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East Timor ACTION Network ALERT

East Timor still yearns for justice

Only the U.N. can provide it

ETAN Action Alert

November 16, 2004

What YOU can do:

Contact United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan today: fax +1-212-963-7055, email or; or write: United Nations, New York 10017 USA.

Or send a fax via ETAN’s website. Go to

Remind him of the UN’s unfulfilled responsibility to pursue justice for the victims in East Timor. Encourage him to quickly create a Commission of Experts to evaluate the flawed justice processes in Indonesia and East Timor, and to recommend an international tribunal if his Commission finds these processes do not meet international standards.

A sample letter is below:

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
United Nations
New York 10017 USA

Dear Sir,

You have said, “impunity must not prevail” when it comes to serious crimes committed in East Timor in 1999.

The ad hoc justice process in Indonesia has clearly failed, acquitting all officials brought to trial. The East Timor Serious Crimes process is clearly inadequate, when three-quarters of those indicted are sheltered in Indonesia.

I urge you to quickly form a Commission of Experts to formally evaluate these flawed justice processes, and to recommend credible alternatives should the Commission find that these processes do not meet international standards.

I support a process which is not limited to crimes committed in 1999. An international tribunal is the best way to ensure that those most responsible for the worst crimes committed in East Timor since 1975 are brought to trial. I hope you will agree.


You can also fax U.S. Ambassador the United Nations John Danforth via ETAN. Go to and urge the administration to work for an international tribunal to pursue justice for East Timor.


Recently, Indonesia exonerated the only official it had convicted for crimes in East Timor. The acquittal of former Indonesian-appointed governor Abilio Osorio Soares concluded a three-year shadow play, in which Indonesia pretended to prosecute eighteen masterminds and perpetrators of the 1999 destruction of East Timor. This effort to cover up their crimes and deflect international calls for effective justice must not succeed. Many of those ostensibly prosecuted, and others not even indicted, have been promoted in Indonesia’s security apparatus and continue to commit similar crimes in West Papua and Aceh.

The victims of Indonesia’s illegal occupation of East Timor still deserve justice. For five years, the United Nations has ducked its responsibility to establish an international tribunal, delegating justice to the Indonesian and East Timorese governments. But the international community has run out of alibis. Those governments have shown neither the will nor the capability to end impunity for perpetrators of crimes against humanity in East Timor. It is time for the United Nations to establish an international tribunal to prosecute all those who designed, directed and carried out international crimes against the East Timorese people since the Indonesian invasion in 1975.

The shadow play has ended in Jakarta, and the curtain is down. In Dili, the justice drama is in its final scene, of pantomime. The nations of the world, content to sit in the audience for the past four years, must now accept their responsibility.


During a quarter-century of illegal occupation, Indonesian forces killed approximately 200,000 people in East Timor. During the final year of 1999, they murdered approximately 1500 East Timorese, forcibly displaced the majority of the population, and destroyed 75% of the buildings and infrastructure. In October 1999 Indonesian forces withdrew, and a UN transitional government was established. East Timor has been politically independent since May 2002, but remains vulnerable to its much larger neighbor Indonesia.

In early 2000, an Indonesian government investigation, the UN Human Rights Commission and the UN Security Council all called for international prosecution of major crimes committed in 1999. However, international authorities retreated when Jakarta said it would conduct its own prosecutions. This Ad-Hoc Tribunal lacked any credibility, and failed to convict the Indonesian officials in the few selective cases it agreed to hear.

Since East Timor’s UN-supported Serious Crimes process can only arrest those in the country, low-level East Timorese militia members - most of whom were coerced into being shock troops for the military’s 1999 terror strategy - are the only ones being punished. In seven short months, United Nations support for this process will end, and the indictments will languish in locked filing cabinets, unless a credible alternative is created. International institutions and other governments must take responsibility to challenge the sanctuary Indonesia gives to 75% of those indicted by the hybrid UN/East Timor Serious Crimes process.

East Timorese victims – most of the population, since one-third of East Timorese was killed during the occupation – continue to demand an international tribunal.

Indonesia has just elected a new president, a former general who says he will move his country toward the rule of law. But the military remains strong and largely unaccountable. International pressure to end impunity for crimes committed in East Timor will help progressive Indonesians restore human rights to their own country.

Jakarta’s own Attorney General and Foreign Ministry spokesman acknowledge that impunity reflects badly on their country’s international image, and Indonesian human rights and pro-democracy groups are calling for the prosecution of other Indonesian officials, including General Wiranto, who were not indicted by Indonesia.

The United Nations Secretary-General is considering forming a Commission of Experts to evaluate justice processes in Indonesia and East Timor for 1999 crimes, and to recommend what the UN should do now. If, as is likely, they find these processes wanting, it will take strong pressure from many directions to create the political will for justice. Your support is needed and all of us who believe in justice cannot rest until it comes.

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