Human Rights Watch criticized British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday for saying Britain should resume arms sales to Indonesia after a 13-year ban.
The international watchdog said the call was untimely because rights abuses continue in Indonesia.
On April 11, Cameron on a state visit to Jakarta hailed Indonesia’s transformation from dictatorship to democracy, calling the country a model for Egypt and other Muslim-majority countries in political transition.
In an interview published locally during his visit, Cameron said there was no reason to withhold arms sales to Jakarta.
“Britain makes some of the best defense equipment in the world and it is reasonable that it is available to Indonesia, under the very same criteria that we apply to all our partners around the world,” Cameron told the Kompas daily.
Britain banned defense exports to Indonesia in 1999 following accusations that British-made fighter planes were used in counter-insurgency attacks in East Timor, then an Indonesian province.
“Given the ongoing and serious human rights abuses in Indonesia, it is not clear why you have chosen this moment to relax these controls,” Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Cameron, dated April 18 but made public Friday.
“At the very least, the UK government should publicly press for agreement that this equipment will not be used for the repression of Indonesia’s own citizens,” it said.
HRW said Cameron’s description of Indonesia’s transformation was an overstatement and that it was concerned the Indonesian military would use British equipment to suppress people in the Papua region.