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Congress Urges UN to Actively Pursue Justice for East Timor

78 Representatives Write UN Secretary-General

For Immediate Release

Contact: John M. Miller 917-690-4391; 718-5967668

July 6 - In a letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 78 members of Congress urged the United Nations to "ensure that the international community holds responsible those who committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in East Timor."

"This letter demonstrates strong, ongoing congressional support for meaningful efforts to achieve justice for East Timor," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator of the East Timor Action Network (ETAN).

The bi-partisan letter urged Annan to appoint a commission of experts to evaluate existing justice processes and "to carefully consider recommending an international tribunal on East Timor if it finds that current processes have not achieved justice.

The members of the House of Representatives wrote that, "Any mechanism created as a result of the expert commission's or your own findings must establish the truth of what happened, how it happened and who is responsible. In addition, this mechanism must actually hold perpetrators legally accountable. International political will must be strong and sufficient U.N. resources must be made available in order for this to occur."

The letter also urges extension of the UN-backed Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) beyond May 2005, saying "ending SCU investigations at that point could leave an estimated 700 murder victims and thousands of victims of rape, torture, and other crimes against humanity in 1999 alone without justice."

The letter was initiated by Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), ranking member on the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee and Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), co-chair of the House Human Rights Caucus. The full text and a complete list of signers can be found at www.etan.org/legislation/04lowwlf.htm.

On June 24, leaders of prominent human rights and justice organizations also wrote the Secretary-General to urge him to appoint a commission of experts. They wrote, "To be as effective as possible, we urge that the Commission be formed immediately and that it cover the work of the ad hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta and the UN-established Serious Crimes process in East Timor. ... We are concerned that if the Commission does not convene and report promptly, options to address core accountability issues in the region will be lost." The letter was signed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for East Timor, International Center for Transitional Justice, Open Society Justice Initiative and Coalition for International Justice.

The full text of the letter can be found at http://www.etan.org/news/2004/06ngojust.htm.

ETAN works with civil society in East Timor and Indonesia to call for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity that took place in East Timor since 1975

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see ETAN's Human Rights & Justice page at http://www.etan.org/issues/h-rights.htm).

see also UN Must Not Shortchange Justice for East Timor


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