Subject: ETHRC Media Release, 28/1/99
Date: Thu, 28 Jan 1999 17:28:33 -1000
From: ethrc <ethrc@minihub.org>

Precedence: bulk

EAST TIMOR HUMAN RIGHTS CENTRE=20 124 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 =20 Director: Ms Maria Brett Chair: Bishop Hilton Deakin

MEDIA RELEASE 28 January 1999


The East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) has cautiously welcomed the announcement made by the government of Indonesia to consider offering independence to East Timor if the East Timorese people reject its proposal of autonomy.

Maria Brett, Executive Director of the ETHRC, said the announcement may be a new opportunity for the people of East Timor to find a solution to the long-standing conflict but that it could also lead to an escalation of human rights violations against East Timorese people.

"While on the one hand, the government of Indonesia is considering independence for East Timor, on the other hand it is responsible for the recent escalation in violence in the territory," Ms Brett said.

"There has been a widespread campaign of terror conducted by military-backed civilian militia groups. Most recently this resulted in four East Timorese civilians, including a pregnant woman, being killed during a joint military and militia operation in the sub-district of Zumalai in the south of East Timor. A peaceful solution will only be possible if the government of Indonesia takes immediate concrete steps to end these violations."

Respect for human rights must also include respect for the fundamental right of the East Timorese to determine their own future. The ETHRC therefore supports calls for an act of self-determination through a UN-supervised referendum.

"Given that Indonesia's presence in East Timor is illegal under international law, the government of Indonesia is not in a position to decide East Timor's future. This decision ultimately rests with the East Timorese people and can only be made through a free and fair referendum under UN-supervision," Ms Brett said.

The ETHRC has also expressed caution about Jakarta's plan to move East Timorese Resistance leader, Xanana Gusm=E3o, from Cipinang prison to "house arrest", saying that the plan does not go far enough.

"We are concerned that Indonesia's proposal to transfer Xanana Gusm=E3o to another location would not enable him to fully participate in the dialogue to find a peaceful solution to the East Timor conflict. The unconditional release of Xanana Gusm=E3o is absolutely essential in order to demonstrate Indonesia's commitment to the peace process," Ms Brett said.

Clearly, there is a need for the government of Indonesia to show that it is genuine about finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. The ETHRC therefore urges the government of Indonesia to take the following steps:

1. Immediately cease offensive military operations in East Timor and put an end to the human rights violations which continue to be perpetrated by the Indonesian military and by civilian militia groups. This will include taking immediate steps to disarm all militia groups.

2. Allow the United Nations to have a permanent presence in East Timor to monitor the conduct of the Indonesian military and ensure respect for human rights. Allow UN monitors free and continuing access to all areas of East Timor.

3. Withdraw Indonesian troops from East Timor and ensure that troop withdrawals take place under UN supervision.

4. Set a timetable for a UN-supervised referendum to enable the East Timor to exercise their right to self-determination.

5. Immediately and unconditionally release Xanana Gusm=E3o and allow him, a= s President of the CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance), to participate in the dialogue for a peaceful settlement to the East Timor conflict.

6. Immediately and unconditionally release all East Timorese prisoners of conscience, detained or convicted solely for the non-violent expression of their views, and any other East Timorese prisoners, detained or convicted for political reasons.

7. Allow regular and unrestricted access to East Timor for international human rights organisations, including the ETHRC, for the purpose of human rights monitoring.

For further information 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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