East Timor NGOs Urge U.S. Congress to End Assistance to
Indonesian Military & to Work for Justice & International Tribunal
Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668; 917-690-4391 (mobile)
Lao Hamutuk, Dili, +670-3325013; mobile: +670-7234330
November 11, 2004 - East Timorese NGOs this week called on the
U.S. Congress to end all assistance to the Indonesian military and
to work for justice for victims of past human rights violations.
that they are looking to Congress "to provide leadership by ending
all assistance to the military which so damaged our country...
Restrictions on military aid are essential to efforts to end
impunity for the horrendous crimes committed in East Timor. The
restrictions are crucial to preventing similar crimes in Indonesia."
"We know that there are people within your government who argue
that increased U.S.-Indonesia military relations will have a
positive impact, but such beliefs are wrong and threaten many
lives," the NGOs wrote. "The more powerful and unaccountable the
Indonesian military remains, the slimmer the chances for stability
and democracy in Indonesia."
The letter, citing the failures and limitations of existing
justice processes, urged the U.S. "to actively work to create a
meaningful mechanism capable of judging the crimes against humanity
committed in East Timor - namely, an international tribunal."
The letter was released as East Timorese prepare to commemorate
the anniversary of the
Santa Cruz massacre. On November 12, 1991, Indonesian troops
opened fire on a memorial procession which had turned into a
pro-independence demonstration. At least 271 peaceful protesters
were killed near the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor. The
massacre, witnessed and photographed by western journalists, was a
key turning point in East Timor's struggle for independence.
Following the massacre, the U.S. Congress began to restrict
military assistance to Indonesia by quickly voting to ban it from
IMET, the International Military Education and Training program.
"By progressively cutting off military training and other
assistance to Indonesia, Congress promoted positive change that had
a direct impact on East Timor. Your pressure on President Clinton in
1999 led to his crucial decision to cut all military assistance to
Indonesia as East Timor burned in September of that year, and our
independence is now a reality," the letter states.
Late last week, the Indonesian
Court freed Abilio Soares, East Timor's last governor and the
only official to be jailed in Indonesia for crimes committed in
"The acquittal of Abilio Soares just extends the farce of
Jakarta's ad hoc trial process," said John M. Miller, spokesperson
for the East Timor Action Network, which is distributing the letter
to Congress. "This process was clearly designed to deflect
international calls for accountability and justice. The UN and the
international community should acknowledge that it has been
hoodwinked and set up an international tribunal to try all the top
officials responsible for the massive death and destruction in East
Timor since Indonesia's invasion in 1975."
Signers of the letter include many leading NGOs who work on a
wide range of issues from civil and gender rights to the environment
and popular education.
A copy of the letter can be found below.
Dear Members of the U.S. Congress,
We, victims of TNI violence, relatives of victims and
representatives of East Timorese organizations, are writing to
express our deep concern over your government's relationship with
the Indonesian military (TNI). For 24 years, the TNI tortured,
imprisoned, disappeared, raped and murdered our relatives and
friends, often with United States government support.
However, thanks to the U.S. Congress, U.S. policy began to shift
during the 1990s. By progressively cutting off military training and
other assistance to Indonesia, Congress promoted positive change
that had a direct impact on East Timor. Your pressure on President
Clinton in 1999 led to his crucial decision to cut all military
assistance to Indonesia as East Timor burned in September of that
year, and our independence is now a reality.
We now look to you again to provide leadership by ending all
assistance to the military which so damaged our country and
continues to destroy lives throughout Indonesia. Restrictions on
military aid are essential to efforts to end impunity for the
horrendous crimes committed in East Timor. The restrictions are
crucial to preventing similar crimes in Indonesia. We also request
your full backing for an international tribunal on East Timor.
The East Timorese people crave justice, both for ourselves and
for the Indonesian people. Fortunately, we no longer live under the
oppressive rule of the Indonesian military, but the same is not true
for over 200 million of our neighbors. Indonesian security forces
continue to terrorize the people under their control in Aceh and
West Papua especially, but also in other areas such as Ambon and
Nusa Tenggara Timur. Many of those responsible for such terror were
involved with the crimes committed against the East Timorese people,
and giving them any form of assistance is promoting further
violations of human rights.
We received invaluable help from the Indonesian pro-democracy
movement in our struggle for independence. These friends are now
asking for the world's help to further their country's path toward
democracy by finally ending the Indonesian military's abuses and
overarching power. For this reason and others, we believe that all
military assistance must be cut. We know that there are people
within your government who argue that increased U.S.-Indonesia
military relations will have a positive impact, but such beliefs are
wrong and threaten many lives.
As members of East Timorese civil society, we work daily with
victims of the Indonesian military and their militia fronts. Some of
us narrowly escaped death ourselves in 1999. Like almost every East
Timorese, we have lost loved ones to the Indonesian military and
police forces. Little has been done to bring these people to
justice. The Indonesian Ad-Hoc Tribunal was a sham by any standard,
and we thank the U.S. Congress and State Department for recognizing
this. Indonesia's failure to punish any military or police officers
for the slash and burn campaign that destroyed our country in 1999
has added to our people's suffering. That many of the officers
involved were promoted and continue to be active in the TNI today
only adds to victims' distress.
The Serious Crimes Unit, established by the UN Security Council,
is under-resourced and has had its jurisdiction effectively limited
to smaller criminals inside East Timor by a complete lack of
Indonesian government and security force cooperation. Meanwhile, the
major perpetrators are given sanctuary by Indonesia.
We urge you and the U.S. administration to actively work to
create a meaningful mechanism capable of judging the crimes against
humanity committed in East Timor - namely, an international
tribunal. Unfortunately, East Timor's government, as a new, small
and vulnerable nation, is not in a position to push for such a
tribunal. Along with a large majority of the East Timorese people,
we feel our government should be stronger, and wish that they would
not allow the Indonesian government to intimidate them into this
position. You, however, are representatives of the world's most
powerful country and do not fear the Indonesian military as our
We ask for your active help in bringing about an international
tribunal. A tribunal is equally important for Indonesia to advance
the rule of law and end impunity.
We know that your country values democracy and the rule of law
and enforces civilian supremacy over the military. We also know that
the people of the United States value security forces that protect
rather than terrorize them. However, in the past, U.S. military
assistance to the TNI has not instilled similar values. Instead, it
has encouraged the TNI to continue to severely violate the rights of
the Indonesian and East Timorese people.
A stable, peaceful, democratic Indonesia is in the best interests
of our region, and we believe is in the best interest of the United
States. The more powerful and unaccountable the Indonesian military
remains, the slimmer the chances for stability and democracy in
Indonesia. We hope that you will help our efforts to hold the
Indonesian military accountable and secure justice for East Timorese
victims of Indonesian military crimes. We ask that you cut off all
military assistance to Indonesia and instead focus on bolstering
Indonesia's civil society. We also ask for your full-fledged support
for an international tribunal on East Timor.
Thank you for your attention and for your continued concern about
the rights of the East Timorese and Indonesian peoples.
La'o Hamutuk, East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring
Sahe Institute for Liberation
HAK Association (Law, Rights and Justice)
Judicial System Monitoring Programme
East Timor NGO Forum
Fokupers, East Timorese Women's Communication Forum
Grupo Feto Foinsae Timor Lorosae, Young Women's Student Group of
East Timor PRADET, Psychosocial Recovery and Development in East
Hasatil, East Timor Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Asosiasaun Mane Kontra Violensia, Association of Men Against
Movimentu Nasional Kontra Violensia, National Movement Against
Timor Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal
Dai Popular, East Timorese National Network of Popular Educators
Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea