etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer

Media Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: John M. Miller, 718-5967668; mobile: 917-690-4391

May 17, 2003

East Timor Action Network Urges Gifts of Justice and Fairness on Country’s First Birthday

With the approach of the first anniversary of East Timor's independence, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today called on the U.S. government to actively support an international tribunal for East Timor. ETAN also urged the Australian government to honor the resource rights of the new nation by promptly and fairly negotiating maritime boundaries between the two countries. East Timor will celebrate one year of independence on Tuesday, May 20.

"Genuine justice for decades of atrocities and the unquestioned ability to develop its own natural resources would be two of the best birthday gifts for the people of East Timor. These issues are at the heart of international law and national sovereignty," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.

"Neither the courts in Indonesia nor those in East Timor are able to try the quarter-century of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Indonesia lacks the political will to hold high-ranking officials accountable, while most suspects remain out of the East Timorese court's reach," said Miller. “This lack of accountability for past atrocities seriously hampers nation-building and is destabilizing both East Timor and Indonesia.”

Indonesia's ad hoc human rights court on East Timor has been widely criticized for falsely portraying the Indonesian military’s devastation of East Timor as the result of civil war, among many other serious flaws. The court has so far acquitted 11 of 14 Indonesian defendants. The verdicts in the last two cases before the ad hoc court are expected shortly. The joint UN/East Timor Serious Crimes Unit and Special Panel court are unable to try the more than two-thirds of indicted suspects currently residing in Indonesia, including former Indonesian Defense Minister General Wiranto.

East Timorese Prime Minister Alkatiri recently told the Asia Times, "Crimes against humanity must be judged ... and the international community has primary responsibility... We cannot just ignore crimes against humanity, which are the gravest of crimes, yet take petty thieves to court. It would be a travesty of justice."

“Oil revenues are desperately needed for schools, clinics and roads in East Timor. Australia should give East Timor back its own resources on the new nation’s first birthday,” said ETAN field organizer Diane Farsetta. “If prevailing law were followed, most of the petroleum resources under debate would fall within East Timorese waters. International pressure is needed in order to prevent Australia from strong-arming East Timor into receiving less than its fair share." The new country is the poorest in Asia; unemployment is estimated at 70 percent and more than 40 percent of the population lives on less than 55 cents a day.

Negotiations surrounding East Timor's maritime boundaries with Australia are vitally important to the new country's economic development. Oil and natural gas deposits worth tens of billions of dollars lie between the two countries, under the Timor Sea. In March 2002, Australia unilaterally withdrew from the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, the mechanisms normally employed to resolve such territorial disputes. Australia is currently receiving revenues from disputed oil and gas fields under an interim agreement; it is widely known East Timor signed the agreement under protest.

ETAN also called attention to the U.S. role during the illegal Indonesian military occupation of East Timor, which lasted from 1975 to 1999. "We urge President Bush to expeditiously release the U.S. government documents requested by East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation,” said Miller. "A full accounting of the United States’ knowledge and actions during Indonesia's brutal occupation is essential if future crimes are to be prevented. These documents would be another great birthday gift for East Timor and would also be a step towards U.S. accountability for the military and political support it gave Indonesia during the occupation."

In a January 24, 2003 letter, the commission asked for U.S. documents on significant events and egregious human rights abuses that took place throughout Indonesia's occupation.

ETAN supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, economic justice and human rights, including women's rights. Since 1999, ETAN has joined with East Timorese civil society to urge the UN Security Council and Secretary-General Kofi Annan to establish an international tribunal. For additional information see ETAN's web site (


see also ETAN's Justice and Human Rights pages

see U.S. Rights Group Demands that Australian Government Stop Bullying East Timor





make a pledge via credit card here

Bookmark and Share

Background | Take Action | News | Links | What You Can Do | Resources  | Contact

ETAN Store | Estafeta | ImagesHome | Timor Postings | Search | Site Index |