Vol. 7, No. 2
Will East Timor See Justice?
Despite Resistance, ETAN Continues Legislative Efforts
by Diane Farsetta
ETAN and its allies in Washington continue to work to achieve an international tribunal for East Timor, to call attention to women's issues in East Timor, to maintain the ban on U.S.-Indonesia military ties, and to ensure the U.S. government provides adequate reconstruction aid to East Timor and scholarships for East Timorese students. ETAN is also lobbying the U.S. to actively work through the United Nations and with the Indonesian government for a proper resolution to the West Timor refugee crisis (see West Timor Refugee Crisis Continues), and is working to make the framework for U.S. government relations with the soon-to-be-independent country as equitable and beneficial to the East Timorese people as possible (see U.S. - East Timor Relationship Raises New Questions).
Resolutions supporting the establishment of an international tribunal for East Timor and condemning the Indonesian military and militia violence of 1999 have been introduced in the U.S. Congress. Senate Concurrent Resolution 9 and House Concurrent Resolution 60 urge the administration to actively support justice for the gross human rights violations committed by the Indonesian military and its militias, a top priority for East Timorese individuals and organizations (see latest action alert). Strong U.S. support for an international tribunal is needed to overcome the "legal limbo" (according to UN Transitional Administration head Sergio de Mello) victims and alleged perpetrators of systematic human rights violations and crimes against humanity have experienced for nearly two years.
In its January 2000 report, the UN International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor called for an international tribunal, saying 1999's violence "would not have been possible without the active involvement of the Indonesian army, and the knowledge and approval of the top military command." ETAN strongly believes that the scope of the tribunal should not be limited to 1999, but should include crimes going back to the 1975 Indonesian military invasion of East Timor. Although Indonesia's parliament has finally passed legislation establishing a human rights court for East Timor, there remain many opportunities for opponents to block or slow its actual formation. ETAN is concerned that trials in Indonesian courts will fail to provide justice because many East Timorese victims and witnesses are too terrified to testify in Indonesia and Indonesian courts remain notoriously corrupt, among other reasons.
The current U.S. Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which remains in effect until the end of September 2001, bans U.S. support for the Indonesian military under the International Military Education and Training and Foreign Military Financing programs until specific conditions are met. These include the Indonesian government taking measures to bring military and militia members guilty of human rights violations to justice, cooperating with investigations of the military and militias, and allowing refugees to return to East Timor.
At our national strategy meeting, ETAN reiterated its opposition to U.S. military relations with Indonesia. In a joint statement, ETAN and the newly-formed Indonesia Human Rights Network (seeU.S. Activists Respond to Indonesian Military ViolenceU.S. Activists Respond to Indonesian Military Violence) stated that "since the Indonesian military continues to promote conflict and operate largely with impunity, the U.S. should not provide any training, equipment or other support." ETAN and other nongovernmental organizations made these points to Secretary of State Colin Powell in a letter sent prior to the recent U.S. visit of Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab.
Jakarta and some Bush administration officials, notably Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, are eager to restore U.S.-Indonesian military ties. ETAN and IHRN will work to maintain and expand the military ban, which is crucial to security for East Timor and democratic reform in Indonesia. This year's Foreign Operations Appropriations bill should continue similar or stronger conditions on U.S. military cooperation with Indonesia. The appropriations bill must also contain adequate money for reconstruction in still-demolished East Timor and scholarship opportunities for East Timorese students to study in the U.S.
Thanks for your continued support. A luta continua!
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