Contact: John M. Miller, 917-690-4391
UN Human Rights Commission Abandons Justice for East Timor
ETAN Calls Statement a Rotten Present for Millennium's First New
April 22 - The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) described the UN
Commission on Human Rights statement on East Timor as "a rotten
birthday present for the soon-to-be independent nation."
Statement on the Situation in Human Rights in East Timor was issued in
"The statement essentially abandons any pretense that those most
responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed
in East Timor should be brought to justice," said John M. Miller,
spokesperson for ETAN.
"The statement ignores flaws identified by the UN
High Commissioner for Human Rights in Indonesia's ad hoc human rights
courts on East Timor," said Miller. "Any reference to the
ridiculously limited mandate of the court - two months out of a 24-year
military occupation and only three of East Timor's 13 districts - has been
removed. Those sitting on the Human Rights Commission cannot expect anyone
to take this statement seriously if it does not even mention this most
basic jurisdictional flaw."
The ad hoc court is now
hearing cases against some mid-level Indonesian
officers and pro-Indonesian East Timorese.
In her report to the
Commission, High Commissioner Mary Robinson, said
the "limited jurisdiction conferred upon the Court does not address
the actual situation as reported to various United Nations officials,
independent experts and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who
investigated the 1999 violence." The report called "upon the
international community to reconsider the recommendations of the [United
Nations] International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor, including that
concerning the establishment by the United Nations of an international
human rights tribunal."
Since 1999, ETAN has joined with East Timorese civil society to urge
the U.S. and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to work to establish an
"An international tribunal is essential to ensure that those at
the highest levels of the Indonesian military and government responsible
for the violence against the people of East Timor are brought to
justice," said Miller.
"We are also concerned about the statement’s singling out of the
murder of journalist Sander Thoenes. He and his family certainly deserve
to have the perpetrators of this vicious crime brought to justice, but by
focusing on this case, the commission has indicated a lack of concern for
the thousands of other victims killed in 1999, as well as their loved ones
and the hundreds of thousands murdered, tortured, raped and imprisoned in
the 23 previous years of Indonesia’s military occupation," said
Miller also said that while the commission statement "'welcomes
the agreement of UNTAET/East Timorese authorities and the Government of
Indonesia to strengthen ongoing co-operation on judicial matters,' the
statement fails to recognize Indonesia's disregard for the existing
Memorandum of Understanding between the parties, including Indonesia's
refusal to extradite any suspects for prosecution or questioning to East
"The Chairperson's Statement glosses over the ongoing refugee
crisis and ignores the failure to disarm and arrest hard-line militia
which threaten East Timor's long-term security," said Miller.
"Nor is there any mention of the estimated 1600 children still
separated from their parents through force or coercion since 1999, some
160 of whom remain in orphanages throughout Indonesia," added Miller.
"Tragically, no Human Rights Commission Statement has even touched
on the terrible human rights record of the Indonesian security forces and
the ongoing atrocities committed against civilians. They are killing
women, children, and men in Aceh and terrorizing the people of West
Papua," added Miller.
Following the August 30, 1999 UN-organized referendum, the Indonesian
military and its militia proxies systematically destroyed East Timor,
murdering at least 2000 East Timorese, destroying over 70 percent of the
infrastructure and raping hundreds of women. Hundreds of thousands were
forced from their homes. Resistance leader Xanana Gusmao was just declared
the winner of the first presidential election in East Timor. The country
will gain full independence on May 20. Gusmao has urged the international
community to take prime responsibility for bringing perpetrators of
atrocities to justice while he focuses on reconciliation.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) 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 26 local chapters throughout the U.S.
For additional information see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).
See also TAPOL/CIIR press release dated 22 April 2002
Amnesty International: The UN's highest human rights body fails victims in Indonesia and East Timor
APCET: UN Human Rights Body Copping Out on East Crimes
see also: ETAN Urges U.S. to Support
Int'l Criminal Court (Dec. 19, 2000)
UN Press Conference with Filomena Barros dos Reis (2/26/02)
Justice for East Timor Will Not Come
from Indonesian Indictments (2/26)
Newly Appointed Indonesian Judges Will
Not Provide Long-Delayed Justice for East Timor (1/15)
ad-Hoc court news