International Federation for East Timor
Observer Project

Media Statement:
IFET-OP Forced Out of East Timor, Demands International Action

For immediate release
Darwin, Australia: 7 September, 1999

Contact details:
Charlie Scheiner or tel +1-914- 428-7299 (New York)

We are speaking for the International Federation for East Timor Observer Project, which brought more than 120 volunteer observers to East Timor from all over the world to observe the U.N. popular consultation process.

Today, September 7, the last of our observers was forced to leave East Timor. Over the past two days, the Royal Australian Air Force evacuated 60 of our nonpartisan volunteers to Darwin from Dili and Baucau.

We left East Timor for safety, but with tremendous sadness. The East Timorese people have no Australia to run to, no place to hide from militia terror. Last night, Australia and Indonesian military officers prevented one of our East Timorese staff members from boarding the plane with us -- and he faces an unspeakable horror shared by hundreds of thousands of his fellow East Timorese.

Most international observers and media fled East Timor before IFET-OP had to leave, and we were the last international NGO to leave. UNAMET has withdrawn from the entire country except Dili, where their communications and electricity has been cut off, and they are surrounded by militias who shoot into their compound virtually without interruption.

As we escaped East Timor, both IFET-OP and the people we left behind kept thinking of 1975, when the international community abandoned East Timor, allowing the Indonesian military to invade and kill 200,000 people with impunity while the nations of the world closed their eyes.

It is beginning to happen again -- and this time it must not be ignored. By its actions, the Indonesian military has not only declared war on the people of East Timor, but on the United Nations -- the representative of all nations of the world. No government would respond to such attacks with delegations and discussions. It is long past time for the international community to take immediate, forceful and effective action to stop the killings in East Timor.

For months, the world has accepted the Indonesian fiction that the militias, the military, and the police are separate entities. As our observers have seen in numerous incidents, and as virtually every East Timorese person knows in their bones, these are interchangeable uniforms with the same people, the same weapons sources, and the same purpose. Yesterday's declaration of martial law is an Orwellian manipulation of reality -- the militia wing of the military already controls nearly all of East Timor by their terrorist actions against UNAMET, civilians, foreigners, and, most seriously, pro-independence advocates -- more than 3/4 of the East Timorese people.

Hundreds of East Timorese, including many UNAMET local staff, have been killed by militias since the August 30 ballot. Foreign journalists and CivPols have been targeted and wounded. Yet there have been no casualties among the TNI or the police. If those armed government forces are truly opposing militias that have shown no reluctance to kill, why are they not subject to the same murderous wrath as the civilian population?

In last week's vote, more than 78% of the East Timorese people voted for independence, which should invoke a transition from Indonesian rule to East Timorese independence. It is unconscionable that the result of the ballot is the forced exodus of the UN and other internationals from East Timor, and the transfer of power to killers armed and supported by the Indonesian military. It is as if Indonesia tricked the United Nations and Portugal into signing the May 5 accords, using the popular consultation to lure pro-independence East Timorese out into the open to be marked for death.

It is long past time for the United Nations to take responsibility for security in East Timor by replacing Indonesian police and military with U.N. forces who will put an end to militia terror and bring the perpetrators to justice. Each diplomatic ploy that delays UN peace enforcement is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of East Timorese people. Every time the Security Council accepts a TNI troop level increase or declaration of martial law as an excuse to forestall effective international action, they are complicit in killing.

Tens of thousands of East Timorese have fled to the mountains to escape militia terror. Nearly as many have sought sanctuary in churches, police stations, UNAMET compounds and elsewhere. They facemilitia attacks, starvation, disease and death from lack of security, food, water and health care -- and yet no reliable protection, aid agency or international support is allowed near them.

Equally frightening are widespread reports of East Timorese civilians and refugees being forced onto trucks or ships and taken away to West Timor or other Indonesian islands. Nobody knows how many have been abducted, but it is certainly in the thousands. Where are these people taken to, and what will they face upon arrival? Without any oversight, images of genocidal slaughter from Indonesia's occupation of East Timor 24 years ago spring to mind.

Because of the current situation, the International Federation for East Timor Observer Project recommends that the following actions be taken in order to forestall further killing in East Timor:

  1. The international community must declare Indonesia a pariah government. All military and economic cooperation, IMF and World Bank support, and other financial assistance should be frozen until Indonesia brings the militias under control.

  2. Since the Indonesian government is unwilling or unable to control the shock troops it has created, the Indonesian military must withdraw from East Timor, the militia must be disarmed, and the United Nations must immediately send armed peace enforcement personnel to East Timor to assume responsibility for security in the territory. This must be an international effort which should include all members of the Security Council, including the United States.

  3. U.N., national, and non-governmental organizations must provide immediate emergency humanitarian aid to those displaced from their homes by militia terror. If the Indonesian government cannot provide a secure environment for these agencies to do their jobs, the U.N. must take on that responsibility as well.

  4. Forced transport of East Timorese civilians out of East Timor by the Indonesian military must stop immediately, and those already relocated must be monitored by international agencies and allowed to return to their homes. If the international community cannot guarantee their safe resettlement in East Timor, Australia and other countries must accept and care for East Timorese refugees until order and peace is restored.

The International Federation for East Timor Observer Project is a U.N.-accredited election monitoring organization.  

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