House and Senate letters to support justice for East Timor
see media release
July 12, 2005
His Excellency Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
His Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao
Dear President Yudhoyono and President Gusmao:
We are writing to convey our strong belief that justice must be done for crimes against humanity and other human rights violations perpetrated against the people of Timor-Leste during and immediately after the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. The serious and systematic nature of these crimes, committed in defiance of UN resolutions and a UN mission, makes accountability a concern of people everywhere. We believe that effectively prosecuting these crimes requires the involvement of the international community, credible judicial proceeding, and appropriate punishment of the major perpetrators.
Existing mechanisms for such prosecutions have proven unsatisfactory. Indonesia’s Ad-hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor failed to end impunity. Furthermore, nearly 80 percent of those indicted by the UN-backed Serious Crimes process in Timor-Leste enjoy sanctuary in Indonesia, including a number of high-ranking Indonesian officials. The Serious Crimes Unit, lacking resources and time, has not been able to investigate more than half of the murders in 1999 and the numerous other crimes.
We are pleased that Indonesia, like Timor-Leste, has finally agreed to cooperate with the UN Commission of Experts (COE) appointed by the Secretary General. A strong endorsement of the COE’s recommendations and a clear statement that your governments will fully cooperate with any tribunal, or other justice mechanism the United Nations should establish, would send an important signal that you intend to firmly deal with the past so that relations between your two countries will be based on respect for justice.
Credible trials and punishment of those responsible for gross violations of human rights are essential to building respect for the rule of law, strengthening your countries’ democracies and enhancing your mutual security and bilateral relationship. They are also essential to the cause of international justice. We therefore urge your support for effective international involvement in this effort.
Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your response.
Akaka (HI), Biden (DE), Bingaman (NM), Boxer (CA), Chafee (RI), Collins (ME), Durbin (IL), Feingold (WI), Harkin (IA), Johnson (SD), Kerry (MA), Kohl (WI); Lautenberg (NJ), Leahy (VT), Levin (MI), Mikulski (MD), Reed (RI), Sarbanes (NJ), Stabenow (MI), Wyden (OR)
His Excellency Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
His Excellency Mari Bin Amude Alkatiri
His Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao
Dear Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. President:
We are writing to express our continued commitment to seeing justice for crimes against humanity and other human rights violations perpetrated against the people of Timor-Leste during and immediately after the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. We respectfully request your leadership in responding to the pleas of the victims and your active and personal support of greater international involvement in bringing to justice the perpetrators of these horrific crimes.
As you may know, crimes against humanity are, by definition, of universal jurisdiction. Those carried out in 1999 and earlier - resulting in the systematic destruction of 75% of the country's infrastructure and the deaths of more than 200,000 people - defied many United Nations (UN) Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. Timor-Leste was never recognized internationally as a territory of Indonesia. The crimes committed in 1999 were directed at a UN mission established with the agreement of the Indonesian government.
Unfortunately, the Indonesian Ad-hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor failed to end impunity for the atrocities committed. The Court's limitations made the acquittal of all Indonesian officials brought before it a foregone conclusion. In addition, the Indonesian government's reported consistent refusal to cooperate with the UN-backed Serious Crimes process in Timor-Leste has resulted in nearly 80% of those indicted enjoying sanctuary in Indonesia, including a number of high-ranking Indonesian officials. The Serious Crimes Unit, lacking resources and time, has been unable to investigate even half of the 1999 murders and numerous other crimes.
When the governments of Indonesia and Timor-Leste approach these issues without international involvement, the result has inevitably favored the stronger power. We understand that Timor-Leste may feel vulnerable to its much larger neighbor and thus pressured to compromise on various issues in order to build friendly relations. Similarly, Indonesia's elected government must tread carefully while struggling to bring its still very powerful military under democratic, civilian control, especially as many officers responsible for atrocities in the past are still very influential. We recognize that these pragmatic considerations may have led both countries to downplay accountability for past crimes. However, credible trials and appropriate punishment of those responsible for major human rights violations are essential to building a strong foundation for relations between your two countries and peoples and between your nations and the international community. Neither the victims nor the perpetrators forget the past. We strongly believe a process of genuine accountability will build respect for human rights and the rule of law, strengthening your countries' still developing democracies and enhancing your mutual security.
To that end, we respectfully urge your governments to cooperate fully with international efforts towards and recommendations regarding justice, including those of the Commission of Experts (COE) appointed by the UN Secretary General. We are pleased that Indonesia, like Timor-Leste, has agreed to cooperate with the COE but remain concerned that Indonesia's cooperation was belated. We assumed there would be a more timely recognition of international responsibility from the country currently chairing the UN Human Rights Commission.
Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. President, a strong endorsement of the COE's recommendations and a clear statement that your governments will fully cooperate with any tribunal or other justice mechanism the United Nations would establish would send an important signal that you intend to base relations between your two countries on justice, sovereignty, and mutual respect.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter and we look forward to hearing from you and working with you.
Baldwin (D-WI), Pitts (R-PA),
Abercrombie (D-HI), Andrews (D-NJ), Brady (D-PA), Capuano (D-MA), Cardoza (D-CA), Clay (D-MO), Crowley (D-NY), Cummings (D-MD), Davis (D-IL), DeFazio (D-OR), Delahunt (D-MA), DeLauro (D-CT), Dent (R-PA), Doggett (D-TX), Engel (D-NY), English (R-PA), Evans (D-IL), Farr (D-CA), Gerlach (R-PA), Grijalva (D-AZ), Hastings (D-FL), Higgins (D-NY), Hinchey (D-NY), Honda (D-CA), Kennedy (D-RI), Kucinich (D-OH), Langevin (D-RI), Larsen (D-WA), Lee (D-CA), Lewis (D-GA), Lofgren (D-CA), Lowey (D-NY), Lynch (D-MA), Maloney (D-NY), Manzullo (R-IL), McGovern (D-MA), (D-NY), Millender-McDonald (D-CA), Moore (D-WI), Oberstar (D-MN), Pastor (D-AZ), Payne (D-NJ), Rothman (D-NJ),Sanders (I-VT) Schakowsky (D-IL), Velasquez (D-NY), Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), Waters (D-CA), Watson (D-CA). Waxman (D-CA), Weiner (D-NY), Wolf (R-VA), Woolsey (D-CA), Wu (D-OR), Wynn (D-MD)
cc: His Excellency Hassan Wirajuda, Foreign Minister of Indonesia
His Excellency Jose Ramos-Horta, Foreign Minister of Timor Leste
Her Excellency Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State
see also ETAN's Human Rights & Justice pages