For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668, 917-690-4391 (cell)
East Timor Holds First Free Elections August 30
New Country Moves Towards Full Independence with Refugee Crisis, Justice Issues Unresolved
August 28, 2001-- The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) welcomed this weekís election in East Timor as an important milestone in East Timorís path to independence, but cautioned that many important issues must be still be addressed by the international community. On Thursday, August 30, the people of East Timor will go to the polls to elect a national assembly. On the second anniversary of 1999ís historic referendum for independence, voters will elect an 88 member body tasked with writing the national constitution in a mere 90 days. The country, currently under United Nations administration, is expected to become independent in 2002. Key concerns include:
The continuing refugee crisis. Approximately one-tenth of East Timorís population is unable to vote because they continue to be held in Indonesian military and militia-controlled refugee camps, mostly in Indonesian West Timor. Up to 80,000 refugees remain in the camps, under extremely poor conditions, two years after Indonesian troops and their militia proxies forced them across the border during the post-referendum devastation of East Timor.
The need for an international tribunal. War crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Indonesian military during and prior to 1999 have been well documented, but no military members have yet been held accountable for the murders, rapes, forced population movements, property destruction, or other gross human rights abuses committed in East Timor. Many have in fact been promoted within the Indonesian military. An international tribunal, called for by East Timorese leaders and non-governmental organizations as well as two UN commissions, is needed to prosecute those most responsible.
International accountability. East Timorese leaders and non-governmental organizations have charged the United Nations and other international institutions with not consulting adequately with East Timorese and not allowing adequate time for the institutions of the new nation to be firmly established during the transitional period. As the international presence decreases sharply over the next year, it is crucial that every effort be made to meet East Timorís needs, strengthen local capacity and reflect local priorities.
Border security. Indonesian military-backed militias continue to destabilize East Timor by launching cross-border raids from their bases in the West Timor refugee camps. Many militia leaders say they plan to increase hostilities when the UN reduces its peacekeeping presence in East Timor next year.
The following ETAN members are available for interviews, to discuss East Timorís upcoming elections, critical issues, and U.S. policy towards the region:
John M. Miller, Brooklyn, NY;
718-596-7668, 917-690-4391 (cell)
Diane Farsetta, Madison, WI; 608-663-5431; 608-347-4598 (cell)
Ben Terrall, San Francisco, CA; 510-985-0385;
Chris Lundry, Tempe, AZ; 480-784-4696; 480-965-5881 (office)
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights, including women's rights. ETAN has 28 local chapters. For additional information, see ETAN's web site: http://www.etan.org.
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