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ETAN: Commit the U.S. to work for Justice in Timor-Leste

ETAN to Secretary of State Clinton: Commit the U.S. to work for justice for U.S.-backed crimes in Timor-Leste

September 5, 2012 - On the eve of her visit to Timor-Leste, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) urged Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to commit the United States to support justice and accountability for U.S.-backed crimes committed during Indonesia's 24-year occupation of Timor-Leste.

"We appreciate ongoing U.S. engagement with Timor-Leste, but there is unfinished business between our two nations. Secretary Clinton' should acknowledge and begin to make amends for U.S. leading role in aiding and abetting Indonesia's brutal takeover of Timor," Miller added. "At a minimum she should officially receive the report of Timor-Leste's Truth, Reception and Reconciliation Commission's (CAVR) and set a timetable for a detailed U.S. response."

The CAVR called on countries like the United States that actively supported Indonesia's illegal occupation to take specific actions.

ETAN urged the Obama administration to respond to the recommendations of the CAVR, including its calls for an international tribunal, reparations from countries that supported the occupation, and restrictions on foreign assistance to the Indonesian military until it shows that it is a rights-respecting institution.

In a recent letter, the Timorese organization La’o Hamutuk appealed to Secretary Clinton for help in “break[ing] the chain of impunity that still prevails in Timor-Leste. Impunity exists because the international community has forgotten its responsibility to establish an International Tribunal to prosecute the actors involved in crimes against humanity during the Indonesian occupation. Many of these actors are still free and occupy powerful political positions in Jakarta.… [I]mpunity in Timor-Leste provides opportunity and chance for Indonesian police and military to continue their crimes and violate the rights” in West Papua.

"The U.S. supported the Timor's independence referendum in 1999, and since September 1999 Washington has provided significant assistance to Timor-Leste, but such aid does not begin to compensate the East Timorese people for the suffering wrought by the U.S. support for the occupation,” said Miller.


On December 7, 1975, Indonesia launched its full-scale invasion of East Timor only hours after U.S. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave the green light to the Indonesian dictator Suharto. The U.S. was the most important supporter of Indonesia’s illegal attack and occupation. The U.S. supplied 90 percent of the weapons used during the invasion. From President Ford to President Clinton, successive U.S. administrations consistently backed Indonesia's occupation, providing Jakarta diplomatic cover and billions of dollars in weaponry, military training, and economic assistance.

The CAVR estimated that as many as 184,000 people died as a result, nearly one-third of the pre-invasion population. Yet, no senior officials of any country have been held accountable for the horrific human right violations and war crimes that took place.

The CAVR's comprehensive 2,500-page report recommended establishment of an international criminal tribunal should other efforts fail. The CAVR urged "states that had military cooperation programmes with the Indonesian Government... [to] apologise to the people of Timor-Leste for failing to adequately uphold internationally agreed fundamental rights," (1.6) and for Permanent Members of the Security Council, particularly the U.S. ... who gave military backing to the Indonesian Government between 1974 and 1999 [to] assist the Government of Timor-Leste in the provision of reparations to victims of human rights violations suffered during the Indonesian occupation.” (1.7) The CAVR urged that "all States regulate military sales and cooperation with Indonesia more effectively and make such support totally conditional on progress towards full democratisation, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with international human rights, including respect for the right of self-determination." (1.10) Under the Obama administration, military assistance to Indonesia has rapidly increased.

Secretary Clinton is the first U.S. Secretary of State and the highest ranking U.S. official to visit the country since independence.

ETAN was formed in reaction to the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre, when hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were gunned down by Indonesian troops using U.S.-supplied weapons. The 20-year-old U.S.-based organization advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information see ETAN's web site:


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