U.S. Senate Legislation Passed - Continues Restrictions on Arms to Indonesia
East Timor Action Network Praises Ban on Use of U.S. Weapons in Timor
The East Timor
Action Network (ETAN) praised Senate passage of restrictions on the use of weapons
supplied to Indonesia. The provision, part of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill
requires that any agreement to sell weapons to Indonesia "shall state that such items
will not be used in East Timor." The Senate passed the legislation on Thursday,
September 3, 1998.
"The Senate has strengthened a very important restriction on weapon sales to
Indonesia. It sends a strong message to President Habibie and the Indonesian military that
the U.S. Senate finds the Indonesian occupation of East Timor unacceptable," said
Lynn Fredriksson, Washington Representative of ETAN. "The appropriations language
increases the pressure on Indonesia to comply with international law," added
The Senate bill strengthens the ban on use of U.S. weapons in East Timor instituted in
last year's Foreign Operations appropriations law. This year's bill more clearly states
that ban on the use of U.S. weapons in Indonesian-occupied territory. The House of
Representatives has not yet voted on the bill.
"Although Indonesia's President Habibie has said he is willing to negotiate
partial autonomy for East Timor, he continues to oppose a U.N.-supervised
referendum," said John M. Miller of ETAN. "By passing this restriction, the
Senate is saying that East Timor is not part of Indonesia. The people of East Timor should
be allowed to decide on their own political future through a referendum."
The bill as amended also encourages political reform in Indonesia. It urges the
government of Indonesia "to release individuals detained or imprisoned for their
The bill calls for the thorough investigation and prosecution of those responsible for
attacks, including gang rapes, on ethnic Chinese during rioting last May and offers funds
to help in the investigation. It requires the Clinton administration to submit a report on
the degree of participation of members of the armed forces of Indonesia in the riots. The
Senate also urges Indonesia to take action to assure the rights of the ethnic Chinese and
all other minority groups in Indonesia.
On July 10, the Senate unanimously passed Senate
Resolution 237, which urges the Clinton administration to "work actively, through
the United Nations and with United States allies, ... to support an internationally
supervised referendum on self-determination."
The appropriations provision is the latest in a series of expanding restrictions on the
U.S. sale of weapons to Indonesia. Under congressional and public pressure, the Clinton
administration instituted a ban on small arms and riot control equipment in 1994. The ban
has since been expanded to include armored personnel carriers and helicopter-mounted
As passed by the Senate, the appropriations bill (Sec. 566) reads in full: "In any
agreement for the sale, transfer, or licensing of any lethal equipment or helicopter for
Indonesia entered into by the United States pursuant to the authority of this Act or any
other Act, the agreement shall state that such items will not be used in East Timor."
After the December 1975 invasion of East Timor, the State Department's legal office
said that the use of U.S. arms weapons during the invasion violated the agreement
governing weapons sales to Jakarta signed in August 1950. The Mutual Defense Agreement
Between the United States of America and Indonesia on Equipment, Materials and Services
allows the use of the weapons "solely for legitimate national self-defense" as
defined by the U.N. Charter. The United Nations, through ten Security Council and General
Assembly resolutions, called Indonesia's invasion of East Timor an act of aggression
and has never recognized Indonesia's rule over the territory.
On December 7, 1975, Indonesia brutally invaded East Timor. The following July 17, East
Timor was illegally but formally "integrated" into Indonesia as its "27th
province." The UN and most of the world's countries do not recognize this act, and
the East Timorese reject it. According to human rights groups and the Catholic Church more
than 200,000 -- one-third of the population have been killed by the Indonesian
The East Timor Action Network/US was founded in November 1991, following the massacre of more than 271 peaceful demonstrators in
Dili, East Timor. ETAN/US supports genuine self-determination and human rights for the
people of East Timor in accordance with the UN Charter and General Assembly and Security
Council resolutions. ETAN/US has 20 local chapters.