For Immediate Release
August 29, 2000
Contact: John M. Miller, (718) 596-7668; (917) 690-4391; firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Orenstein, (202) 544-6911
One Year Later, East Timor Still Needs Justice and Security
ETAN Encourages U.S. to Build on Commitment to Full Self-Determination
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) today said that one year
after last year's historic independence vote, East Timor still lacks
justice and security.
"East Timor has begun to rebuild from last year's destruction, but
much still needs to be done to assure justice and security for the world's
newest country," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for the East Timor
ETAN called on the U.S. and other nations to support an international
tribunal to prosecute those responsible East Timor's destruction and to
strengthen East Timor's security by refusing to reestablish any military
assistance to the Indonesian military and police until certain conditions
are met, including an end to their human rights abuses, disarming and
disbanding militias and arresting their leaders, and respect for East
Timor's territorial integrity. The Indonesian government must also bring
its armed forces under civilian control.
"One year after the Indonesian military and its militias leveled
East Timor, the government of Indonesia either can't or won't stop
military support for militias violating East Timor's borders, attacking
peacekeepers and UN relief personnel, and blocking the repatriation of
more than 100,000 East Timorese refugees. Any form of U.S. assistance to
the Indonesian military contributes to the unraveling of Indonesia's
fragile democratization, betrays our commitment to genuine
self-determination in East Timor, and violates the intent of Congress in
withholding aid to human rights abusers," said Lynn Fredriksson,
Washington Representative for ETAN.
"An international tribunal is the only way to be sure that the
victims of military and militia violence in East Timor have their day in
court. A tribunal will have the added benefits of discouraging continued
rights violations throughout Indonesia and promoting reconciliation in
East Timor," said Miller.
"The U.S., until recent years a major backer of Indonesia's
invasion and occupation of East Timor, must provide substantial support
for East Timor's development. The United States has a responsibility after
arming and training East Timor's tormentors for so long," said John
"Now that East Timor is free, the U.S. must support a just and
peaceful future for the world's newest nation. The East Timorese need a
full range of aid -- from health care to educational scholarships -- the
U.S. should continue to contribute what is most needed, as Congress and
the administration did at the end of 1999," added Miller.
On August 30, 1999, the people of East Timor defying threats and
violence turned out in record numbers to vote overwhelmingly for
independence. Following the vote, Indonesian troops and their militia
proxies destroyed some 70% of the country's infrastructure, killed more
than one thousand people, and forced hundreds of thousands across the
border into Indonesia. On September 9, the U.S. suspended military ties
and threatened World Bank and IMF assistance to Indonesia. Soon after, the
Indonesian military began to withdraw from East Timor and an international
peacekeeping force entered. in November, the U.S. Congress restricted most
military assistance to Indonesia until East Timorese refugees are
returned, there is effective prosecution of military and militia members
responsible for human rights atrocities in East Timor and Indonesia and
other conditions regarding East Timor's security are met.
But, in July, the U.S. military began to re-engage with its Indonesian
counterparts by conducting a joint exercise with Indonesian troops.
In recent months, Indonesian military-backed militias have stepped up
their activities in East Timor, killing two U.N. peacekeepers and several
East Timorese. Militia attacks on aid workers over the past week forced
UNHCR to suspend its activities in refugee camps in West Timor where some
100,000 East Timorese remain virtual hostages.
Last week, in a set back to democratization, Indonesia amended its
constitution, creating strong obstacles to prosecutions of past human
rights abuses. Indonesian, East Timorese, and international organizations
argue that an international tribunal is now the only option to bring
military and militia leaders responsible for atrocities in East Timor to
The human rights situation has severely deteriorated in Indonesia in
recent months. In Aceh, the military regularly violates the humanitarian
ceasefire. Disappearances of human rights activists have also increased. A
U.S. resident, Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, president of the International Forum
On Aceh, disappeared on August 5 in Medan and has not been heard from
since. ETAN has expressed strong concerns about Hamzah's safety.
Last week in Papua people were shot for raising an independence flag.
In a reprise of tactics used in East Timor, the Indonesian military has
created militias which harass and terrorize the population. In the
Moluccas, Indonesian soldiers have been observed fighting with militias on
both sides of the conflict.
The Indonesia invaded neighboring East Timor on December 7, 1975, hours
after a state visit to Jakarta by then President Gerald Ford and Secretary
of State Henry Kissinger. According to human rights groups, one-third of
the population -- more than 200,000 East Timorese -- was killed in
subsequent years as the U.S. provided weapons and political support under
both Democratic and Republican administrations.
The East Timor Action Network/ U.S. (ETAN) was founded in November 1991
to support East Timorese self-determination. ETAN now works for a peaceful
transition to independence in East Timor. It has 28 local chapters
throughout the U.S.
For additional background, see ETAN's website www.etan.org.
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