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To: Assistant Secretary of State Lorne W. Craner

From: Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator, East Timor Action Network/U.S.

CC: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Daley
       U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Pierre-Richard Prosper

Date: 12 March 2003

Re: Suggestions for U.S. Delegation to UN Commission on Human Rights, 59th Session

Thank you for the opportunity to share our suggestions for U.S. advocacy at this year's session in Geneva. We urge you to work towards at least a chairperson's statement, if not a resolution, on East Timor, as well as on Indonesia.

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) encourages U.S. representation at the 59th session of the Commission on Human Rights to raise the following issues at every opportunity.


To date, the realization of justice for East Timor for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Indonesian military and its militia proxies in 1999 and before has been a failure. The ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor in Jakarta has acquitted eleven of fourteen Indonesian defendants tried thus far. The five sentences handed down have not been commensurate with the crimes committed; four sentences have been less than the legal minimum under Indonesian law. All of those convicted remain free pending appeal. Few of the top architects of the terror in East Timor were even named as suspects, much less brought to trial; this failure is among the same fundamental flaws discussed in ETAN's memo for the 58th session. The world has now had a chance to observe the Jakarta court process. The court's serious shortcomings include inexperienced judges; an extremely unprofessional courtroom environment packed with high-ranking military and militia; inadequate witness protection; and a prosecution that has presented weak and inaccurate indictments and arguments, painted a false picture of the conflict in 1999, called inappropriate witnesses, requested extremely inadequate sentences, and failed to present the overwhelming amount of evidence available.

The joint East Timorese-UN Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (SCIU) and Special Panel for Serious Crimes remain under-resourced. A planned second Special Panel for Serious Crimes has not been established, nor is there a functioning Court of Appeals. Interpreting, translating and court reporting services are seriously inadequate. Judges and defense counsel lack training, support services and resources. It is expected that SCIU investigations will begin to wrap up in July 2003, with trials subsequently ending around May 2004. Given the amount of work that remains to be done, this timeline could leave numerous investigations and trials unfinished.

Indonesian authorities continue to refuse to cooperate with the SCIU, recently contemptuously dismissing several indictments issued by the SCIU, including those against high-level Indonesian military suspects.

ETAN draws your attention to the following excerpt from a March 3 letter by East Timor's premier human rights organization Perkumpulan HAK (Association for Law, Human Rights and Justice):

The people of East Timor, who since 1975 have lived under Indonesian military occupation and suffered from repeated acts of violence and terror, are well aware that the violence in 1999 was part of an ongoing systematic and planned use of violence against our people. Many East Timorese greeted the [SCIU] indictment filed last week against the primary perpetrators as a first step in seeking justice and feel that acknowledgement of crimes committed in 1999 will help to alleviate the suffering of both victims and their families.

The nature of the crimes committed, the inability of the new nation of East Timor to seek justice on its own, and the violence targeted at a UN mission all necessitate international involvement.

ETAN therefore recommends that the U.S. delegation to the Commission should:

  • Push for a comprehensive UN review of the Jakarta court process. Such a review should include but not be limited to: examining the court's mandate, the limitations of its indictments, the conduct of its trials, its sentencing polices and its adherence to international standards. This review should include recommendations for further action to achieve meaningful justice.
  • Urge the Indonesian government to fully cooperate with the SCIU. Extradition and other requests for the transfer of suspects should be honored by Indonesia, as well as by other countries should a suspect enter their jurisdiction.
  • Press the UN to honor its joint responsibility for SCIU indictments.
  • Call for the provision of adequate human and material resources for the SCIU and East Timorese judicial system.
  • Call for formal exploration of the establishment of an international tribunal on East Timor. The U.S. delegation should work to build international support to pass a UN Security Council resolution to create such a tribunal to investigate and try crimes against humanity and war crimes committed from 1975 to 1999.
  • Call for international assistance, particularly from Human Rights Commission members, for East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CRTR) in the CRTR's efforts to obtain information about human rights violations committed in East Timor between April 1974 and October 1999.


The failure to hold Indonesian military and militia members accountable for atrocities committed in East Timor bears greatly on the security threats East Timor now faces. If Indonesian authorities had disarmed and disbanded militia residing in West Timor and brought perpetrators to justice, the multiple militia incursions into East Timor that have resulted in civilian deaths in 2003 would likely have been avoided. It has been reported that approximately 3000 militia members are currently encamped on or near the border with West Timor.

Often, military officers responsible for the destruction of East Timor are the architects of ongoing violence committed against Indonesian civilians, especially in Papua and Aceh. It is imperative that this cycle of death and impunity be stopped.

ETAN therefore recommends that the U.S. delegation should:

  • Condemn the threat to East Timor's peace and security posed by militia and their military mentors in Indonesia.
  • Demand that Indonesian authorities disarm militia members, remove them from the border with East Timor, and hold militia and their military mentors accountable for crimes committed.
  • Urge that all military assistance for Indonesia from the U.S. and other countries be withheld until the military is held accountable for crimes against humanity and other violent crimes committed in East Timor and Indonesia.


There are at least 600 cases outside of East Timor of children separated from their families, primarily during and after the 1999 referendum period, by the Hati Foundation, Lemorai Foundation, Yayasan Tunas Kalimantan, and others. Many children were taken from their parents under horrendous circumstances. Observers have concluded that at least some of these foundations are brainwashing the children about conditions in East Timor and the country's history and future. The foundations and other "caretakers" have aggressively thwarted the UNHCR's and the International Rescue Committee's reunification efforts, at times making direct physical threats against agency staff. The coercive separations of East Timorese children, the failure to honor the requests of parents for reunification, and the lack of prompt government action in these cases are in clear violation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which Indonesia ratified in 1990.

ETAN therefore recommends that the U.S. delegation should:

  • Raise the issue of separated East Timorese children under item 13, "Rights of the Child," of the provisional Commission agenda.
  • Urge Indonesian authorities to honor their commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Urge Indonesian authorities to expedite reunification of East Timorese children with their families.
  • Urge Indonesian authorities to hold foundation leaders and others responsible for the children's plight accountable to the rule-of-law for their violation of basic human and children's rights.


An estimated 28,000 East Timorese displaced during 1999 remain in West Timor and other parts of Indonesia. On January 1, 2003, the UNHCR revoked the refugee status of all East Timorese in Indonesia, saying that the situation in East Timor had stabilized sufficiently for them to return. The reasons East Timorese remain in Indonesia are complex - misinformation about conditions in East Timor; pressures from community leaders; an uncertain economic situation in their home communities; avoidance of accountability for crimes; and fear that they will be perceived as ex-militia due to their long stay outside of East Timor.

ETAN therefore recommends that the U.S. delegation should:

  • Encourage the UN and Indonesian authorities to continue to monitor the situation of East Timorese remaining in Indonesia to ensure freedom of choice in repatriation and resettlement and decent humanitarian conditions.

see also ETAN: UN Must Back Prosecution of Indonesian Officers; International Action Needed After Indonesia Snubs Extradition of Suspects to East Timor

HAK: Open Letter to UN

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