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ETAN Calls UN Deaths In West Timor Preventable

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. called today's brutal murder of U.N. personnel in West Timor tragically preventable." These killings never should have happened. They stem directly from the failure of Indonesian authorities to keep repeated promises to stop militia violence and protect humanitarian workers," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.

"World leaders now in New York for the UN's Millennium Summit must be unequivocal in demanding that Indonesia meet its commitments to secure the border with East Timor, protect international humanitarian workers, meet international standards of human rights, and assure the safe return of some 100,000 refugees still trapped in West Timor," said Miller.

ETAN described the attack on the U.N. in West Timor as yet another of many recent egregious examples of an out-of-control military acting through militia proxies.

ETAN called on the U.S. and other governments to strengthen security in West and East Timor by publicly suspending all military assistance to the Indonesian military (TNI) and police until critical conditions are met, including safe return of East Timorese refugees, disarming and disbanding of militia groups, and arrest and extradition of militia leaders.

"A direct military role in the attack may never be confirmed, but the Indonesian military clearly created, armed and trained the militia groups. In the over 100 reported attacks on UN workers in West Timor since last September, Indonesian security forces have often stood by and allowed militia violence to continue unhindered. TNI must bear ultimate responsibility for these acts and omissions," said Miller.

ETAN also cited the disappearance of Acehnese human rights lawyer, Jafar Siddiq Hamzah. A U.S-resident, Hamzah's body is believed to be among five bodies recently found in Northern Sumatra near where he disappeared.

"An international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for violence in East Timor is necessary to realize justice for the East Timorese. It would have the added effect of helping to ensure security for the refugees and those working to assist them. Indonesia should arrest known militia leaders immediately place them under protective custody, and turn them over to U.N. authorities for prosecution," said Lynn Fredriksson, Washington Representative for ETAN.

"The U.S. and others would do well to side with the forces of democracy in both Indonesia and East Timor; support for an international tribunal ultimately translates into support for greater military and judicial reform," she said .

"Any form of U.S. assistance to the Indonesian military contributes to the unraveling of Indonesia's fragile democratization, betrays our commitment to genuine self-determination in East Timor, and violates the intent of Congress in withholding aid to human rights abusers," added Fredriksson. "The killing of human rights advocate Jafar Siddiq Hamzah and hundreds of others in Aceh, and the recent fatal attacks on international aid workers in West Timor require the U.S. to take unequivocal, decisive public action, before more lose their lives."

Four people, including at least three international staff, were killed at the UNHCR office in Atambua. Witnesses said the militia beat the foreign UN workers to death and burned their bodies.

An estimated 100,000 refugees remain in West Timor and elsewhere in Indonesia. UNHCR had suspended its operations in West Timor following an August 22 attack on three staff members severely beaten by suspected militia members. The agency resumed activities on August 29 after Indonesian authorities arrested two of the alleged assailants and promised to increase security for humanitarian workers.

For more information see http://www.etan.org/.

The East Timor Action Network/ U.S. (ETAN) was founded in November 1991 to support East Timorese self-determination. ETAN now works for a peaceful transition to independence in East Timor. It has 28 local chapters throughout the U.S.

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John M. Miller Internet: john@etan.org
Media & Outreach Coordinator, East Timor Action Network 48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097 Mobile: (917)690-4391
Web site: http://www.etan.org

Send a blank e-mail message to info@etan.org to find out how to learn more about East Timor on the Internet

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