Letter: Embassy let us down

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report (23 May) that the Centre for Security Studies at Hull University has become involved in providing courses for senior Indonesian military officers is deeply disturbing. Is this really the sort of relationship we want with a country which is just emerging from three decades of brutal dictatorship and is now struggling towards a more democratic future?

The fact that the training involves officers close to the now sidelined ex-Special Forces (Kopassus) and ex-Strategic Army Reserve commander Lieutenant- General Prabowo Subianto is especially disturbing. Both in East Timor (where Kopassus operations have been marked by gross human rights abuses), and in Jakarta, when forces under Prabowo's command crushed the pro-democracy movement in July 1996, and only last week appear to have attempted a putsch outside the presidential palace, the Special Forces have been used in irregular and ruthless ways which have claimed civilian lives.

In November 1996, the National Audit Office report on aid to Indonesia underscored just how sensitive such training for the Indonesian armed forces can be. Between 1983 and 1987, some 350 Indonesian police officers (the police being part of the armed forces in Indonesia) received training in the UK from Bramshill Police College, but the college's formal involvement was eventually scaled down after the Home Office expressed concern at ``reports of civilian killings in Indonesia and the risk that British- trained Indonesian policemen might later commit atrocities''. Clearly, the Centre for Security Studies at Hull is less squeamish.

Dr PETER CAREY

Fellow and Tutor in Modern History

Trinity College, Oxford

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