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20 February 2003

President Megawati Sukarnoputri
Istana Negara
Jakarta, Indonesia

Dear President Megawati Sukarnoputri:

We are deeply troubled by the continued separation of East Timorese children from their families, primarily during and after the 1999 referendum period by the Hati Foundation, Lemorai Foundation, Yayasan Tunas Kalimantan, and others. There are at least 600 ongoing cases of separated children outside of East Timor.

We are heartened that the Indonesian government is working more closely with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on this issue, and applaud the appointment of regional coordinators from the Indonesian civil service to facilitate the reunification of the children with their families. However, we are dismayed by the slow pace of your government's efforts to achieve reunification, the success of some foundations' obstruction of reunification attempts, and the failure to hold foundation leaders responsible for the children's plight, including Octavio Soares and Hasan Basri, accountable to the rule-of-law for their violation of basic human and children's rights.

As you know, many children were taken from their parents under horrendous circumstances. Foundation representatives approached East Timorese families while hostile military and militia members controlled the West Timor refugee camps. At that time, disinformation campaigns about conditions in East Timor were rampant, health and sanitation severely compromised, and educational prospects for children dim. Children taken by Mr. Soares, Mr. Basri, Yayasan Tunas Kalimantan, and others were sent to orphanages and other institutions throughout Indonesia.

Many observers have concluded that the foundations are brainwashing these children about conditions in East Timor and the country's history and future. Indeed, the Hati Foundation states on their website that one of their goals is, "sustaining the existence of well-schooled East Timorese in [t]he frame of Indonesia Unity (NKRI)." The East Timorese children's "caretakers" have repeatedly denied parents' requests for the return of their children. They have aggressively thwarted the UNHCR's and the International Rescue Committee's reunification efforts, at times making direct physical threats against agency staff.

Indonesia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, and is thus legally obliged to ensure that, "In all actions concerning children…the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration (Article 3)." The "rights and duties of parents (Article 5)," must be respected, as well as the right of the child "to know and be cared for by his or her parents (Article 7)." According to Article 9, the government shall "ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine…such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child." Article 11 states that, "State Parties shall take measures to combat the illicit transfer and non-return of children abroad." The coercive separations of East Timorese children, the failure to honor the requests of parents for reunification, and the lack of prompt government action in these cases are in clear violation of the Convention.

While we applaud your attendance at East Timor's independence festivities and look forward to a relationship between East Timor and Indonesia that respects the sovereignty and rights of both countries, we urge you to act expeditiously to end this indefensible practice once and for all.

We firmly believe that reunification of these children with their families could be readily expedited should the Indonesian government choose to do so; it is a question of political will that only Indonesian authorities can answer. Therefore, we call on the government of Indonesia to immediately prioritize the reunification of East Timorese children in Indonesia with their families. We strongly urge your government to:

  • Provide strong support to UNHCR and other relevant agencies in all efforts to identify separated children, establish contact with their families, and ascertain - according to internationally-recognized legal standards - whether parents have consented and continue to consent to the separation of their children. Such support should include prompt, commensurate government responses to obstructive actions by Hati and Lemorai Foundations and others. Full access to records, individuals, and institutions involved is also vital;
  • Supply sufficient resources to Indonesian civil servants engaged in this work with UNHCR and other agencies;
  • Ensure the safety of international and Indonesian staff working on this issue, as well as East Timorese family members traveling to Indonesia to visit their children;
  • Hold Hati Foundation, Lemorai Foundation, Yayasan Tunas Kalimantan, as well as other individuals and implicated organizations, accountable to the rule-of-law;
  • Ensure that there are no further attempts to separate East Timorese children from their families.

We thank you for your urgent consideration of and actions taken to end this long-standing travesty. We look forward to your response.


Dr. Andrew McNaughtan, Convener
Australia East Timor Association (New South Wales, Australia)

Rob Wesley-Smith, Spokesperson
Australians for a Free East Timor

Maggie Helwig
Canadian Action for Indonesia and East Timor

Democratic Republic of Congo
Donatien Mukono
African Center for Peace Democracy and Human Rights (Centre Africain pour la Paix, la Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme)

East Timor
Mario de Araujo, Coordinator
Asosiasaun Mane Kontra Violensia (Association of Men Against Violence)

Maria Manuela L. Pereira, Director
FOKUPERS (Communication Forum for East Timorese Women)

Jose Luis de Oliveira, Director
HAK (Association of Law, Human Rights, and Justice)

Maria Angelina Lopes Sarmento, Coordinator
Kadalak Sulimutuk Institute (KSI)

Yasinta Lujina
La'o Hamutuk: The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis

