Subject: CONG: Letter to Powell on UN in East Timor

Congress of the United States Washington, DC 20515

February 26, 2004

Dear Secretary Powell:

We are writing out of serious concern over the May 2004 expiration of the United Nations mandate in Last Timor (Timor Leste). We urge the Administration to support retention of an adequately-sized UN security force to protect the peace in the area, as recommended in the Special Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET). We further urge strong Administration support for U.N. operations in East Timor involving civilian advisors in non-security areas and for the important work of the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) and Special Panels.

We were encouraged to learn that after only two years' existence as an independent state, Last Timor has been declared eligible to compete for U_S. assistance under the Administration's new "Millennium Challenge Account." This status is recognition that East Timor, despite its painful 1999 transition to independence, is making good progress.

But a security environment threatening to undermine or destroy what East Timor has already achieved jeopardizes that progress. In 2003, militia teams twice invaded East Timor in raids that resulted in civilian deaths. Approximately 3,000 ex-militia personnel remain on the Indonesian side of the border. Last fall, the former head of the Kopassus Special Forces, General Prabowo, was in West Timor, reportedly collaborating with the militia teams.

It seems unlikely that East Timor's police and defense forces have the strength to deal effectively with a potential cross-border guerrilla threat or direct pressure from the vastly stronger forces of the Indonesian military.

In addition to the possibility of a foreign threat, East Timor faces potentially serious internal problems stemming from the devastation inflicted by the departing forces in 1999. There is massive unemployment, abject poverty and anger over the lack of justice for crimes against humanity committed during Indonesian occupation. These difficulties could generate internal instability.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for an extension of the mandate, while East Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta said he would like a UN-backed, 400-strong police force to bolster East Timor's own fledgling security forces, which would be inadequate if civil unrest swept the country.

Moreover, a number of governments, including our allies such as Canada, New Zealand, and Portugal, have urged that U.N. forces be retained in sufficient numbers to ensure security. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bishop Carlos Belo has made similar appeals.

It is also critically important that the SCU and Special Panels continue to be funded as part of an extended UN mandate. Their work is not yet finished. The Indonesian Ad Hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor has failed abysmally to bring justice for war crimes committed in East Timor. The SCU and Special Panels should be strengthened and given the resources and political backing necessary to compel Indonesia to cooperate; three-quarters of those indicted by the SCU reside with impunity in Indonesia.

We note that Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta has stated, "Nation-building cannot be undertaken with shortcut methods. It cannot be based on the Security Council wanting to save money from East Timor. The U.N. must stay, engage in East Timor on a smaller scale but with a robust, credible presence to ensure that the achievements of the past two or three years will not unravel with a hasty retreat."

We thank you for your serious consideration of these most important matters and look forward to your response.


Barney Frank Member of Congress

Patrick J. Kennedy Jr. Member of Congress

James P. McGovern Member of Congress

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