|Subject: U.S. lawmakers call for tribunal
on 1999 East Timor violence
Also: ABC - US may block military aid to Indonesia (interview w/ Sen. Harkin); AFP - Congressmen demand action on Timor trials, two years after
U.S. lawmakers call for tribunal on 1999 East Timor violence
By Stephen Steele
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Indonesian military officers and militias responsible for the mayhem surrounding the 1999 referendum in East Timor should be brought before an international tribunal for crimes against humanity, U.S. lawmakers said.
"We would like to see the Bush administration take a leadership role in pushing for a tribunal,'' said Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Mass., during a Sept. 6 Capitol Hill press conference.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, warned that he would block any attempt by the Bush administration to provide military funding to Indonesia unless a tribunal is established.
``If they want to re-establish military aid to Indonesia and spend U.S. taxpayers' money without us having a say, they they're sadly mistaken,'' said Harkin, who sponsored a Senate resolution calling for a tribunal.
``We're going to push our resolution. And when they ask for money for Indonesia, we're going to put the brakes on,'' he added.
The date of the press conference coincided with the two-year anniversary of a massacre at a church in Suai, in southwestern East Timor. Church officials estimated that about 400 people, including three priests, were shot, hacked with machetes and burned alive at the church compound.
The date also marked the anniversary of the death of three U.N. refugee workers, including an American citizen, in West Timor.
Harkin said a Rwanda-style tribunal was needed to try the Indonesian officers who coordinated the violence in East Timor and the militia members who carried it out.
``This is like Rwanda; this is like the Balkans. We established war crime tribunals there. ... We're bringing people to justice in Rwanda. We need to do the same in East Timor,'' he said.
Harkin said the Bush administration could help stabilize Indonesia by holding its military accountable for its actions.
``The most destabilizing force in Indonesia has been its military. It's no wonder people want to break away,'' he said.
Indonesia invaded East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, in 1975. More than 200,000 people were killed or died of starvation or disease during Indonesia's often brutal rule.
After the East Timorese voted for independence following the 1999 U.N.-sponsored referendum, East Timor descended into anarchy and violence. More than 1,000 Timorese were killed, and most of the country's infrastructure was destroyed in the following weeks.
Church and human rights officials have said the violence was part of an orchestrated campaign by elements of the Indonesian military who financed, trained and supported armed militias to undermine the vote and destabilize East Timor.
The lawmakers said that by holding accountable the Indonesian generals and officers who coordinated the killings, a clear signal would be sent to other countries that human rights abuses on any scale would not be tolerated.
McGovern and Harkin, along with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., visited East Timor two weeks before the 1999 referendum. While there, they visited the parish in Suai, where they met with Fathers Hilario Madeira, Francisco Soares and Jesuit Father Tarcisius Dewanto, all of whom were killed later.
Father Madeira told the lawmakers before his death that the Indonesian military had turned off the parish's water supply. Some 4,000 people had sought refuge in the church compound.
The congressional delegation was able to get the water turned on after complaining to former Indonesian President B.J. Habibie.
``While were able to get them water, we could not save their lives. A real tragedy took place,'' McGovern said.
The same day as the press conference, U.N. officials announced that the resistance party Fretilin won East Timor's first free elections and will head a coalition government.
On Aug. 30, more than 300,000 people, 91.3 percent of registered voters, elected an assembly that will draw up East Timor's constitution.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation [The World Today] September 7, 2001 -transcript-
COMPERE: A United States Senator is warning that the US may block military aid to Indonesia unless there's an accounting for the bloodshed which occurred in East Timor after its historic independence vote. As part of a wider push within the Congress to establish an International War Crimes Tribunal to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the violence. Here's our Washington correspondent Michael Carey.
MICHAEL CAREY: In 1975 Tom Harkin was the first member of the US Congress to push a motion condemning the Indonesian invasion and annexation of East Timor. A quarter of a century later, the Iowa Democrat is still pushing for accountability on a cause which has taken the interest of very few Americans.
