Call For Resources Control on E Timor's Birthday
East Timor Action Network Urges International Support for Justice and Control of Resources on Newest Nation's Birthday
For Immediate Release
May 20 - On the second anniversary of East Timor's independence, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) called on the international community to actively promote justice and a just boundary for the new nation.
"Two years after independence, the people of East Timor still lack any semblance of justice for decades of atrocities. They still lack the unquestioned ability to develop their own natural resources,"said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "Without vigorous international support, Australia will continue to steal East Timor's resources and high-ranking Indonesian officials responsible for directing horrendous human rights crimes will remain free to violate others' rights and run for high office."
"We urge the Australian government to respect the sovereignty and resource rights of East Timor by promptly and fairly negotiating the maritime boundary between the two countries," said Miller. "Australia should mark the second anniversary of East Timor's independence by returning the more than US$1 billion they've stolen so far from oil fields that are twice as close to their impoverished neighbor," said Miller.
"The UN's decision last week to phase out the Serious Crime Unit (SCU) is a welcome present to those evading prosecution by hiding in plain sight in Indonesia but a bitter birthday gift to East Timorese victims," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator for ETAN. "Powerful rights violators must be celebrating the UN's action."
"The UN must take concrete steps to establish an international tribunal," continued Orenstein. "Only an international tribunal would have the resources and global clout to compel Indonesia's cooperation."
ETAN today also called attention to the U.S. role during the illegal Indonesian military occupation of East Timor, which lasted from 1975 to 1999. "A full accounting of the U.S. government's knowledge and actions during Indonesia's brutal occupation is essential if future crimes are to be prevented," said Miller. "The world will treat U.S. criticism of human rights violations by others skeptically until the U.S. deals forthrightly with its own role in aiding crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in East Timor and elsewhere."
"The Bush administration's continued efforts to step up training and other assistance to Indonesia's security forces will only encourage more violations and legitimize continued impunity," he added.
ETAN advocates for justice and sustainable development for East Timor and human rights for Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity that took place in East Timor since 1975 and continued restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces. For additional information see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).
During its illegal occupation of the island nation from 1975 to 1999, the Indonesian military was responsible for the deaths of more than 200,000 people, one-third of the population. The U.S. supplied over $1 billion in weapons and training since the time of the invasion through 1999.
The Bush administration recently agreed to reconvene the Bilateral Defense Dialogue between the Indonesian military (TNI) and the U.S. Pacific Command. The last Dialogue occurred before the TNI's destruction of East Timor in 1999.
Last week, the UN Security Council, while downsizing and extending the UN mission in East Timor, called for a phase out of the joint UN-East Timor SCU. It failed to meaningfully press Indonesia to cooperate on justice for East Timor.
The SCU has filed 83 indictments accusing 373 individuals. Charges are currently pending against a total of 313 accused. 279 of these remain at large in Indonesia.
On May 10, an international judge at the Special Panel for Serious Crimes in East Timor issued an arrest warrant for General Wiranto, the Armed Forces Commander and Defense Minister in 1999 and now a leading presidential candidate. His troops and their militia proxies conducted a campaign of terror resulting in more than 1400 deaths, displacement of three-quarters of the population and destruction of more than 75% of East Timor's infrastructure. Wiranto was indicted on February 24, 2003, for crimes against humanity before the Special Panel. Soon after, the U.S. State Department placed Wiranto on its visa watch list.
In the months following the 1999 devastation of East Timor, two UN investigations called for the establishment of an international tribunal. Instead, Indonesia promised to try its own and eventually established the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor. The widely criticized court issued its final verdict on August 5, 2003.
East Timorese leaders, stressing the need to establish good relations with their powerful neighbor, have repeatedly urged the international community to take the lead on issues of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor.
Substantial oil and natural gas deposits lie under the Timor Sea between Australia and East Timor. The fate of tens of billions of dollars of revenue depends on establishing a fair permanent boundary agreement according to international law. East Timor, which became an independent nation on May 20, 2002, has never had maritime boundaries.
Australia refuses to meet more than once every six months to negotiate the boundary and has withdrawn from international legal mechanisms to resolve boundary issues -- the International Court of Justice and the 1982 UNCLOS Tribunal -- leaving East Timor with no legal recourse in the absence of cooperative negotiations from Australia.
If the Australian government continues to delay a permanent maritime boundary for decades, they will have taken 60% of East Timor's entire oil and gas entitlement.
East Timor is among the poorest of the world's countries, suffering from very low levels of basic services and high unemployment. East Timor is currently struggling to avoid debt to international financial institutions, as it needs to cover a US$126 million budgetary financing gap between 2005 and 2007. East Timor currently loses one million dollars a day due to Australia's unlawful exploitation of resources in the disputed areas.
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Media & Outreach Coordinator
East Timor Action Network: 12 Years for Self-Determination & Justice
48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA
Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097
Mobile phone: (917)690-4391
Web site: http://www.etan.org
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