etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer For Immediate Release Contact John M. Miller; (718)596-7668,

U.S. and U.N. Must Support an International Tribunal on East Timor Violence A Statement by the East Timor Action Network/U.S. February 2, 2000

The reports issued this week by the U.N.'s International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor and the Indonesian National Commission of Inquiry on East Timor both confirm what has been long known: Indonesian military officials at the highest levels -- working with militia leaders and civilian officials -- were responsible for the violence surrounding the U.N.'s plebiscite in East Timor. Their mandates, however, limited the investigations to events since January 1999, rather than the entire period of Indonesia's illegal occupation since 1975. The individuals named must be further investigated, prosecuted and, if convicted, punished. Individuals who suffered human rights abuses should receive reparations.

The special UN panel has recommended that an international tribunal be established. The Indonesian government, however, insists that an international tribunal is unnecessary and that the international community should wait and see if Indonesia can prosecute its own.

The Indonesian government's stance is problematic. While an Indonesian commission has investigated the most recent violence in East Timor, Indonesia has yet to demonstrate its ability to follow through with credible prosecutions. The commission's investigation is only the first step of a long process, and there is no guarantee that later stages will meet international standards. Too many uncertainties about the independence, quality and ability of Indonesia's courts exist.

The democratic Indonesian government has yet to show that it can hold its military to account. Despite repeated pledges by Indonesia's civilian leadership, the Indonesian military and its militia allies continue to block East Timorese refugees from returning home and incursions continue into East Timor's Oecussi enclave. Indonesia's failure to remedy these ongoing problems do not inspire confidence in pledges to hold the military accountable for past activities in East Timor. In addition, Indonesia has a long record of reneging on commitments to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Efforts by members of the military to "deny accountability" and "obstruct" the Indonesian investigations trouble U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Holbrooke, among many others.

Indonesia has yet to adopt the necessary legislation to create a human rights court able to try crimes against humanity. While the Indonesian parliament is now working on setting up a human rights court, its mandate as currently conceived will not be retroactive. It leaves past crimes to an undefined truth and reconciliation commission. The grave human rights violations committed against the people of East Timor could go unpunished. While he plans to remove General Wiranto from his cabinet, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has already said that he will pardon Wiranto, if found guilty. Justice will have been delayed and likely denied for the East Timorese should Indonesia fail to credibly prosecute and punish.

The atrocities committed against the people of East Timor are an international issue, not just an Indonesian one. An international tribunal is needed to deal with crimes committed against the international community, as well as against East Timorese. Both must actively participate in the prosecution and sentencing of those responsible. While most of those accused are Indonesian, their alleged crimes were part of a systematic attempt to undermine and then overturn a U.N.-conducted vote. The East Timorese who participated in the plebiscite received public promises from both the U.N. and Indonesia that their vote would be respected. They voted in the defiance of overt and covert threats, knowing these pledges might turn out to be hollow. Nearly all of the victims of the violence were East Timorese, not Indonesian. In the words of the U.N. report, they must "not be forgotten in the rush of events." East Timorese at all levels of society have long called for an international tribunal.

ETAN calls on the U.S. government and the U.N. to work with the Indonesian government to establish a joint Indonesian, East Timorese and international tribunal as recommended by the U.N. commission's report. However, the U.N. must move forward with an international tribunal, even if Indonesia refuses to cooperate. The operation of the panel must be totally transparent. Any tribunal's mandate must be expanded to include atrocities and rights violations committed as a result of the entire period of Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor since1975. Both the U.N. and Indonesian reports are preliminary; the U.S. government (and other U.N. members) can support further investigations by releasing all relevant files and intelligence information both to any tribunals and to the general public. While Indonesia bears the greatest responsibility for events in East Timor over the last 25 years, governments -- such as the U.S. -- which supported Indonesia's occupation of East Timor by providing weapons, training and other assistance, should publicly examine their own complicity.

Note: The full U.N. report can be found at http//

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. was founded in November 1991, following the massacre of more than 271 peaceful demonstrators in Dili, East Timor. ETAN/U.S. supports independence and human rights for the people of East Timor. ETAN has 28 local chapters.

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