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Measure Links Weapons Sales to Progress on Human Rights in East Timor

Reports of Violence Continue in Region

Press Release from U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, full text

July 15, 1994 
CONTACT: David Sandretti, (202)224-5323

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Senate passed an amendment co-authored by U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), restricting certain arms sales to Indonesia amid concerns of continued human rights abuses in East Timor, an island occupied by Indonesia since 1975. Since the annexation, as many as 200,000 East Timorese have died.

The amendment codifies a policy of the Clinton Administration which links the selling or licensing for export of small or light arms and crowd control items until the Secretary of State determines that there has been significant progress on human rights in East Timor.

"This is a significant victory for those of us who are working to establish a firm linkage between U.S. arms sales and the promotion of human rights around the world," Feingold said. "This sends a clear message to the leaders of Indonesia that we will not be associated with or tolerate their campaign of repression against the people of East Timor."

The Leahy-Feingold amendment to the foreign operations appropriation bill (H.R.4426) restores an altered version of the arms sales ban which was accepted in the Senate Appropriations Committee, but was dropped by the full Senate two weeks ago. The Clinton Administration had earlier expressed its approval of the effort to scuttle the provision. "I am pleased that the Administration, Secretary of State Christopher, and a majority of my Senate colleagues have clarified their position on this issue and have come down on the side of promoting human rights in Indonesia," Feingold said.

Among the specific areas for human rights progress called for in the amendment, arms sales will be restricted until Indonesia complies with the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Commission and significantly reduces its troop presence in East Timor. The amendment urges that Indonesia participate constructively in the United Nations Secretary General's efforts to resolve the status of East Timor. The U.N. does not recognize Indonesia's sovereignty over East Timor and has a plan to administer internationally supervised elections so that the people of East Timor can exercise their right to self-determination.

Yesterday, Associated Press and United Press International reported renewed violence in the region as students clashed with Indonesian soldiers after protesting an incident in which two soldiers desecrated Communion bread at a Catholic church service. Three students were killed, dozens injured, and hundreds more were restricted from leaving their locations. The protest is reportedly the bloodiest demonstration in East Timor since a November 1991 demonstration in which the Indonesian military opened fire on a crowd of people and killed at least 100 people.

"I'm concerned that the incident is yet another example of Indonesia's sorry record on human rights," Feingold said. "America cannot allow itself to become the arms merchant to this continued atrocity."

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see also Congressional Record


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