For Immediate Release
Attorneys and Legal Scholars Call for International Tribunal for East Timor
January 31, 2002 - In a statement issued today, attorneys and legal scholars urged the UN to establish an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against the people of East Timor.
"The time to prosecute the crimes inflicted upon the East Timorese through the establishment of an International Tribunal is now. Each step by the international community to prosecute the acts perpetrated against the East Timorese advances the rule of law, and signals that neither state-condoned nor state-perpetrated terror, wherever it occurs, will be tolerated," said the statement signed by nearly four dozen legal experts from around the world.
"We intend to keep pressing for justice for the people of East Timor, and will continue to collect signatures in support of a tribunal," said Anthony DiCaprio, the statement's organizer. "A tribunal is necessary to hold those high ranking officials who organized and implemented the destruction of East Timor accountable. The international community cannot countenance impunity." DiCaprio of the Center for Constitutional Rights was lead attorney, in a civil action in U.S. court, which resulted in a $66 million judgment against General Johny Lumintang, deputy chief of staff of the Indonesian Army in 1999.
The statement was released on the second anniversary of the publication of the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor. This comprehensive investigation found that the Indonesian governmental and military personnel participated in and were complicit in organizing and committing the violence in 1999. On August 30 of that year, the East Timorese people voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN organized referendum.
The Commission's January 31, 2000 report also recommended that the UN establish an International Tribunal for East Timor to try war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the territory which will become independent on May 20. The Security Council has yet to create a tribunal, citing promises by Indonesia that it would prosecute high-level Indonesian military perpetrators. The statement says that Indonesian actions to date do not "justify confidence in the [Indonesian] process." UN prosecution of serious crimes in East Timor is limited to mostly lower-level militia physically present in the territory.
East Timor was invaded by Indonesia on December 7, 1975. During Indonesia's 24-year occupation, more than 200,000 East Timorese, approximately one third of the population, were killed or disappeared. Following the August 30, 1999 vote, the Indonesian military and militia killed several thousand East Timorese, destroyed nearly all infrastructure, and forced some 250,000 East Timorese into Indonesian West Timor.
The full statement and signatures to date can be found on-line at http://www.etan.org/news/2002a/01law.htm
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