For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller, 718-5967668;
Rights Group “Deeply Disturbed” by East Timor’s Grant of
Immunity to U.S. Troops
U.S. Activists Say Agreement Undermines International Criminal Court
& Universal Justice
August 27, 2002 -- The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN)
said today that it was “deeply disturbed” by East Timor's decision to
give U.S. troops in the new nation immunity from prosecution by the
International Criminal Court (ICC).
“We are deeply disturbed and angered that the U.S. government
pressured East Timor to exempt U.S. troops from the ICC. The East Timorese
suffered greatly during the U.S.-supported illegal occupation of their
homeland when the Indonesian military committed the very crimes that the
ICC is designed to discourage,” said John M. Miller, spokesperson for
East Timor's parliament ratified the Treaty of Rome establishing a
permanent ICC on August 12. East Timor is the third country to sign an
Article 98 agreement with the U.S. granting immunity. The others are
Romania and Israel. The ICC can hear cases of genocide and crimes against
humanity committed after July 1, 2002.
"When joining the court, East Timor affirmed its commitment to
human rights and universal justice. Now, with the stroke of a pen, the
East Timorese government has undermined these principles," said
Recently, the U.S. has used the UN peacekeeping mission in East Timor
as a bargaining chip in its campaign to undermine the ICC. Last May, the
Security Council rejected a U.S. proposal to exempt from ICC jurisdiction
peacekeepers with the post-independence UN Mission in East Timor (UNMISET).
Although the U.S. voted to establish the mission, it refused to replace
three unarmed military observers assigned to UNMISET, apparently to send a
warning during the contentious debate over renewal of the peacekeeping
mission in Bosnia.
ETAN also urged East Timor not to sign additional agreements renouncing
jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers. "There are reports the U.S.
government has proposed that East Timor sign a Status of Forces Agreement
with the U.S. which would exempt U.S. military personnel in East Timor
from any criminal prosecution. Although such agreements have provided
exemptions for U.S. personnel in the past, many now allow host countries
to retain the right of jurisdiction in cases of overriding national
interest or of widespread public concern," said Miller.
"The history of East Timor demonstrates why a single standard of
justice and strong enforcement mechanisms are vital. The ICC is designed
to deter and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide of
the nature committed during decades of Indonesian occupation. We are
concerned that East Timor, which struggled so valiantly for many years to
achieve independence and rule-of-law, is being asked to abandon these
principles,” said Miller.
"Recent acquittals by the Indonesian ad hoc court on East Timor of
Indonesian security officers accused of crimes against humanity have
strengthened calls for genuine justice for East Timor. This dramatically
illustrates the need for international mechanisms to address serious
crimes including an ad hoc international tribunal for past crimes in East
Timor and an uncompromised permanent international court for current and
future crimes," he added.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) supports human dignity
for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable
development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights,
including women's rights. For additional information, see ETAN's web site
see also Human
Rights and Justice pages
background on East Timor and ICC