ISSN #1088-8136

Vol. 9, No. 1
Spring 2003


Spring 2003 Home

Accomplishments and Challenges After One Year of Independence

(In)Justice and the Struggle for Accountability

Legislation, Language and Lobbying

The Iraq War as Seen from East Timor

Justice for East Timor: We Can't Stop Now!

We're All Organizers

About East Timor and ETAN

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Justice for East Timor: We Can't Stop Now!

José Luis de Oliveira’s Visit Focuses on Social and Economic Justice

by Pamela Sexton

“The struggle for justice and accountability in East Timor is an international struggle to end a cycle of impunity that affects people across the globe.” These words laid the foundation for the presentations that José Luis de Oliveira (otherwise known as Zé) gave during his month-long tour of the United States at the beginning of the year. “As long as there is no accountability for those individuals and institutions that instigate and support aggression and poverty,” he told his audiences, “there will be no end to war and suffering.”

A founding member of the two largest and best-known human rights organizations in East Timor, HAK (Association for Law, Human Rights and Justice) and FOKUPERS (the East Timorese Women’s Communication Forum), Zé has much experience working with victims and survivors of Indonesian military abuse. Today, these organizations continue to seek justice for past crimes while also addressing new challenges such as the economic violence of neo-liberal policies introduced by international financial institutions.

The struggle for a legitimate process of justice for East Timor — starting from the past but looking ahead to the future — is a focus of Zé’s work. And he calls on friends in the United States, from members of ETAN and peace and justice organizations to members of Congress, to increase our commitment and solidarity at this critical time.

Zé’s month in the U.S. began with a week of networking meetings with progressive organizations in Washington DC. The purpose of these meetings was to share information and strategies for effective organizing, and to identify potential solidarity partners. Zé met with many groups focusing on global economic justice including the Institute for Policy Studies, the Bank Information Center, the Center for Economic Justice, Jubilee USA, and 50 Years Is Enough. He also met with labor and human rights organizations including the Solidarity Center of the AFL-CIO, Jobs with Justice, the Campaign for Labor Rights, the Worker Rights Consortium, the International Labor Rights Fund, and the International Human Rights Law Group.

Meetings with the Nicaragua Network and the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) offered some perspective on how other U.S.-based international solidarity groups have changed the focus of their work as the political situation in these countries has changed and demanded new approaches. Zé was keenly interested in learning more about organizing work on U.S. domestic issues, such as homelessness, domestic violence, racism, and Native American land rights, and met with U.S. activists working on these issues.

José Luis de Oliveira (center, striped shirt) at a February speaking event in Durham, North Carolina. Photo by Pamela Sexton.

Altogether, Zé visited eight different cities, where his presentations reached diverse audiences. Presentations were organized and attended by Amnesty International (D.C. and OK), Human Rights Watch (NY and D.C.), International Capoeira Angola Foundation (D.C.), Tampa Bay Action Group and Gainesville Civic Media Center (FL), Southerners on New Ground (NC), American Friends Service Committee (PA), students and faculty at Arizona State University in Phoenix and Tucson, as well as various ETAN chapters.

We were also able to reach larger audiences through media interviews with the Washington Post, Catholic News Service, Agence France Presse, Free Speech Radio News, United Nations Radio, Voice of America, and a community television station in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, New York’s biggest blizzard in decades snowed us in, and we missed two stops on the tour (Portland, ME and Chicago, IL).

So many wonderful people were involved in making these presentations and interviews possible. Thanks to all of you.\

Finally, Zé met with various U.S. government offices, including USAID, the State Department, and key Congressional offices, including meetings with important committees (Foreign Operations Appropriations and International Relations).

In Zé’s presentations, he stressed that the Bush administration’s identification of the Indonesian military as a partner in the “war on terror” decreases the chances of holding any Indonesian leaders accountable for past crimes. He explained that without this accountability, clearly absent from the ad hoc human rights trials in Jakarta as well as the Dili courts, the Indonesian military will continue to regain power, threatening peace for East Timor and democracy for Indonesia. Without some high level truth telling within the U.S. about the role of U.S. leaders in past atrocities in East Timor, he repeatedly stated, “the place and people may change but the tragedy of U.S.-sponsored terror will continue. Thus, the cycle of impunity continues unless we work together to stop it now.”

For a 78-minute CD of Zé’s New York presentation, send $10 postpaid to ETAN.