if so, it was for the greater good of the nation.”
This document refers to the prosecution of members of the Special Forces for kidnapping and torture and to the accusations against the police for the death of four students during a protest in Trisakti University in Jakarta in May 1998.
The indignation triggered by the death of the students at Trisakti and the effects of the financial crisis in Asia in 1997 sparked a series of protests in the main cities of Indonesia, which included incidents of sectarian violence and sexual aggression against the Chinese ethnic minority.
A telegram in May 1998 by then-US ambassador to Indonesia, J. Stapleton Roy, contains the statements of a student leader, who blames Prabowo Subianto and the Special Forces for the disappearances, kidnappings and torture of activists that had been going on since 1996.
Another talks about the close relationship of US President Bill Clinton’s administration with Indonesia during the financial crisis and its support for the Asian country’s bailout by the International Monetary Fund.
“Clinton also pressed Indonesia on its economy, specifically urging acceptance of an IMF structural adjustment package that actually worsened the political crisis and helped bring about Suharto’s ouster,” said academician Brad Simpson, who led the team that has published the declassified documents.
No top official of the armed forces has been prosecuted for human rights violations during the last few years of Suharto’s regime, including Prabowo.
Currently, Prabowo is engaged in promoting his political career. He lost the presidential elections in 2014 to Joko Widodo and will contest for the post once again in 2019.