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East Timor Action Network Calls for Action on Refugee Crisis and International Tribunal on Anniversary of East Timor Vote Agreement

For Immediate Release 
May 4, 2001

Contact: 
John M. Miller, (718)596-7668; 
(917)690-4391 (mobile)

The nationwide grassroots human rights organization, the East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN), is calling for an international tribunal on crimes against humanity in East Timor and an internationally-supervised registration and return of refugees now in Indonesia on the second anniversary of the agreement that established the East Timor's referendum on independence.

"ETAN condemns repeated broken promises by the Indonesian government and its security forces to disarm and disband militias terrorizing East Timorese refugees in Indonesian West Timor, as well as Indonesia’s dismal failure to hold any military or police officers accountable for the extensive human rights violations committed in East and West Timor," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.

Members of ETAN will participate in a national call-in to U.S. State and Defense Department officials on Friday demanding concerted U.S. action to promote the return of the refugees and the formation of an international tribunal to try those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor since Indonesia invaded the territory in 1975. They will also pressure the officials to maintain the suspension of military ties with Indonesia to support East Timor’s security and promote human rights and democracy in Indonesia.

Demonstrations will take place in Washington, DC; Madison, Wisconsin; and St. Paul-Minneapolis.

“This week marks two years of broken promises to East Timor and the international community by the Indonesian government and its security forces. Despite repeated promises by Indonesia, the long-suffering people of East Timor have yet to see justice for the crimes committed against them. East Timorese refugees in Indonesian West Timor continue to languish in militia-controlled camps more than a year and a half after the East Timorese voted for over-whelming independence,” said Miller.

May 5 is the two-year anniversary of the agreement between the governments of Indonesia and Portugal calling for a UN-supervised vote in East Timor on its political status. The agreement, which gave the Indonesian armed forces responsibility for maintaining peace and security during the referendum process, led to an overwhelming vote in favor of independence for East Timor on August 30, 1999. The brutal 24-year-long occupation of East Timor by Indonesian security forces had resulted in the deaths of over one-third of the East Timorese population.

The Indonesian security forces and their militias were responsible for extensive human rights violations in East Timor throughout 1999. Military intimidation and violence before the vote and the devastating wave of violence following the announcement of the ballot killed hundreds of East Timorese. Hundreds of women and girls were raped and three-quarters of the population was forced from their homes. The military destroyed 70%-80% of the country’s infrastructure. Today, militias based in West Timor continue to launch cross-border raids, attacking UN peacekeepers and civilians within East Timor. Up to 100,000 East Timorese refugees remain trapped in militia-controlled camps in Indonesian West Timor, where local aid organizations report up to five people a day die from malnutrition and disease. ETAN has called on the United States government and other nations to actively support an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for serious human rights abuses and crimes against humanity in East Timor.

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. was founded following the November 1991 massacre of over 270 East Timorese peacefully protesting the Indonesian military occupation. ETAN supports a democratic and peaceful transition to an independent East Timor. ETAN has 28 local chapters throughout the U.S. See www.etan.org for more information.

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