10 Years after Timor's Independence, Where Is the Justice?
Contact: John M. Miller, firstname.lastname@example.org
May 16, 2012 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
(ETAN) congratulated the people of Timor-Leste as they prepared to
celebrate the 10th anniversary of the restoration of their country's
independence on May 20.
"This important milestone is the result of the persistent struggle
and great suffering of the people of Timor-Leste," said ETAN's
National Coordinator John M. Miller. "ETAN is proud to have played
our part in supporting Timor's self-determination and now
"The nation faces many challenges. With independence, its people are
in a position to decide its future rather then have Indonesia impose
its will on them," he added.
Timor's independence was prevented for nearly 25 years by the U.S.
and other governments' support for Indonesia's illegal invasion and
occupation. Yet, no senior officials of any country have been held
accountable for the horrific human right violations and war crimes
that took place.
Human rights violators from elsewhere have been
prosecuted, often long after their crimes were committed. But Indonesia and
others continue to obstruct holding accountable those who facilitated and
carried out crimes during the occupation.
"The U.S., other governments and the United
Nations must commit themselves to achieve justice for the victims
and their families." said Miller. "ETAN will not rest until justice
"Human rights violators from elsewhere have been prosecuted, often
long after their crimes were committed. But Indonesia and others
continue to obstruct holding accountable those who facilitated and
carried out crimes during the occupation," he added.
impunity for the systematic Indonesian military and police crimes
prevents the people of Timor-Leste and Indonesia from consolidating
their democracies and moving on with their lives. While Timor-Leste
is now independent, its people will not be able to overcome their
tragic past without justice for what was done to them and their
Neither Congress nor the administrations of
George W. Bush and Barack Obama have responded to the
recommendations of Timor-Leste's Commission for Truth, Reception and
Reconciliation, although many of them are directly addressed to the
U.S. and other governments. These include the Commission's call for
an international tribunal to try perpetrators of crimes against
humanity during the Indonesian occupation, reparations from
Indonesia and other countries that supported the occupation, and
restrictions on foreign assistance to the Indonesian military.
"The U.S. and others should press President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
to immediately release all information that can help identify and
locate those who were disappeared during the occupation,”
The recent conviction of former Liberian
President Charles Taylor for his support of rights violators in
Sierra Leone should sound a note of caution for members of the Obama
and former US administrations. This
ruling provides a precedent for prosecuting those who arm, train
and politically support those who commit the worst abuses, even if
they do not directly organize or carry them out.
"The Obama administration should restrict U.S. military assistance
to Indonesia until the Indonesian generals and political leaders who
organized and directed numerous crimes against humanity during the
24-years of illegal occupation are credibly tried," Miller added.
Instead, the Obama administration is
considering the sale of deadly Apache attack helicopters to the
Read Noam Chomsky on 20 years of ETAN
With your help, we can put ETAN on a firmer footing for the
Please give generously in this anniversary year. In doing so,
you can help strengthen
ETAN to meet the challenges of the coming years.
As detailed in declassified documents released by the National
Security Archive and elsewhere, on December 6, 1975, then-U.S.
President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger gave Indonesian
dictator Suharto a green light to invade East Timor, which his
military did the next day. The U.S. supplied 90 percent of the
weapons used during the invasion. From Ford to President Clinton,
successive U.S. administrations consistently backed Indonesia's
occupation, providing Jakarta diplomatic cover and billions of
dollars in weaponry, military training, and economic assistance.
During more than two decades of occupation of Timor-Leste,
Indonesian soldiers committed serious crimes with impunity, taking
as many as 184,000 Timorese lives and torturing, raping and
displacing countless others. Timor-Leste became independent in 2002.
Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation researched
and documented the nation's
experiences during the occupation. The Commission's
comprehensive 2,500-page report recommended establishment of an
international criminal tribunal and also advocated that countries
(including the U.S.) which backed the occupation and corporations
which sold weapons to Indonesia during that period should pay
reparations to victims. The Commission urged the international
community not to support Indonesia's military until it was
thoroughly reformed and respectful of human rights.
Last year, ANTI (Timor-Leste National
Alliance for an International Tribunal) demanded that the United
Nations Security Council "cut the chain of impunity in Timor-Leste
and other countries by establishing a credible International
Tribunal in order to judge the principal perpetrators of serious
crimes and crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste during the
The UN-supported serious crimes process filed a
number of indictments of a number of Indonesian officials and East
Timorese militia leaders for crimes against humanity committed
during the referendum on independence in 1999.
ETAN was formed in reaction to the
1991 Santa Cruz massacre,
when hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were gunned down by
Indonesian troops carrying U.S.-supplied weapons. On May 20, ETAN
members will be honored by the Timorese government with the Laran
Luak medal for its contribution to the liberation of Timor-Leste.
The U.S.-based organization, which
celebrated its 20th
anniversary last December 10, advocates for democracy, justice
and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information
see ETAN's web site: