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U.S. Congress Reaffirms Support For East Timor

Contact: Karen Orenstein, (202)544-6911 John M. Miller, (718)596-7668; (917)690-4391 (mobile)

U.S. Congress Reaffirms Support For Independent East Timor

Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill Maintains Pressure on Indonesia to Prosecute Rights Violators and End Militia Violence, Gives Aid to East Timor

October 25, 2000 -- The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) today praised continued congressional support for a East Timor's transition to independence. The Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2001 (HR 4811), passed by both houses of Congress today, continues restrictions on military assistance to Indonesia until its government and military have cooperated fully with efforts to prosecute those responsible for human rights violations in Indonesia and East Timor, "allowed refugees to return home, and actively prevented militia incursions" into East Timor. The bill also appropriates $25 million to support East Timor's transition to self-government.

"This bill demonstrates continued congressional commitment to human rights in Indonesia and East Timor and to maintain pressure on the Indonesian military and government until East Timorese refugees have safely returned home and East Timor completes a peaceful transition to independence," said Lynn Fredriksson, ETAN Washington Representative and Interim Coordinator of the new Indonesia Human Rights Network.

"We are pleased that Congress has appropriated $25 million in economic support to rebuild East Timor both physically and politically. This is the least the U.S. can do given past support for Indonesia's occupation of East Timor," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.

The appropriations bill continues to link restoration of U.S. military assistance to Indonesia to substantial progress in prosecuting members of the Indonesian armed forces and militias responsible for massive loss of life and extensive destruction in East Timor, particularly surrounding last year's overwhelming pro-independence vote. President Clinton is expected to sign the bill.

In report language explaining the bill, members of Congress said, "The managers strongly urge the Secretaries of Defense and State to press the government of Indonesia to fulfill its commitment to disarm and disband militia groups, end military and financial support for these groups, and bring militia leaders to justice."

"It is important for Congress and the administration to recognize the devastating impact the Indonesian military continues to have on human rights and democracy throughout Indonesia. Military ties should not be restored until there is civilian control of the military and accountability for human rights abuses," said Karen Orenstein, ETAN's Washington Organizer.

The bill requires the Indonesian military and government to cooperate with investigations and prosecutions of Indonesian armed forces and militia groups responsible for human rights violations in Indonesia, as well as East Timor before restoring U.S. military assistance. This is especially important in Aceh, West Papua and Maluku, where Indonesian forces continue to brutally violate people's rights.

More than 100,000 East Timorese refugees remain under militia domination in West Timor and in early September militias murdered three international and two local UN refugee workers in Atambua, West Timor, as Indonesian police and soldiers stood by. Militias, well-armed and well-trained according to the UN, continue to infiltrate East Timor. On October 24, UN peacekeepers exchanged fire with well-equipped militias inside East Timor, killing one militia member.

Earlier this week, Indonesia refused a UN request to extradite one of the most notorious militia leaders, Eurico Guterres. He is wanted in East Timor for his role in leading several brutal massacres preceding last year's independence vote. He is currently being held for questioning in Jakarta, accused of ordering followers not to cooperate with Indonesian efforts to disarm militias in West Timor this September, although a Jakarta court has ordered his release.

The appropriations bill codifies for Fiscal Year 2001 much of the Clinton administration's temporary ban on military assistance to Indonesia first announced in September 1999 as the Indonesian military and its militias began their scorched earth campaign in the wake of East Timor's August 30 vote for independence.

Last spring, the U.S. military began a planned phased re-engagement with its Indonesian counterparts. Indonesian officers took part as observers in a U.S.-sponsored Cobra Gold military exercise in Thailand in May. In July, a joint U.S.-Indonesian exercise called CARAT/2000, in which the Indonesian navy and marines trained with their U.S. military counterparts, took place in East Java.

Just prior to Secretary of Defense William Cohen's visit to Indonesia on September 17 and 18, the Pentagon said it had reinstated the U.S. suspension of all military assistance to Indonesia in the wake of escalating militia violence and the murder of U.S. citizen Carlos Caceres, who was working with refugees in West Timor.

The foreign operations bill also calls for a detailed report of all overseas military training for foreign militaries conducted or planned by the Pentagon. This provision resulted from controversy over the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) of the Indonesian military, which Representative Lane Evans (D-IL) and ETAN exposed in 1998.

While the bill places strict conditions on renewing IMET (International Military and Education Training) and Foreign Military Financing for Indonesia, the bill continues the ban on full IMET even after those conditions are met. IMET for Indonesia has been restricted since 1992.

The foreign operations bill also appropriates money to specifically support "economic rehabilitation" in Aceh where escalating human rights violations have displaced thousands despite a ceasefire, called a "humanitarian pause," between Jakarta and pro-independence guerrillas. This year Indonesian military and police have disappeared and killed hundreds in Aceh, including noted human rights advocates, with virtually no international presence to monitor and potentially deter such atrocities.

Additional information can be found at http://www.etan.org/legislation.

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. ETAN has 27 local chapters.

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