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ETAN Statement on Fifth Anniversary of East Timorís Independence Vote

For immediate release

Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668; 917-690-4391;

August 30, 2004

Five years ago today, the people of East Timor defying intense intimidation from the Indonesian security forces and their militia proxies voted overwhelmingly for independence, We celebrated that historic vote. Outraged, we mobilized as Indonesia capped over two decades of murder and mayhem by systematically destroying the country. Today, the scars of that destruction remain visible and more than two years after independence, East Timorís freedom struggle remains far from complete.

Five years later, the East Timorese people still crave justice and full control over their natural resources, and the Indonesian military continues to act with impunity.

Last week, the UN Secretary General told the Security Council that ďthose responsible for the serious crimes committed in 1999 must be held to account, and it is essential that justice is seen to be done in these cases.Ē The recent acquittals on appeal of Indonesian security officials further exposed Indonesiaís ad hoc courtís prosecutions as a sham, and international pledges of justice remain unfulfilled.

The violence in 1999 was a systematic assault not only on the East Timorese people, but on a UN mission. The UN must to heed East Timorís call for the international community to take the lead on issues of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity by setting up an international tribunal. This tribunal must have the resources and clout to credibly prosecute the top Indonesian officials responsible for organizing the most brutal and heinous crimes against the people of East Timor, beginning with Indonesiaís invasion on December 7, 1975.

We urge the Australian government to respect the sovereignty and resource rights of East Timor by promptly and fairly negotiating the maritime boundary between the two countries. Resource sharing agreements, while providing the new nation with much needed funds, are not a substitute for recognition of East Timorís rights. Australia should return the more than US$1 billion they have stolen so far from oil fields that are twice as close to their impoverished neighbor. East Timor should not have to share what rightfully belongs to it.

We call attention to the U.S. role during the 1999 and throughout the illegal Indonesian military occupation of East Timor. A full accounting of the U.S. governmentís knowledge and actions during the occupation is essential if future crimes are to be prevented. In 1999, mixed signals from the Clinton administration encouraged Indonesiaís campaign of terror. In early September, when the U.S. unambiguously cut-off its military, Indonesia quickly agreed to honor the vote and to withdraw.

In Aceh, West Papua and elsewhere, the Indonesian military continues to use the same brutal tactics, often directed by the same commanders, it refined in East Timor. The Bush administration's current efforts to step up training and other assistance to Indonesia's security forces has only encouraged more violations and legitimized continued impunity throughout the archipelago.


see Human Rights & Justice page

see U.S.-Indonesia Military Assistance page

see Timor Sea, Boundaries & Oil page



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