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U.S. House Comm. Timor & Indonesia rights


U.S. House Comm. supports rights in Timor & Indonesia

House International Relations Committee Expresses Strong Support for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution in Indonesia and East Timor

Criticizes Indonesian Justice Efforts; Calls for Alternatives

The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) and Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) today praised the House International Relations Committee for its strong support for justice in East Timor and Indonesia and peaceful resolution of conflict in Indonesia. The committee expressed grave concern for serious rights violations committed by Indonesian security force members.

"We deeply appreciate the commitment to human rights and justice for the people of East Timor and Indonesia demonstrated by the House International Relations Committee in the Foreign Relations Authorization bill," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator for ETAN.

In the bill, H.R. 1950, the House committee calls "justice for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in East Timor... crucial for peace, reconciliation, and the ongoing nation-building process in East Timor and Indonesia."

Noting that the Indonesian human rights court on East Timor lacks the will and the new nation's courts lack the ability to achieve real justice for serious crimes committed during Indonesia's occupation, the committee "urges the State Department to consider alternative mechanisms of justice for East Timor, including the establishment of an ad hoc international tribunal."

The bill expresses "grave concern that members of the Indonesian security forces... continue to commit many serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and arbitrary detention, particularly in areas of conflict." The committee expresses support for peace initiatives in Aceh and Papua.

"The committee's criticisms of the Indonesian security forces are amply justified. The military and police continue to be the major obstacles to democratic reform and peace throughout the Indonesian archipelago," said Kurt Biddle of IHRN.

The bipartisan bill criticizes "the Indonesian military's resistance to civilian control and oversight, its lack of budgetary transparency, and its continuing emphasis on internal security within Indonesia."

The bill notes that the August 31, 2002 murder of three people (including two U.S. citizens) in the Indonesian province of Papua "appears likely to have been perpetrated at least in part by members of the Indonesian military." It goes on to call for "full, active, and unfettered cooperation with the investigation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

The legislation presses "the Indonesian Government to fully cooperate with the joint United Nations-East Timor Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) and encourages the United States to urge the Indonesian Government to fully cooperate with the SCU." The SCU recently indicted a number of high-ranking Indonesian officials for their role in organizing violence surrounding East Timor's independence vote in 1999. Indonesia has refused to extradite anyone to East Timor to stand trial.

The bill authorizes annual appropriations of $25 million in bilateral assistance for East Timor for the next two years. A successful amendment offered by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) provides for up to $1 million in scholarships for East Timorese to study in the U.S.

The bill also "encourages the Government of Indonesia to expedite the reunification of separated East Timorese children with their families."

IHRN is a U.S.-based grassroots organization working to educate and activate the American public and influence U.S. foreign policy and international economic interests to support democracy, demilitarization, and justice through accountability and rule of law in Indonesia. For more information, see http://www.indonesianetwork.org.

ETAN supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, economic justice and human rights, including women's rights. For more information, see http://www.etan.org.

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