Subject: Senator Feingold (D-WI) on justice for East Timor
United States Senate
October 6, 2004
Secretary Colin Powell
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Powell:
I write to express my deep concern over justice for the East Timorese. As you well know, in August 2004, an Indonesian appeals court overturned the convictions of four officers charged with crimes against humanity in East Timor by the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court in Indonesia. This latest decision means that all 15 defendants from the Indonesian military and police forces have been cleared of responsibility in the violence surrounding East Timor's referendum in 1999. Only the convictions of two East Timorese have been upheld.
Furthermore, in May 2004, the Security Council adopted resolution 1543, which stated that the UN-established Serious Crimes Unit and the Special Panels courts in East Timor "should complete all investigations by November 2004 and should conclude all trials and other activities as soon as possible and no later than 20 May 2005." With the winding down of the Serious Crimes Unit and the Special Panels courts and the failure of the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court in Indonesia to hold the perpetrators of violence accountable, I am concerned about the prospects for justice for the East Timorese.
As you well know, weeks of violence surrounded the internationally-sponsored independence referendum for East Timor in August 1999. The Indonesian military and East Timorese militia groups waged a scorched earth campaign against the East Timorese people and their democratic aspirations throughout the territory. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee, and many were killed. The international community made a commitment to the East Timorese to investigate and prosecute these crimes against humanity. We must live up to these promises.
I understand that the administration supports the establishment of a Commission of Experts to make an assessment of the judicial processes related to atrocities committed in East Timor. What steps are being taken to establish the Commission? What timeline do you envision for the Commission's work? Do you envision a Commission that can analyze the judicial processes in both East Timor and Indonesia? Will you support a mandate for the Commission to develop a proposal for a new judicial process that will hold the perpetrators of violence accountable? I urge you to provide Congress with a plan and a timeline to create this Commission and to work closely with the United Nations, East Timor and other countries to support a succeeding judicial process.
In June 2003, I wrote to you with a number of my colleagues, urging you to take the necessary diplomatic steps to ensure justice after the Court is adjourned. The time has now come to act on this important issue.
I thank you for your consideration of this matter.
Russell D. Feingold
Human Rights & Justice
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