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Subject: MEDIA RELEASE - ETHRC REPORT
Date: Thu, 20 Aug 1998 17:44:03 -1000
From: ethrc <ethrc@minihub.org>

EAST TIMOR HUMAN RIGHTS CENTRE 124 Napier St Fitzroy 3065 Australia PO BOX 1413 Collingwood 3066 Australia Tel: +61 3 9415 8225 Fax: +61 3 9415 8218 E-mail: ethrc@minihub.org Director: Ms Maria Brett Chair: Bishop Hilton Deakin

MEDIA RELEASE 20 August 1998

East Timor: No Solution Without Respect For Human Rights: Bi-Annual Report of Human Rights Violations in East Timor


The East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) today launched a new report on the current human rights situation in East Timor. The report documents human rights violations between January and June 1998 and assesses the Habibie's government's response to the human rights violations and its efforts to move towards a resolution of the conflict.

Maria Brett, Executive Director of the ETHRC said: "Even with the greater freedom East Timor is experiencing, and the gestures of good will offered by President Habibie, serious and systematic human rights abuses are continuing in East Timor. There has not been a noticeable reduction in human rights violations, contrary to earlier indications that violations may have been decreasing."

While welcoming steps already taken by President Habibie such as the release of some East Timorese political prisoners and the greater freedom of speech being allowed in East Timor, the ETHRC report concludes that the government of Indonesia needs to go much further.

"The ETHRC is concerned no further progress has been made on releasing East Timorese political prisoners. It is believed over 100 political prisoners remain in detention in Indonesian prisons and East Timorese people remain at risk of arbitrary arrest and torture for their political activities" Ms Brett said.

"The bold expressions of new-found freedoms, particularly on the part of the East Timorese youth, have not been without repercussions. Some people have been arbitrarily arrested, tortured and even killed in the month of June...Tension remains high and there are widespread intimidation and pressure tactics on the part of the Indonesian military, intended to discourage the youth from expressing their views" Ms Brett said.

The ETHRC also assesses claims by the government of Indonesia that the military presence in East Timor is being reduced. "We are concerned that the withdrawal of 1,000 Indonesian troop from East Timor may not represent a genuine reduction in the military presence in East Timor. Unless there is international verification of the withdrawals, preferably through UN monitoring, claims that the military presence in East Timor is being reduced should be treated with caution."

The report welcomes the opportunity created by the latest round of talks between the governments of Indonesia and Portugal under UN auspices but cautions that certain steps must be taken for there to be real progress towards a solution: "The ETHRC believes the dialogue will only move forward if Xanana Gusmao, the jailed leader of the East Timorese Resistance, is released, to enable him to participate in the discussions for a solution."

The report also proposes concrete steps which can taken by the government of Indonesia and the international community to improve the human rights situation in East Timor, and to move towards a lasting and internationally acceptable solution to the conflict. "Such a solution will only be possible if it is based on respect for human rights, and if it reached by consultation with the East Timorese people."

"Throughout this process, it is absolutely fundamental that the wishes of the East Timorese people are considered. This means engaging the recognised East Timorese leaders, including Xanana Gusmao, in dialogue but ultimately, it means direct consultation with the East Timorese people through a UN-supervised referendum" Ms Brett said.

ETHRC Report - Part 1


For further information or to obtain a copy of the report, contact:
Maria Brett Executive Director East Timor Human Rights Centre Tel +61 3 9415 8225(business hours) or 9699 5836 (after hours) E-mail: ethrc@minihub.org

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