Subject: CONG: House Letter to Powell on International Tribunal for ET

January 30, 2001

Secretary of State Colin Powell 
U.S. Department of State 
2201 C Street NW 
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Powell:

We congratulate you on your appointment as Secretary of State. We are writing to remind you that January 31 marked the first anniversary of the report of the UN International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor, which recommended establishing an international tribunal to try serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity in East Timor.Nearly one and a half years after the East Timorese people voted overwhelmingly for independence, they have yet to see justice for the murder of over one thousand, the rape of unknown numbers of women and girls, the displacement of three-quarters of the population, and the destruction of more than 70% of the country's infrastructure. This follows an estimated 200,000 East Timorese deaths during 24 years of illegal, Indonesian military (TNI) occupation.

While outspoken on the need for justice for East Timor, the previous administration argued that Indonesia should be given a chance to prosecute its own citizens responsible for these travesties. It has become increasingly clear that the Indonesian government has failed in this task. To date, no Indonesian military personnel and inexcusably few militia leaders have been held accountable for human rights violations in East Timor.Even those militia leaders slated for prosecution are being tried for atrocities in West Timor, not for their crimes in East Timor.

Militia leaders with the support of TNI elements retain control of some 100,000 East Timorese in squalid refugee camps in West Timor. Through border incursions and infiltration, these militias continue to threaten the peace and security of East Timor. The long-suffering people of East Timor deserve justice. The time has now come for the United States government to unequivocally support an international tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor. The East Timorese leadership and population and many Indonesian civil society and human rights leaders strongly support the creation of an international tribunal. They recognize that, despite the intentions of some Indonesian government officials, delays, non-cooperation and a corrupt Indonesian judiciary will thwart efforts at prosecutions within Indonesia.They also know that the weak, under-resourced East Timorese judicial system is not up to the task.

TNI leaders have made clear their refusal to cooperate with investigations into the 1999 atrocities in East Timor. UN investigators who traveled to Jakarta in December to question Indonesian suspects and witnesses were not permitted to do so despite a Memorandum of Understanding between Indonesia and the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).The chief of Indonesia's armed forces Admiral Widodo Adisucipto has vocally refused to cooperate with any United Nations investigations.Indonesia's parliament backs the military's position. Indonesia has also refused to honor an extradition request by UNTAET for notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres, who is currently detained in Jakarta but hailed as a national hero for his role in East Timor.

The Indonesian government has further undermined its own ability to achieve genuine accountability for past human rights abuses by passing a constitutional amendment prohibiting retroactivity in prosecutions. Government investigations have named only 22 suspects, none of whom rank higher than a two-star general, characteristically targeting lower-ranking officers rather than their commanders and political leaders who made the policies and issued orders.

By supporting a tribunal, the U.S. will help boost democratic reforms in Indonesia and help prevent TNI officers responsible for the East Timor destruction, the overwhelming majority of whom retain positions of prestige and power, from continuing to commit atrocities against Indonesian citizens, particularly in Aceh, Papua, and Maluku, as is currently the case.

In order for East Timor to achieve its full democratic potential, reconciliation must be achieved; but justice is a prerequisite for reconciliation. An international tribunal is the most viable means to attain justice.Given its long-term support for the Indonesian military regime and as a leading member of the UN Security Council, it is only fitting that the United States play a leading role in establishing an international tribunal for crimes perpetrated in East Timor.As the new Secretary of State, we urge you to take the lead on this initiative.

We thank you for your serious consideration and look forward to a response.


Patrick J. Kennedy, Member of Congress

Tom Lantos, Member of Congress

Chris Smith, Member of Congress

Dennis Kucinich, Member of Congress

James Oberstar, Member of Congress

Albert Wynn, Member of Congress

Steve Horn, Member of Congress

Richard Pombo, Member of Congress

Barney Frank , Member of Congress

Tony Hall, Member of Congress

Nita Lowey, Member of Congress

Bill Delahunt, Member of Congress

James McGovern, Member of Congress

Anthony Weiner, Member of Congress

Bernie Sanders, Member of Congress

Jan Schakowsky, Member of Congress

Peter DeFazio, Member of Congress

Joseph Crowley, Member of Congress

Jesse Jackson, Jr., Member of Congress

Eni Faleomavaega, Member of Congress

Patsy Mink, Member of Congress

Michael Capuano, Member of Congress

Eleanor Holmes Norton, Member of Congress

Lloyd Doggett, Member of Congress

David Wu, Member of Congress

Lane Evans, Member of Congress

Earl Blumenauer, Member of Congress

John Tierney, Member of Congress

Pete Stark, Member of Congress

Henry Waxman, Member of Congress

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