Show Support For East Timor, New President Urged
Calls for Crackdown on Militia, Establishment of an International Tribunal
The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) warned today that past actions of new Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri suggested that her rule could adversely affect East Timor. ETAN urged her to begin her presidency by addressing the worsening refugee crisis in West Timor and supporting an international tribunal for East Timor. ETAN urged her to act swiftly to disarm and disband militia now destabilizing East Timor and controlling East Timorese refugees in Indonesia. To support the rule of law in Indonesia during this transitional time, the United Nations must act to establish an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity committed in East Timor and the Bush administration in the U.S. must maintain the current suspension of military ties with Indonesia, ETAN said.
"Megawati has close ties to the Indonesian military and has repeatedly expressed her disagreement with the process that lead to East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence in 1999. She must now demonstrate genuine respect for human rights and accountability for crimes against humanity committed by the armed forces," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.
"She must act now to dismantle the military-supported militia in West Timor and agree to an international tribunal on East Timor," continued Miller. "These steps would do a lot to reassure the international community and the people of East Timor that she does not bear ill-will toward its neighbor."
Megawati has yet to express any sympathy with East Timorese for the gross human rights committed by the Indonesian military during its occupation of East Timor. She has refused to meet with East Timorese leaders or the United Nations which is currently administering the territory.
"Given the Indonesian military's continued political power and its ties to Megawati, the international community must recognize that Indonesia is not capable of prosecuting the Indonesian military and political leaders responsible for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975 onwards," said Miller. "We urge members of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council to take the steps necessary to establish an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in East Timor."
"It is vital that the U.S. maintain its suspension of military ties with Indonesia. Renewal of ties would send the worst possible signal," said Miller. "Any re-engagement with the military at this time would severely undercut reform efforts."
Megawati Sukarnoputri's political party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, includes notorious East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres as a leader of its youth wing. A recent meeting of the party also included representatives from East Timor, indicating the party did not recognize East Timor as a country separate from Indonesia.
Up to 80,000 East Timorese refugees remain trapped in poor conditions in Indonesian West Timor under the control of militias backed by elements of the Indonesian military. No Indonesian security forces personnel have been held accountable for crimes committed in East Timor before or after the referendum. In a report issued January 30, 2000, an international commission of inquiry of the UN Commission on Human Rights recommended establishing an international human rights tribunal for East Timor.
On August 30, 1999, the East Timorese people voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-conducted referendum, ending a 24 year-long occupation by Indonesia. Immediately following the ballot, the Indonesian military and its militia proxies conducted a month-long scorched earth campaign in East Timor. The same legislature that just appointed Megawati to Indonesia's presidency and removed her predecessor voted in October 1999 to accept the results of East Timor's vote for independence.
In early September 1999, the U.S. suspended military assistance to Indonesia. In November 1999, the U.S. Congress passed the "Leahy conditions" which mandate that, prior to resuming the bulk of military support, the East Timorese refugees must be able to safely return home, military and militia must be prosecuted for atrocities in East Timor and Indonesia, and East Timor's security must not be compromised by military or militia activity. None of these conditions have yet to be met.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights, including women's rights. ETAN has 28 local chapters. For additional information see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).