Nuno Rodrigues, Coordinator
Sahe Institute for Liberation

David Odling-Smee, Manager
Timor Aid (Social), Timor Aid

Carlos Semedo, President.
Agir pour Timor

Rev.DR.Karel Phil Erari, Coordinator
Joint Committee on East Indonesia Crisis

Emmy Sahertian, Coordinator
National Solidarity for Papua

Ori Rahman
Presidium of Kontras (Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence)

Kyo Kageura
Free East Timor Japan Coalition

Pedro Pinto Leite, Secretary
International Platform of Jurists for East Timor (IPJET)

Rev. Dominic Totaro, SJ, Director
Jesuite Retreat Center

Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry, Pakistan Air Force (Retd.), Executive Secretary
National Christian Action Forum

Gus Miclat, Coordinator.
Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor (APCET)

Mónica Rafael, Peace Studies Group
Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra

South Africa
Jose Nascimento

East Timor Action Group, Coordinator
Western Sahara Action Group, Coordinator

Gabriel Jonsson, Chairman
Swedish East Timor Committee

United Kingdom
Wilfred Wong, Researcher and Parliamentary Officer
Jubilee Campaign U.K.

Carmel Budiardjo, Director
TAPOL, The Indonesia Human Rights Campaign

United States
Peter Juviler
Barnard College, Columbia University

Fr. Keith Roderick, Secretary General
Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights

Pastor Samuel Ramnit
Cherry Valley U.M. Church, Pennsylvania

Rev. Herman Keizer, Jr., Director of Chaplaincy Ministries
Christian Reformed Church in North America

Stan De Boe, OSST, Director, Office of Justice and Peace
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Suzanne Scholte
Defense Forum Foundation, President
US-Western Sahara Foundation, Chairman

Roland Watson
Dictator Watch

Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator
East Timor Action Network

Rev. John Chamberlin, National Coordinator
East Timor Religious Outreach

Jackie Lynn, Executive Director
Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Aung Din, Director of Policy
Free Burma Coalition

Dr. Gregory H. Stanton
Genocide Watch, President
The International Campaign to End Genocide, Coordinator

Mary Anne Mercer, DrPH
Health Alliance International, Deputy Director
Northwest International Health Action Coalition, Co-Chair

Robert Pedersen, Trade and Labor Coordinator
Indiana Alliance for Democracy

Kurt Biddle, Coordinator
Indonesia Human Rights Network

John Oei, Founder
Indonesian, Chinese, and American Network (ICANET)

Faith McDonnell, Director, Religious Liberty Program
Institute on Religion and Democracy

Joseph K. Grieboski, President
Institute on Religion and Public Policy

Mary Beth Markey, US Executive Director
International Campaign for Tibet

John M. Miller, UN Representative
International Federation for East Timor (IFET)

Aviva Imhof, Director, Southeast Asia Program
International Rivers Network

Sharon Silber and Eileen B. Weiss, Co-Founders
Jews Against Genocide

Ann Buwalda, Esq., Director
Jubilee Campaign USA

Diane Farsetta, Coordinator
Madison-Ainaro (East Timor) Sister-City Alliance

Elliot Stokes, Director
Medical Aid East Timor

Rev. Kathryn J. Johnson, Executive Director
Methodist Federation for Social Action

Diana Bohn, Co-Coordinator
Nicaragua Center for Community Action

Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator
Nicaragua Network

William H. Towe, Coordinator
North Carolina Peace Action

David Robinson, National Coordinator
Pax Christi USA

Ivan Suvanjieff, President
PeaceJam Foundation

John Witeck, Coordinator
Philippine Workers Support Committee

Miriam Young, Program Officer
RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights

Heidi McLean, Coordinator
Sacramentans for International Labor Rights

Frank Zucker
Seattle International Human Rights Coalition (SIHRC)

John Hocevar, Executive Director
Students for a Free Tibet

Kani Xulam, Director
American Kurdish Information Network

Robert Doolittle
Boston Catholic Task Force for East Timor
Youth Director, The Saint Paul Parish Youth Community, Massachusetts

Steve Hellinger, President
Development GAP

Lavinia Limon, Executive Director
U.S. Committee for Refugees

William D. Hartung, President's Fellow
World Policy Institute at the New School

cc: United States Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
United States Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James A. Kelly
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers
United States Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Senate Children's Caucus Co-Chair
United States Senator Arlen Specter, Senate Children's Caucus Co-Chair
United States Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congressional Children's Caucus Co-Chair
United States Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Congressional Children's Caucus Co-Chair
East Timor Red Cross Society, Francisco Ximenes, Secretary General
Jesuit Refugee Service, Fr. Luis Magrina SJ, International Director



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