Sabik Aji Taufan – Human rights organisations have slammed a visit to the United States by Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto. The chairperson of Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) is scheduled to fly to the US today, Thursday October 15.
The groups said the US' decision to grant Prabowo a visa is a human rights disaster for Indonesia.
In voicing their concern, on October 13 the human rights organisations sent an open letter to US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo. The letter was signed by Amnesty International USA, Amnesty International Indonesia, the Public Interests Lawyers Network (Pil-Net), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Asian Justice and Rights (AJAR), the Solidarity Action Committee for Munir (KASUM), Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) and the Public Virtue Institute.
"The US Foreign Affairs Department's decision to revoke the ban on Indonesia's Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto which has been in place for 20 years could violate the  Leahy Law and will be a disaster for human rights", said Kontras Executive Director Fatia Maulidiyanti.
Maulidiyanti said that Prabowo is a former general who has been banned from entering the US since 2000. He has been accused of directly violating human rights in Indonesia.
The US Foreign Affairs Department's sudden decision to revoke the ban on Prabowo goes against 20 years of foreign affairs policy in the US.
"Prabowo Subianto's invitation must be cancelled if it provides impunity for the crimes he has been accused of", said Maulidiyanti. "We urge you (Pompeo) to clarify that the visa issued for Prabowo Subianto does not provide impunity for him in any form what so ever", she said.
In addition to this, the groups asked Pompeo to ensure that if Prabowo arrives in the US he will be investigated as soon as possible. And if sufficient evidence is found then Prabowo must be immediately tried in court in accordance with international justice.
Maulidiyanti explained that allowing Prabowo to travel to the US to meet with senior US officials has the potential to violate the Leahy Law so the planned meetings must be cancelled.
Prabowo is a retired TNI (Indonesian military) officer who held the rank of Lieutenant General. He served in the TNI for 31 years – between 1967 and 1998. In 1998 Prabowo was the commander of the Army's Special Forces (Kopasus) and at the time his father-in-law was former president Suharto.
Prabowo stands accused of involvement in human rights crimes such as the abduction and disappearance of pro-democracy activists in 1997-98 several months before the end of the Suharto administration. Prabowo was found guilty by a military tribunal of being fully responsible for the abductions but he has never been tried in court.
In 2000, the US included Prabowo on a black-list because of human rights violations. This US policy remained in place for 20 years until news serviced that Prabowo had been invited to the US to meet with Pompeo.
Under the 1997 Leahy law – named after its author, US Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont – the US is banned from providing training or other kinds of assistance to any foreign military unit if there is "credible evidence" that it has committed "gross violations of human rights". This can be waived if the secretary of state certifies that the relevant foreign government is "taking effective measures" to bring responsible members of the unit to justice.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Prabowo ke Amerika, Para Pegiat HAM Surati Menlu AS".]