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Feingold on Nobel Peace Prize 

News from Senator Russ Feingold

For immediate Release: November 18, 1996 Contact: Jennifer Francis (202) 224-5323

FEINGOLD, OTHERS URGE CLINTON TO RAISE RIGHTS OF EAST TIMORESE WITH INDONESIAN PRESIDENT SUHARTO AT APEC SUMMIT

Senators Say U.S. Should Play Leading Role in Advocating for Rights of East Timorese to Choose Own Government

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and 14 other U.S. Senators wrote to president Clinton today and urged him to take a leading role in advocating for the right of the East Timorese to choose their own government through a U.N. sponsored referendum when he meets with Indonesian President Suharto at next week's Asia-pacific Economic Cooperation (APR10) Summit in Manila.

"In particular, we believe that the occasion of your meeting with President Suharto at the APEC Summit offers an 1mportant opportunity to raise the issue of a United Nations-sponsored self-determination referendum for the people of East Timor," the senators wrote.

The group expressed concern over recent reports of the Indonesian military conducting systematic training of East Timorese youth to take part in local militia groups and increasing religious and ethnic tension in East Timor, which at times is exacerbated by government inaction.

"Human rights organizations from around the world, as well as our own State Department continue to report substantial human rights violations by the Indonesian government -- including arbitrary arrests and detentions, curbs on freedom of expression and association, and the use of torture and summary killings of civilians," the group said.

The letter also notes that the call by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo for a U.N. sponsored self determination referendum has reinvigorated the momentum behind this effort.

The letter was signed by Senators Moseley-Braun, Chafee, Simon, Lieberman, Harkin, Levin, Kohl, Boxer, Wellstone, Dodd, Mikulski, Murray, Kennedy, and Moynihan. 

Letter Text

United States Senate Washington, DC 20510

November 15, 1996

The Honorable William J. Clinton President of the United States 
The White House 
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue 
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Mr. President:

As you prepare for the next Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, to be held in the Philippines later this month, we wish to commend your Administration for its efforts in expanding united States trade opportunities in~ Asia. your continued personal involvement in APEC demonstrates America's strong interest in increasing economic ties in the region.

We believe that the APEC Summit also provides an important opportunity to focus on other U.S.- interests in the region, most notably the U.S. commitment to international human rights. In particular, we believe that the occasion of your meeting with Indonesian President Suharto at the APEC summit offers an important opportunity to raise the issue of a United Nations sponsored self-determination referendum for the people of East Timor.

As you know, Indonesia has sustained a brutal military occupation of East Timor since 1975, and the people of East Timor have lost thousands of lives as a result. Human rights organizations from around the world, as well as our own State Department~ continue to report substantial human rights violations by the Indonesian military -- including arbitrary arrests and detentions, curbs on freedom of expression and association, and the use of torture and summary killings of civilians.

More recently, we have heard reports of the Indonesian military conducting systematic training of East Timorese youth to take -- part in local militia groups. We also have heard disturbing reports of increasing religious and ethnic tension in East Timor, which at times is exacerbated by government inaction.

Page 2 Letter to President Clinton APEC Summit

Immediately after the Indonesian occupation of East Timor in 1975, and again in 1976, the risited Nations Security Council called for Indonesia to withdraw from the region and called for the recognition of East Timorese self-determination. From 1976 to 1982, the U.N. General Assembly adopted eight separate resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Ind6nesian armed forces from the territory. More recently, the European Union the Australian Senate, and others have delivered strong statements condemning the actions of the Indonesian government in East Timor and calling for a process of se1f-determination.

The recant announcement of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winners both East Timorese activists - has reinvigorated the momentum for self-determination. As you know, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo has long called for the self-determination of his people and reiterated his plea for a self-determination referendum immediately after receiving news of his Nobel prize.

We believe now is the time for the United States to take a leading role in advocating for the right of the East Timorese to choose their own government through a U.N. sponsored referendum. We urge you to raise the issue with president Suharto at the Summit, and then instruct U.S. Ambassador to the be United Nations Madeleine Albright to take appropriate. steps to bring about U.N. action on this matter.

Russell D. Feingold
Carol Moseley Braun
John Chafee
Paul Simon
Joseph L. Lieberman
Tom Harkin
Carl Levin
Herb Kohl
Barbara Boxer
Paul Wellstone
Christopher Dodd
Barbara A Mikulski
Patty Murray
Edward M. Kennedy
Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Return to Congressional Action on East Timor: Statements, etc.


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