Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: CONG: Senators write Powell on Refugees

United States Senate 
Washington, DC 20510

June 25,2001

The Honorable Colin L. Powell 
Secretary of State 
U.S. Department of State 
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Powell:

More than a year and a half after the popular consultation in East Timor, up to 1OO,000 East Timorese refugees remain in squalid, militia-controlled camps in West Timor. We are deeply troubled by the lack of progress in addressing this ongoing crisis.

Humanitarian conditions in the refugee camps have worsened since last year, when the murder of three UNHCR workers, including one US. citizen, forced international agencies to evacuate from West Timor. According to the Jesuit Refugee Services, "the refugees in the camps are suffering great hunger, they have had no support from local aid groups since January and from international agencies since September." Malnutrition, diarrhea, and other diseases plague the refugees. A significant number of East Timorese children in the camps are separated from their parents, some of whom have since repatriated to East Timor and requested the return of their children to no avail

The continued presence of militia gangs backed by elements of the Indonesian military complicates the humanitarian crisis and constitutes a serious threat to peace and security in both East Timor and Indonesia. Widespread reports indicate that the militia gangs systematically intimidate refugees perpetuate a disinformation campaign regarding current conditions in East Timor, and in some cases are involved in the sexual abuse and exploitation of women and girls in the camps. The Indonesian government has repeatedly failed to honor its commitments to seriously and responsibi1y disarm the militia and address the crisis. Under current conditions, it is impossible to conduct a refugee registration process accurately reflecting the wishes of refugees and the U.S. should not grant legitimacy to any such sham registration efforts.

We urge you and other U.S. officials to continue working toward a responsible and just resolution to the refugee crisis in West Timor. In particular, we urge you to clearly communicate to the Government of Indonesia that continued failure to comply with promises to disarm mid disband militia groups, to ensure that those responsible for human rights abuses are held accountable for their actions, and to guarantee the safety of international and local humanitarian workers will be met with concrete consequences in terms of U.S. support.

We thank you for your serious consideration and look forward to a response outlining the specific steps you are taking to deal with these serious matters.


Russ Feingold (WI) 
Herb Kohl (WI) 
John Corzine (NJ) 
Diane Feinstein (CA) 
Bill Nelson (FL) 
Daniel Akaka (HI) 
Tim Harkin (IA) 
Barbara Boxer (CA) 
Jim Jeffords (VT) 
Robert Torricelli (NJ) 
Joseph Lieberman (CT) 
Dick Durbin (IL) 
Jack Reed (RI) 
Patrick Leahy (VT) 
Mark Dayton (MN) 
Ted Kennedy (MA) 
Barbara Mikulski (MD)

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