East Timor Action Network Urges International Support for
Justice and Control of Resources on Newest Nationís Birthday
For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller,
May 20, 2004 - On the second anniversary of East Timor's
independence, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) called on
the international community to actively promote justice and
a just boundary
for the new nation.
"Two years after independence, the people of East Timor still
lack any semblance of justice for decades of atrocities. They still
lack the unquestioned ability to develop their own natural
resources," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "Without
vigorous international support, Australia will continue to steal
East Timor's resources and high-ranking Indonesian officials
responsible for directing horrendous human rights crimes will remain
free to violate othersí rights and run for high office."
"We urge the Australian government to respect the sovereignty and
resource rights of East Timor by promptly and fairly negotiating the
maritime boundary between the two countries," said Miller.
ďAustralia should mark the second anniversary of East Timorís
independence by returning the more than US$1 billion theyíve stolen
so far from oil fields that are twice as close to their impoverished
neighbor,Ē said Miller.
"The UN's decision last week to phase out the
Serious Crime Unit (SCU) is a welcome present to those evading
prosecution by hiding in plain sight in Indonesia but a bitter
birthday gift to East Timorese victims," said Karen Orenstein,
Washington Coordinator for ETAN. "Powerful rights violators must be
celebrating the UN's action."
"The UN must take concrete steps to establish an international
tribunal," continued Orenstein. "Only an international tribunal
would have the resources and global clout to compel Indonesia's
ETAN today also called attention to the U.S. role during the
illegal Indonesian military occupation of East Timor, which lasted
from 1975 to 1999. "A full accounting of the U.S. governmentís
knowledge and actions during Indonesia's brutal occupation is
essential if future crimes are to be prevented," said Miller. "The
world will treat U.S. criticism of human rights violations by others
skeptically until the U.S. deals forthrightly with its own role in
aiding crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in East
Timor and elsewhere."
"The Bush administration's continued efforts to step up training
and other assistance to Indonesia's security forces will only
encourage more violations and legitimize continued impunity," he
ETAN advocates for justice and sustainable development for East
Timor and human rights for Indonesia. ETAN calls for an
international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity that
took place in East Timor since 1975 and continued restrictions on
U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform
of its security forces. For additional information see ETAN's web
During its illegal occupation of the island nation from 1975 to
1999, the Indonesian military was responsible for the deaths of more
than 200,000 people, one-third of the population. The U.S. supplied
over $1 billion in weapons and training since the time of the
invasion through 1999.
The Bush administration recently agreed to reconvene the
Bilateral Defense Dialogue between the Indonesian military (TNI) and
the U.S. Pacific Command. The last Dialogue occurred before the
TNIís destruction of East Timor in 1999.
Last week, the UN Security Council, while downsizing and
extending the UN mission in East Timor, called for a phase out of
the joint UN-East Timor SCU. It failed to meaningfully press
Indonesia to cooperate on justice for East Timor.
The SCU has filed 83 indictments accusing 373 individuals.
Charges are currently pending against a total of 313 accused. 279 of
these remain at large in Indonesia.
On May 10, an international judge at the Special Panel for
Serious Crimes in East Timor issued an arrest warrant for General
Wiranto, the Armed Forces Commander and Defense Minister in 1999 and
now a leading presidential candidate. His troops and their militia
proxies conducted a campaign of terror resulting in more than 1400
deaths, displacement of three-quarters of the population and
destruction of more than 75% of East Timor's infrastructure. Wiranto
was indicted on February 24, 2003, for crimes against humanity
before the Special Panel. Soon after, the U.S. State Department
placed Wiranto on
its visa watch list.
In the months following the 1999 devastation of East Timor, two
UN investigations called for the establishment of an international
tribunal. Instead, Indonesia promised to try its own and eventually
established the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor. The widely
criticized court issued its final verdict on August 5, 2003.
East Timorese leaders, stressing the need to establish good
relations with their powerful neighbor, have repeatedly urged the
international community to take the lead on issues of accountability
for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor.
Substantial oil and natural gas deposits lie under the
between Australia and East Timor. The fate of tens of billions of
dollars of revenue depends on establishing a fair permanent boundary
agreement according to international law. East Timor, which became
an independent nation on May 20, 2002, has never had maritime
Australia refuses to meet more than once every six months to
negotiate the boundary and has withdrawn from international legal
mechanisms to resolve boundary issues -- the International Court of
Justice and the 1982 UNCLOS Tribunal -- leaving East Timor with no
legal recourse in the absence of cooperative negotiations from
If the Australian government continues to delay a permanent
maritime boundary for decades, they will have taken 60% of East
Timor's entire oil and gas entitlement.
East Timor is among the poorest of the world's countries,
suffering from very low levels of basic services and high
unemployment. East Timor is currently struggling to avoid debt to
international financial institutions, as it needs to cover a US$126
million budgetary financing gap between 2005 and 2007. East Timor
currently loses one million dollars a day due to Australiaís
unlawful exploitation of resources in the disputed areas.