Vol. 7, No. 1
Victories in Washington and the Road Ahead
Victories in Washington and the Road Ahead
As the new year begins, ETAN has victories to celebrate and injustices to overcome. Over a year has passed since East Timor embarked on its road to nationhood. Timorese children are attending rudimentary schools and activists are working hard to achieve a vibrant democratic society. East Timorese friends can visit the U.S. free of fear of reprisals from the Indonesian military.
Yet many remain sharply critical of the pace of development in East Timor and the lack of inclusion of Timorese in the UN administration's initiatives (see Ajiza Magno article, p. 3). Militias in West Timor still threaten East Timor's peace, and up to 100,000 refugees continue to suffer in camps in West Timor. Clearly much remains to be done to achieve genuine peace, justice and democracy in East Timor, and ETAN activists in the U.S. continue to support these struggles.
Through the vigilance of ETAN grassroots activists, friends in East Timor, and sympathetic members of Congress, we secured important provisions in the annually renewed Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2001. The FY 2001 bill maintains last year's restrictions on virtually all military ties between the U.S. and Indonesia. Restrictions cannot be lifted until the President certifies that the Indonesian government and military have cooperated fully with efforts to prosecute those responsible for human rights violations in Indonesia, "allowed refugees to return home, and actively prevented militia incursions" into East Timor. This legislation follows the Clinton Administration's September decision to reinstate the U.S. suspension of military assistance to Indonesia after international outrage at the September 6 murder of 3 UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) workers and unknown numbers of East and West Timorese civilians by rampaging militias in West Timor. The bill also ensures $25 million in U.S. assistance for East Timor for 2001.
Indonesia is far from fulfilling conditions needed to lift the suspension. All deadlines set by Indonesia to disarm the militias have been abandoned despite the less than impressive confiscation or voluntary return of modern weapons. Violent militias remain in control of many of the East Timorese refugees in West Timor. In areas where militia control has weakened, repatriation has often increased, demonstrating a direct link between militia intimidation and repatriation. Many returning refugees tell of their money and goods being confiscated by Indonesian soldiers. Regardless of these outrageous abuses, some members of the incoming administration will no doubt try to end the ban or restore forms of military cooperation not explicitly forbidden under current law.
We fear an impending humanitarian disaster in West Timor. Few international aid organizations have returned to the Indonesian controlled half of Timor island since their mass evacuation on September 6. Medicine and food are already in short supply, and the upcoming rainy season will only worsen conditions. Unexpected flooding has already caused destruction and worsened health conditions in some parts of West Timor.
Immediately following the September 6 militia rampage in Atambua, West Timor, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1319 (UNSCR 1319), calling for "immediate and effective action" to resolve the crisis.
In mid-November, a UN Security Council delegation visited East and West Timor to review compliance with UNSCR 1272, the resolution establishing the UN administration and peacekeeping force in East Timor, and then assessed compliance with UNSCR 1319 in West Timor. The delegation noted the under-resourced state of East Timor's judicial system, which has largely failed to bring to justice perpetrators of crimes committed in 1999, and remarked that while "the education system is functioning throughout East Timor, together with a basic level of healthcare in many areas...the overall state of East Timor's infrastructure remains devastated." They were particularly critical of the lack of development progress outside of Dili, and the "the small amounts so far expended on reconstruction." In West Timor, delegation members found continuing intimidation and misinformation in refugee camps, and called for "the expeditious prosecution of those responsible for criminal acts." The mission called the conditions of the refugees in the "dilapidated" camps "truly depressing," and stressed the need to finally disarm and disband militias and to conduct "a credible, apolitical, and internationally observed" refugee registration.
Prior to the UN Security Council's departure for East Timor and Indonesia, the U.S. administration had said that "our pledge [made at the Consultative Group on Indonesia meeting, see Indonesian military article, p. 1] is based on the assumption that Indonesia will fulfill its responsibilities to the international community, including full compliance with UNSCR 1319, and that our willingness to proceed with obligations under our pledge will take into account Indonesia's progress toward these goals." The delegation's trip to West Timor yielded little in the way of new commitments from Jakarta or Washington. The U.S. must keep its word and be prepared to withhold further financial assistance as militias retain control in West Timor.
Meanwhile, the many victims of violence in East Timor still have not seen justice served. No Indonesian military personnel and appallingly few East Timorese militia leaders have been held accountable for human rights violations in East Timor. Nearly all TNI officers responsible for atrocities retain positions of power and prestige, often continuing to wage terror against the people of Aceh, Papua, Maluku, and other areas of Indonesia. UN investigators who traveled to Jakarta in December to question 22 Indonesian suspects and witnesses were not permitted to do so despite a Memorandum of Understanding between Indonesia and the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) allowing such investigations. The chief of Indonesia's armed forces, Admiral Widodo Adisucipto, has refused to cooperate with any UN investigations, declaring: "As far as the legal process is concerned, no TNI officer is to be investigated or questioned by UNTAET." Indonesia's parliament backed this position. Clearly, the only credible option for justice is through an international tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor. Given its decades of support for Indonesia's brutal military, taking a lead on such an initiative is the least the U.S. can do.
Though notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres has been detained in Jakarta and may be prosecuted for crimes in West Timor, Indonesian authorities have refused to extradite him to East Timor, as requested by the UN. In fact, several Indonesian leaders are hailing Guterres as a national hero; he was recently awarded a "red-and-white award" by the State Defense Movement for his role in defending Indonesian rule via the destruction of East Timor. Meanwhile, a lack of resources is severely hampering the work of the the work of the UN administration's Serious Crimes Unit, resulting in a reduction of investigations of brutal human rights abuses and prosecution of individuals.
With ETAN's help and prodding, members of Congress have continued to raise their voices in defense of the rights of East Timorese. Thanks to Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), on September 27 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the East Timor Repatriation and Security Act of 2000 (S. 2621), which bans all U.S. military assistance to Indonesia. Senate and House letters to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressed concern over escalating military violence in West Timor, Aceh, and West Papua. In November, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) wrote President Clinton, requesting that the administration formally designate Eurico Guterres and other militia leaders as international terrorists. Reed and Harkin also wrote Indonesian Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri to question her support for Guterres (the militia criminal is leader of the youth wing of Megawati's party, proving the falsehood of Western claims about her progressive leanings). In October, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and others sent a letter to World Bank President James Wolfensohn requesting postponement of the CGI meeting.
With the new administration's arrival, it is important to educate your members of Congress, both new and returning, about the situation in East Timor and Indonesia. It would be foolhardy to assume that current bans on military aid to Jakarta will remain in place without our constant vigilance and attention. In-person home district meetings with your elected representatives can make an incredible difference, and we ask that you please do what you can to help achieve peace and justice in East Timor and Indonesia. Until next time, a luta continua!
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