TOM HARKIN: This is like Rwanda. This is like the Balkans and we've established War Crimes Tribunals for those countries and we need to do it again for East Timor.
MICHAEL CAREY: Senator Harkin's comments came as a resolution urging the creation of an International War Crimes Tribunal, picks up support in signatories in Congress.
The Senator himself visited the then Indonesian territory of East Timor in 1999, only days before the vote took place. One stop was a western border town where hundreds of people had taken shelter in a church compound to seek safety from the militias.
TOM HARKIN: One of the places we went was to Suai. This church and these priests had provided them the sanctuary there for them. We left, the election was held. Father Dewonto, Father Francisco and Father Hilario were murdered in cold blood. As were 200 of the people that we met there that day. Not one person has been formally charged, let alone prosecuted for this massacre.
MICHAEL CAREY: Harkin and like-minded colleagues want to see pressure remain on Indonesia to address the violence which accompanied East Timor's independence, and to deal with the continued presence of tens-of-thousands of refugees in militia controlled camps in West Timor. Massachusetts Congressman James McGovern.
JAMES MCGOVERN: I think the international community -- I think the United States failed the people of East Timor and I want to make sure that we don't fail them again.
MICHAEL CAREY: But the Bush Administration seems to have other priorities, seeing improved relations with Indonesia as an important component of its Asia-Pacific strategy. To that end the Administration has signalled restoring military ties to Jakarta replete with military aid and training.
However, with the Democrats in control of the Senate, that may not be straightforward. According to Senator Harkin, now a senior member of the Senate's Appropriation Defence Committees.
TOM HARKIN: If they believe they're going to be able to establish military resumptions and they're going to be able to just move ahead and spend US taxpayer's dollars to do that without us throwing a monkey wrench in the works, they're sadly mistaken.
MICHAEL CAREY: Will you be actively blocking money for military ties to Indonesia?
TOM HARKIN: Absolutely. I'll do everything I can to stop it.
COMPERE: US Senator Tom Harkin speaking to our Washington correspondent Michael Carey.
Agence France Presse
Congressmen demand action on Timor trials, two years after Suai massacre
WASHINGTON, Sept 6
US Congressmen and activists on Thursday issued a demand for a war crimes trial to probe the role of Indonesia's military in militia killings sparked by East Timor's independence vote two years ago.
On the second anniversary of the massacre of around 200 civilians in a church in the western settlement of Suai, Massachusetts Representative James McGovern demanded an end to a "legacy of violence, destruction, fear and sorrow," which haunts the territory, despite its first democratic election last month.
He called for an international tribunal to bring to justice Indonesian military officers and generals who are widely believed to have plotted and stoked militia violence following the independence vote in August 1999.
McGovern, who two years ago visited the former Portuguese colony which was annexed by Jakarta in 1975, also demanded immediate steps to protect refugees who fled over the border into West Timor who still have been unable to return.
He warned US officials against resuming military aid to Indonesia which was suspended amid global outrage at the militia rampages which followed the 1999 vote.
Moves have been made by the Bush administration in recent weeks here to sound out members of Congress on how much political latitude there is for a limited resumption of contacts with the Indonesian military, congressional sources say.
McGovern's call was supported by Senator Jack Reed, who last visited East Timor in December 1999.
"Despite the long-awaited peaceful elections and the progress they imply, conditions in East Timor are still far from ideal.
Families are separated and 80,000 East Timorese are still in military and militia controlled refugee camps in neighbouring West Timor, " he said.
Resistance party Fretilin won East Timor's first free elections, United Nations officials announced Thursday, but it failed to score the two-thirds majority which would have let it dictate the territory's first constitution.
On August 30, more than 300,000 people, 91.3 percent of registered voters, thronged the polling booths to for a body which will draw up East Timor's founding constitution and become the national parliament by early December.
[see http://www.etan.org/news/2001a/09cong.htm for copies of statements]
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