Subject: 27 British NGOs call for peacekeeping troops in Timor
Date: Fri, 3 Sep 1999 08:51:23 -0700 (PDT)
From: (TAPOL)



More than two dozen NGOs from across Britain have called on the British Government to press for the immediate dispatch of armed UN troops to East Timor 'as the only way to safeguard security in the coming critical weeks'.

The joint letter was sent to Foreign Secretary Robin Cook today, 3 September, one day before the results of the UN-conducted referendum are due to be announced in Dili and New York. The announcement is expected to show a large majority in favour of independence, rejecting Indonesia's offer of autonomy. It is widely feared that this will spark renewed violence by Indonesian army-backed militia who have been wreaking havoc throughout the country since the referendum on 30 August, when more than 98 per cent of those entitled to vote cast their votes in a spirit of great enthusiasm.

Since the ballot, the pro-Indonesian militias have continued with their campaign of violence and are now in control of several major towns, burning property, manning roadblocks and threatening people's personal safety. Foreign journalists and observers have been warned to leave while thousands of East Timorese have fled their homes, in the face of militia violence. At least four East Timorese working as local staff for the UN have been killed and others are reported missing.

Two battalions of KOSTRAD troops from the Indonesian army's strategic command arrived in East Timor today, allegedly at the request of the UN, to protect UN facilities. This is in open breach of the agreement on the conduct of the referendum signed between Indonesia and Portugal under UN auspices on 5 May which provided for the 'redeployment' of Indonesian troops while leaving security of the ballot in the hands of the Indonesian police.

Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL said: 'The army-backed militias have for months threatened to unleash violence if the ballot favours independence. East Timor now faces the prospect of a bloodbath which could take thousands more East Timorese lives, unless the UN recognises the urgent need for armed intervention to protect the East Timorese people who have lived for 23 years under brutal and genocidal occupation and to protect the outcome of this week's ballot. The reputation of the UN itself is at stake.'

The 27 signatories of the Joint Letter include major British NGOs such as War on Want, the World Development Movement, Saferworld, Pax Christi, the National Peace Council, Article 19, Index on Censorship, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Survival International, Liberal Democrats for East Timor, the Green Party and a number of East Timor solidarity groups, as well as the two leading Catholic aid agencies, CAFOD in London and SCIAF in Scotland.

For further information or interviews, contact: Carmel Budiardjo on 0181 771-2904 (day and evening).

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8HW, UK Phone: 0181 771-2904 Fax: 0181 653-0322 email: Internet: Campaigning to expose human rights violations in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh

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