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On 30th Anniversary of Indonesian Invasion of East Timor, ETAN Calls for Justice, Understanding of U.S. Role

For Immediate Release

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

December 7 - On the 30th anniversary of Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) today called on the world to listen to East Timor’s victims and act on their demands for justice. The group also urged the United States government to formally acknowledge its past support for Indonesia’s brutal military occupation of East Timor, and for the international community to learn from this history and never repeat the same crimes.

“The U.S. was the most important supporter of Indonesia’s illegal attack and occupation,” said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. “If President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger had not given the go-ahead for Indonesia’s 1975 invasion, tremendous suffering would have been avoided,” added Miller.

The group also reiterated its call for release of the report of East Timor’s Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (known by its Portuguese initials, CAVR) and encouraged the U.S. and other governments to act on its recommendations.

“The CAVR’s recommendations are essential to charting a course of justice for the victims and provide a strong basis for reconciliation at all levels,” said Miller. “Although the people of East Timor were the primary victims of the quarter-century of occupation that began 30 years ago today, such crimes against humanity victimize us all.”

“The CAVR’s findings provide important details and recommendations about the tremendous suffering U.S.-supplied weapons inflicted on the East Timorese people, suffering which was facilitated by U.S. political, diplomatic and military support. The CAVR’s account will help us realize the horrendous impact of U.S. government policies throughout the occupation,” said Karen Orenstein, National Coordinator of ETAN.

“Clearly, the current administration has not learned critical lessons from that period. Last month, the Bush administration steam-rolled over congressional intent by issuing a waiver to allow unfettered U.S. support for Indonesia’s unrepentant military,” added Orenstein.

On December 7, 1975, Indonesia launched its full-scale invasion of East Timor only hours after U.S. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave the green light to Suharto, the Indonesian dictator. The U.S. supplied nearly all weapons used.

Declassified documents released last week by the Washington-based National Security Archive (NSA) confirm that several U.S. administrations understood that Indonesia intended to invade East Timor, and that the invasion and occupation were rife with human rights violations and catastrophic suffering. At the same time, successive administrations concealed this information from Congress and the American people. The NSA researched and obtained these documents to assist the CAVR in its work.

The U.S. supplied 90 percent of the weapons used during the invasion. For the next twenty-four years, from Ford to Clinton, successive U.S. administrations consistently backed Indonesia’s occupation, providing Jakarta diplomatic cover and billions of dollars worth of weaponry, military training and economic assistance. These actions resulted in the killing of many tens of thousands of East Timorese civilians.

"Since Timor’s independence referendum in September 1999, Washington has provided monetary and other assistance to East Timor’s reconstruction and development, but such aid does not even begin to compensate the East Timorese people for the suffering caused by 24 years of U.S. support for Indonesian military occupation,” said Miller. “Along with the CAVR, we agree that the U.S. owes East Timor reparations.”

The CAVR recommends reparations to victims from countries like the U.S. which backed the occupation and from corporations which profited from selling weapons to Indonesia during that period.

ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East Timor and Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975 to 1999 and for restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces and full accountability for human rights violations.

Spokespeople for ETAN are available for interviews, call 718-596-7668.


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