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Talking Points for Radio, TV and Print Interviews and Call-ins 
August 2000

The U.S. must increase pressure on the Indonesian government and military to end East Timor's refugee crisis (see The Refugee Crisis and Accountability)

- Over 100,000 East Timorese remain trapped in militia-controlled refugee camps in Indonesian West Timor. Another 11,000 to 30,000 are believed to have been taken elsewhere in Indonesia. Most want to return home.

- East Timorese in the camps face ongoing threats and intimidation by the Indonesian military and its militia, especially if they express a desire to return to East Timor.

- The militias are currently using the camps to launch cross-border terror campaigns that have killed two U.N. peacekeepers in the past month.

- Malnutrition and disease are rampant and adequate health care is not available. The Indonesian military, its militia allies and the local media continue to spread misinformation to discourage East Timorese from returning home.

- Indonesian military-supported violence in the camps is on the increase. In early July, the United Nations had to indefinitely suspend registration of the refugees because of militia threats and assaults on international and local staff. In recent weeks, UN humanitarian agencies in the camps have had to suspend their activities due to threats and assaults by militia activity.

- Indonesia has announced plans to shut down the camps, but has not yet said whether the refugees will be able to make an informed and uncoerced choice about whether to return East Timor or stay in Indonesia.

- The following steps should be taken to end the refugee crisis:

1. The Indonesian military must end its support for the militias, and militias must be disarmed, and disbanded

2. Militia leaders must be removed from the civilian refugee population in the camps, arrested, and prosecuted

3. Humanitarian aid workers must have open and complete access to all refugee camps.

4. Refugees who wish to return home must be allowed to do so without intimidation. Camps should not be closed under arbitrary deadlines.

5. There must be a coordinated effort to locate and safely return East Timorese refugees who were taken off Timor island.

Now is not the time to resume U.S. military ties with the Indonesian armed forces! (See ETAN Opposes Any Resumption of Military Ties)

- The Clinton Administration has begun a phased plan of re-engagement with the Indonesian military despite deteriorating conditions in East Timorese refugee camps and increased border incursions by Indonesian military-supported militias. These militias (or possibly elements of the Indonesian military) were also behind the recent killing of two UN peacekeepers near the East/West Timor border.

- In July, the U.S. military engaged in joint training exercises with the Indonesian navy, marines, and coast guard for the first time since last year's carnage in East Timor (and subsequent cut off of U.S. military ties). This exercise, known as CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training), simulated amphibious invasions of Indonesian islands. Although the State Department claims that the most recent CARAT focused on humanitarian assistance and did not involve combat training, this has not been independently confirmed. Some Indonesian soldiers went directly from an August 1999 CARAT exercise to East Timor where they directed and participated in the carnage that followed East Timor's vote for independence.

- Last fall, Congress passed a year-long prohibition on all U.S. arms sales and military of training to Indonesia until Indonesia allows refugees to return home to East Timor, brings those responsible for human rights atrocities in East Timor and Indonesia to justice, and ends militia incursions into East Timor. These conditions have not been met and the ban is expected to be formally renewed by Congress in fall 2000.

- Any resumption of U.S. military relations with Indonesia will be taken as a sign of U.S. support and approval for the Indonesian armed forces. The Indonesian military continues to brutally repress movements for democracy and human rights throughout Indonesia. And conditions for refugees and security in the East Timor border area substantially deteriorated this summer.

Rather than talk about resuming military ties, the US administration should increase pressure on the Indonesian government and military to finally resolve East Timor's refugee crisis and support true democratic reforms in the Indonesian military and government.

Those who planned or committed crimes against humanity in East Timor must be held accountable for their actions. (see ETAN's Human Rights pages)

- Although UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson has indicated her support for an international war crimes tribunal for the perpetrators of the violence in East Timor, the current position of both the U.S. and U.N. is to allow the Indonesian judicial process to try those accused of egregious human rights abuses in East Timor. But it is increasingly unlikely that justice will ever be served by the Indonesian system.

- The Indonesian parliament has just passed a constitutional amendment barring the use of new stronger laws to prosecute past abuses. The current Indonesian Criminal Code is limited in scope and Indonesia's powerful military is unlikely to tolerate serious prosecutions of its own. The courts are unreliable, at best, and notoriously corrupt, at worst.

- The U.S. should support an international tribunal to try those accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor. This is what the East Timorese are asking for, and it is the best way to begin the process of healing and reconciliation in East Timor.

- While U.N. and Indonesian investigations have focused on the violence during last year's voting process in East Timor, as Americans we need to examine U.S. complicity in East Timor's suffering since 1975 when Indonesia illegally invaded East Timor with U.S. support.


* Where do the presidential candidates stand on East Timor?

Neither major party Presidential candidate has spoken about East Timor lately (although George Bush, Jr. did manage to mangle its name last year). Ask (rhetorically, if need be) what the Presidential Candidates have learned from decades of U.S. support for genocide and human rights abuses in East Timor? What does the U.S. owe East Timor in the way of future aid? Shouldn't arms sales and military training be restricted to regimes that routinely violate human rights and invade their neighbors? See for more about East Timor and election 2000.

* Raise the Need for Your Senators and Representative to co-sponsor and actively support relevant legislation. Ask their challengers what they would do. (see for updates and lists of current co-sponsors)

- The East Timor Repatriation and Security Act (HR 4357 in the House and S2621 in the Senate) would prohibit US aid to the Indonesian military until the Indonesian government provides for the territorial integrity of East Timor; the security and safe return of refugees; and has brought to justice those individuals responsible for crimes against humanity in East Timor and Indonesia.

- The International Military Training Transparency and Accountability Act (HR1063) is a bill before the House of Representatives that would close loopholes that the Pentagon has used to continue to train human rights violators in Indonesia and elsewhere. After Congress banned combat training for Indonesia under the IMET (International Military Education and Training) program, training continued (without the knowledge of many in Congress) through the JCET (Joint Combined Education and Training) and other programs. This bill would prevent this from happening in the future.

Good luck and contact 
John M. Miller
if you have questions or comments.

Back to August 30 Action Alert

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