For Immediate Release
Contact: Karen Orenstein, +1-202-544-6911
John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668, +1-917-690-4391 email@example.com
Organizations Worldwide Urge Indonesian Action to Reunite East
Timorese Children with Their Families
Groups Urge Indonesian President to Display "Political Will"
to Free Children from Militia-Affiliated Institutions
February 20, 2003 -- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around
the world today urged Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri to step
up efforts to reunify East Timorese children with their families.
Thousands of East Timorese children were originally separated from their
families during 1999's devastation of their country; many were taken to
orphanages and other institutions throughout Indonesia.
Representatives of 66 NGOs based in 16 countries sent a letter to
President Megawati Sukarnoputri expressing dismay at "the slow pace
of your government's efforts to achieve reunification."
The full text of the letter and a list of signers can be found at http://www.etan.org/news/2003a/01chlett.htm.
While praising the Indonesian government's recent initiatives on the
issue, the NGOs stressed the seriousness of the situation by stating,
"The coercive separations of East Timorese children, the failure to
honor the requests of parents for reunification, and the lack of prompt
government action in these cases are in clear violation" of
Indonesia's obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Indonesia ratified the Convention in 1990.
Many of the children were taken from East Timor and refugee camps in
West Timor by foundations run by pro-Indonesian East Timorese and sent to
orphanages and other institutions throughout Indonesia around the time of
East Timor's 1999 vote for independence. Observers have concluded that the
foundations are brainwashing the children about current conditions in East
Timor and the country's history and future as part of a possible plan to
re-integrate the now-independent East Timor into Indonesia.
"The East Timorese children's 'caretakers' have repeatedly denied
parents' requests for the return of their children. They have aggressively
thwarted the UNHCR's [UN High Commission for Refugees] and the
International Rescue Committee's reunification efforts, at times making
direct physical threats against agency staff," stated the NGOs.
At least 600 East Timorese children remain in Indonesian institutions.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. coordinated the NGO statement.
Signatories included the Association of Law, Human Rights and Justice in
East Timor (HAK), Kontras (Commission for Disappearances and Victims of
Violence) in Indonesia, Pax Christi USA and the U.S. Committee for
In addition to President Megawati, copies of the letter were sent to
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers, the East Timor
Red Cross Society, Jesuit Refugee Service and U.S. officials.
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. For more
information, see ETAN's web site at http://www.etan.org.
see also ETAN's
Refugee and Separated Children pages