Talking Points for Radio, TV and Print Interviews and
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
- 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
- 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
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.
U.S.-INDONESIA MILITARY TIES
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
- 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.
HUMAN RIGHTS ACCOUNTABILITY
Those who planned or committed crimes against humanity in East Timor must
be held accountable for their actions. (see ETAN's Human
- 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
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 http://www.etan.org/news/2000b/electin1.htm 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 http://www.etan.org/legislation for updates and lists of
- 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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