US Restores Ties With Indonesia’s Brutal Special Forces

Gates Says Group 'Sufficiently Committed to Human Rights'

12 years after the ban was put in place, the Obama Administration has announced that it is ending the prohibition on ties wih Indonesia’s notorious special forces,known as the Kopassus.

The Kopassus faced enormous international scrutiny over the brutality in East Timor, and other reports exist of human rights violations in West Papua and Jakarta. The Indonesian military in general and the special forces in particular are exempt from facing potential charges in civilian courts.

Despite this, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates insists that the Kopassus are “sufficiently committed to human rights” to allow the US military to restore direct ties with the group.

Human Rights Watch’s Asian Advocacy Director Sophie Richardson criticized the move, saying the special forces still hadn’t demonstrated “a genuine commitment to accountability.” Though the Obama Administration obtained a pledge that the special forces would “cooperate” with civilian investigations of them, in practice the pledge is seen as largely meaningless, as the civilian government in Indonesia rarely probes the military for abuses.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.