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ETAN Urges New Indonesian President to Pursue Justice for Victims of East Timor’s Occupation

Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668; 917-690-4391 (mobile)
Karen Orenstein, For immediate release

October 19, 2004 - On the eve of retired General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's inauguration, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today urged Indonesia's new president to actively pursue justice for crimes committed by Indonesian security forces in East Timor.

"The East Timor Action Network congratulates the people of Indonesia for their remarkable series of elections and urges President Yudhoyono to make a priority of justice and human rights protection,” said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.

“The new Indonesian administration’s efforts toward justice for East Timor will be viewed as a litmus test by all those who care about human rights, accountability and democracy," said Miller. "The international community will be watching closely to see whether President Yudhoyono sets aside his military loyalties to pursue genuine reconciliation and justice for the people of East Timor."

"One key indicator will be Indonesia's attitude toward the commission of experts, which UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to appoint soon," said Miller. The commission will examine the two existing processes to prosecute serious crimes committed in East Timor in 1999 and propose next steps.

"The U.S. Congress continues to view the lack of accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in East Timor as a key reason for restricting military assistance to Indonesia," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator for ETAN. "President Yudhoyono should heed regular calls by Congress for Indonesia to cooperate with the UN-mandated serious crimes process in East Timor."

"The continued restriction of U.S. military aid sends an important signal to the new Indonesian government that Congress believes military reform is vital to democratic progress in Indonesia," continued Orenstein.

ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East Timor and 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 armed forces. See www.etan.org for more information.

Background
Indonesia set up an ad hoc human rights court in early 2000 to deflect calls for an international tribunal in response to the Indonesian military's 1999 campaign of terror in East Timor. While six of the 18 people tried were convicted, only the convictions of the two East Timorese tried have been upheld on appeal.

The UN Security Council mandated the establishment of the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) to conduct investigations and prepare indictments to assist in bringing to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity and other serious crimes committed in East Timor in 1999. It also created the Special Panels to hear serious crimes cases. More than two-thirds of those indicted in East Timor currently reside in Indonesia. A number of indicted senior military and police officials and militia are active in military operations in Aceh and West Papua.

In September, the U.S. Senate agreed to continue restrictions on Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants and loans for weapons and other military equipment and training, pending cooperation with SCU, including the extradition of those indicted. Additional conditions call for military budget transparency; U.S. certification that the armed forces are "not committing gross violations of human rights;" and that the government is prosecuting members of the armed forces accused of abuses or aiding militia groups and punishing of those guilty of such acts.

Last week, departing U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Ralph Boyce said that he was disappointed that U.S.-Indonesia military relations remain restricted due to Jakarta's failure to improve its human rights record. "After three years we have not in fact substantively changed our relationship with (the Indonesian Armed Forces) all that much because the much-touted East Timor ad hoc trials on human rights violations didn't produce anything," Boyce said.

Citing "grave concerns over the prospects for real military reforms," 45 members of the U.S. Congress recently called possible State Department plans to provide FMF for Indonesia in 2006 "premature, unwarranted, and unwise."

Representatives of more than 70 U.S. organizations wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell in September opposing Bush administration plans to expand military assistance to the Indonesian military.

Additional background on Yudhoyono can be found at http://www.etan.org/news/2004/09elect.htm

-30-

see Human Rights & Justice page
U.S.-Indonesia Military Assistance page


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