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Representatives Call for Justice  on 10th Anniversary of Massacre 

November 29, 2001

Secretary Colin Powell 
U.S. Department of State 
2201 'C' Street, N.W. 
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Powell:

We are writing to urge that the tenth anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre in Dili, East Timor not pass without due commemoration by the administration.

As you know, on November 12, 1991, Indonesian troops fired indiscriminately on a memorial procession that had turned into a peaceful pro-independence demonstration. Over 270 East Timorese children, women and men were killed. News of this horrific slaughter catalyzed international pressure for self-determination for East Timor, and prompted the U.S. Congress to limit military assistance to Indonesia. The most fitting tribute to the Santa Cruz victims would be a revitalized dedication on the part of the United States to realizing long-overdue justice for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against the people of East Timor.

The UN and its member states have been extraordinarily generous in the allowances made for Indonesia to hold those responsible for the scorched-earth campaign in 1999 in East Timor to account. More than 20 months have passed since the UN Security Council called on Indonesia to bring the perpetrators to justice "as soon as possible" and "institute a swift, comprehensive, effective and transparent legal process, in conformity with international standards of justice and due process of law." Regrettably, there are few signs of progress.

The Indonesian military and police officers accused of serious crimes continue to repress Indonesian civilians with impunity. Some have even been promoted. Not one indictment has yet been filed for crimes committed in 1999. President Megawati Sukarnoputri's disappointing amended decree establishing the much-delayed ad hoc human rights court on East Timor limits its scope to only two non-contiguous months in 1999 and three out of East Timor's thirteen districts, with no attention given to cases of violence against women. We strongly believe that the administration should acknowledge publicly that the Indonesian government lacks the will and even the ability to systematically prosecute senior or even mid-level security forces personnel for egregious crimes that are international in scope and were committed directly against a UN Security Council-mandated mission.

Like the East Timorese people, we have serious concerns about Megawati's commitment to justice. Her close ties to the Indonesian military and her appointment of M.A. Rahman as Attorney General - who last year recommended that only low-ranking officers be prosecuted for crimes in East Timor - do not bode well for the placement of justice and human rights as priorities in her administration. We cannot call this progress. Therefore, we add our voices to East Timor's National Council (the former legislature), all 16 political parties, many East Timorese and Indonesian NGOs, and prominent individuals like Nobel Laureate Bishop Carlos Belo, in calling for an international tribunal for East Timor. We further note the UN International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor made the same recommendation to the Security Council in its January 2000 report.

While an international tribunal is needed to try those who organized and directed the violence in 1999 and before, we hope the U.S. will continue to support UN and East Timor's own judicial efforts to prosecute lower level militia now in custody in East Timor and others accused of serious crimes.

We also draw your attention to the estimated 80,000 East Timorese refugees still languishing under militia control in West Timor. These refugees are casualties of the failure of justice. Militia leaders who should have been disarmed and arrested long ago maintain their hold over most refugees. We urge you to redouble efforts to see that these criminals are dealt with according to the rule of law and that the increasingly urgent humanitarian needs of the civilian refugees and their West Timorese neighbors are met. Further, before U.S. monies are given to resettle refugees in Indonesia, a process involving international monitors must be implemented to guarantee that these resettlements are indeed voluntary.

Since 1975, the East Timorese people have suffered immeasurable injustice. One-tenth of the population continues to live under military and militia-imposed terror in refugee camps. Indonesia's invasion, occupation, and violent exit brazenly violated international law and widely recognized human rights standards. While the people of the United States and the world struggle to come to terms with the tragic events on and following September 11, we encourage you to set a precedent for the pursuit of justice and rule of law. For the sake of the East Timorese people and democracy in Indonesia, we urge you to actively and publicly work for the establishment of an international tribunal on East Timor.

We thank you for your continued support for the people of East Timor, and your serious consideration of our request. We look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Lane Evans 
Member of Congress

Patrick J. Kennedy 
Member of Congress

James McGovern 
Member of Congress

Tammy Baldwin 
Member of Congress

James Oberstar 
Member of Congress

Tony Hall 
Member of Congress

Zoe Lofgren 
Member of Congress

Peter DeFazio 
Member of Congress

Earl Blumenauer 
Member of Congress

Sherrod Brown 
Member of Congress

Barney Frank 
Member of Congress

Nita Lowey 
Member of Congress

Frank Pallone 
Member of Congress

Sam Farr 
Member of Congress

Henry Waxman 
Member of Congress

Tom Lantos 
Member of Congress

Bernie Sanders 
Member of Congress

Robert Underwood 
Member of Congress

James Langevin 
Member of Congress

Maurice Hinchey 
Member of Congress

Donald Payne 
Member of Congress

Dennis Kucinich 
Member of Congress

Barbara Lee 
Member of Congress

cc: Honorable Ralph L. Boyce, U.S. Ambassador to the Indonesia 
Honorable John D. Negroponte, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN 
Honorable Elliott Abrams, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the Office for Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations 
Honorable James Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State, East Asia and the Pacific Honorable 
Lorne W. Craner, Assistant Secretary of State, Democracy, Labor, and Human Rights

 

For more information on the massacre see http://etan.org/timor/SntaCRUZ.htm or see ETAN's web site: http://www.etan.org

-30-

see also Senate Letter


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