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
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