Sept 6 press conference statements
For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller, 718-5967668;
Grassroots & Congressional Action Mark Anniversary of East Timor
East Timor Action Network Criticizes Bush Administration for
Inaction on Refugee Crisis and International Tribunal
September 5 --On Thursday, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN)
will mark two dark anniversaries for East Timor. The rights group will
take a variety of actions in 20 cities across the United States, including
hosting a press conference with members of Congress in Washington, DC.
These actions will call attention to the ongoing refugee crisis and the
need for an international tribunal for East Timor.
September 6 is the anniversary of the Indonesian military-led massacre
in 1999 in the town of Suai, East Timor, one of the worst after East Timor
voted overwhelmingly for independence. The date is also the first
anniversary of the murder of three United Nations refugee workers and
others by military-backed militia in Atambua, West Timor. A list of
activities can be found at http://www.etan.org/news/calendar.htm.
“East Timor took an historic step with last week’s democratic,
multiparty election. Yet, the U.S. and the wider international
community have failed to fully address critical issues," said John M.
Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "The victims of past crimes require
justice and all refugees in West Timor who wish to return must be able to
Approximately one-tenth of those eligible to vote last week in East
Timor's constituent assembly election could not do so. They were among the
estimated 80,000 East Timorese still held in squalid refugee camps in
Indonesian West Timor. Humanitarian workers have described widespread
malnutrition, epidemics, militia intimidation and violence against women
in the camps, which are controlled by militia backed by the Indonesian
East Timorese religious, political and community leaders have strongly
urged the creation of an international tribunal for war crimes and crimes
against humanity committed in East Timor. They believe an international
tribunal is necessary for East Timor's healing and reconstruction and have
endorsed the call by a United Nations special inquiry on East Timor for
such a tribunal.
"An international tribunal is the only way to be certain that the
Indonesian military commanders and political leaders most responsible are
held accountable for the systematic human rights abuses in East Timor.
Indonesia does not have the will and East Timor does not have the
resources or access to try them. An international tribunal is essential to
uphold international human rights standards and to end the impunity of the
Indonesian military," added Miller.
In Washington, DC at 11:30 am, tomorrow in Room SC-4 (Capitol
Building), Senator Tom Harkin (IA) and Representative Jim McGovern (MA)
will hold a press conference. With Senator Jack Reed (RI), they visited
East Timor in August 1999 just before its UN-organized referendum. The
Indonesian military devastated the country in retaliation for the
overwhelmingly pro-independence vote. On September 6, some two weeks after
the members of Congress visited Suai, the Indonesian military led a brutal
attack on refugees sheltering in the town’s churchyard, killing at least
200 people, including nuns and priests.
Exactly one year later, three international staff with the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, including U.S. citizen Carlos
Caceres, were hacked to death and their bodies set on fire by rampaging
military-backed militia in West Timor as Indonesian police stood by. An
unknown number of East and West Timorese civilians were also killed that
day. Six militiamen confessed to the crime, but Indonesian courts
sentenced them to prison terms of just 10 to 20 months, sparking
To commemorate the anniversaries, ETAN will hold demonstrations at the
Indonesian Embassy in Washington, DC, and the Indonesian consulates in
Chicago and San Francisco. Other grassroots actions will take place in
Tempe, AZ; Seattle; Green Bay, WI; Atlanta, and Philadelphia. These
demonstrations and vigils will urge Indonesia to fulfill its promises to
disarm the militia and allow the refugees to return home safely, as well
as demand justice for the people of East Timor through the establishment
of an international tribunal. Elsewhere, ETAN members will do local
education, outreach, and contact the media to raise awareness of the
“Such a high level of activity demonstrates the continued interest in
justice and security for East Timor, both in Congress and by local
communities. We are deeply disappointed that the Bush administration has
not made a priority of a just resolution to East Timor's refugee crisis or
even publicly called for an international tribunal,” said Diane
Farsetta, ETAN's Field Organizer. "We are disturbed by the
administration's stated plans to renew ties with the Indonesian military,
especially now as this repressive force continues its brutal tactics
against civilians throughout Indonesia. Tomorrow's activities should
encourage the administration to reconsider," she added.
Senator Harkin is the chief sponsor of Senate Concurrent Resolution 9
calling for "the establishment of an international war crimes
tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity" carried out by the
Indonesian military in East Timor. Representative McGovern is a co-sponsor
of the companion House Concurrent Resolution 60.
Interviews are available. Additional background on the Suai massacre
can be found at http://www.etan.org/news/2001a/09suai.htm.
For more information about the UNHCR killings, see http://www.etan.org/news/2000b/wtim.htm.
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.
Download & Leaflet on Sept. 6 massacre
anniversary (PDF file)
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