etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer For Immediate Release
May 13, 2002

Contact: Diane Farsetta, 608-663-5431 
John M. Miller, 718-5967668; mobile: 917-690-4391

Women Worldwide Call For an International Tribunal For East Timor

Officials, Scholars And Activists Say Justice For Crimes Against Timorese Women Needed Now

Women from across the world said today that an international tribunal was the only way to hold accountable those most responsible for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor.

More than 125 women from 14 countries and 22 U.S. states signed the statement, which was released by the East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) less than a week before East Timor becomes the first new nation of the millennium.

“The Indonesian [ad hoc Human Rights] court will not adequately address cases of gender violence and the systematic targeting of women and children, among other serious crimes,” asserts the statement, which is signed by such well-known women as activist Gloria Steinem; actor Susan Sarandon and playwright Eve Ensler; Judith Shapiro, President of Barnard College; authors Naomi Klein and Susan Brownmiller; Jessica Neuwirth, President of Equality Now; Eleanor Smeal of Feminist Majority; author and organizer Vandana Shiva of India; and human rights defender Sister Dianna Ortiz. Three members of Congress, Representatives Tammy Baldwin (WI), Barbara Lee (CA) and Cynthia McKinney (GA), also signed.

“This strong showing of international women’s solidarity recognizes the suffering of East Timorese women during the Indonesian military occupation, while paying tribute to the long tradition of women working for justice and peace,” said ETAN field organizer Diane Farsetta. “The wide range of signatories, including members of Congress, authors, actors and activists demonstrates the strong consensus on this important issue.”

The statement was initiated by women’s groups in East Timor and begins by quoting REDE, the East Timorese Women’s Network: “Of all the victims of Indonesian military violence the greatest suffering was borne by women, who up to this time, have not met with the justice they hoped for.”

In 1975, the Indonesian military illegally invaded and occupied East Timor; more than one-third of East Timor’s population was killed. Women were specifically targeted by the Indonesian military with rape, kidnapping and torture, as well as forced “marriage” and sterilization. In 1999, over 98 percent of eligible East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-organized referendum. After the results were announced, the Indonesian military and its militias carried out a brutal scorched-earth campaign in retaliation, killing at least 2,000 people, raping hundreds of women and girls, displacing some 600,000 people, and destroying more than 75 percent of the country’s infrastructure. An international peacekeeping force finally restored stability a month later, and the UN has administered the territory since then. On May 20, East Timor becomes fully independent.

Investigations by the UN and the Indonesian government’s own human rights commission found the Indonesian military responsible for 1999’s atrocities. UN commissions and High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson have called for an international human rights tribunal to be established for East Timor. Seeking to avoid international action, the Indonesian government promised to hold its own trials. Its ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor began hearing cases last March. However, Indonesian and international human rights groups have sharply criticized the court. The International Crisis Group recently reported that the process is so problematic it may “trivialize… the concept of crimes against humanity in Indonesia.”

The women’s statement released today by ETAN recalls the advance made “last year by the decision of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia… classify[ing] rape as a crime against humanity,” and adds, “atrocities committed against the people of East Timor deserve no less attention.”

“The release of the statement soon after Mother’s Day and just one week before East Timor’s independence is very fitting,” added Farsetta. “We hope this strong stand taken by women around the world will be heeded by the Security Council and world governments. The mothers of East Timor deserve the peace only justice can give them, and the international community has an obligation to welcome the birth of the world’s newest country with a renewed commitment to justice.”

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. is a nationwide grassroots human rights organization, which has worked for self-determination, human rights and justice for East Timor for the past ten years. The full women’s statement and list of signatories can be found on ETAN’s website at www.etan.org/news/2002a/02women.htm.


see also Women and East Timor and Human Rights Accountability and Justice pages



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