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U.S. Senate Legislation Passed - Continues Restrictions on Arms to Indonesia
East Timor Action Network Praises Ban on Use of U.S. Weapons in Timor

The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) praised Senate passage of restrictions on the use of weapons supplied to Indonesia. The provision, part of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill requires that any agreement to sell weapons to Indonesia "shall state that such items will not be used in East Timor." The Senate passed the legislation on Thursday, September 3, 1998.

"The Senate has strengthened a very important restriction on weapon sales to Indonesia. It sends a strong message to President Habibie and the Indonesian military that the U.S. Senate finds the Indonesian occupation of East Timor unacceptable," said Lynn Fredriksson, Washington Representative of ETAN. "The appropriations language increases the pressure on Indonesia to comply with international law," added Fredriksson.

The Senate bill strengthens the ban on use of U.S. weapons in East Timor instituted in last year's Foreign Operations appropriations law. This year's bill more clearly states that ban on the use of U.S. weapons in Indonesian-occupied territory. The House of Representatives has not yet voted on the bill.

"Although Indonesia's President Habibie has said he is willing to negotiate partial autonomy for East Timor, he continues to oppose a U.N.-supervised referendum," said John M. Miller of ETAN. "By passing this restriction, the Senate is saying that East Timor is not part of Indonesia. The people of East Timor should be allowed to decide on their own political future through a referendum."

The bill as amended also encourages political reform in Indonesia. It urges the government of Indonesia "to release individuals detained or imprisoned for their political views."

The bill calls for the thorough investigation and prosecution of those responsible for attacks, including gang rapes, on ethnic Chinese during rioting last May and offers funds to help in the investigation. It requires the Clinton administration to submit a report on the degree of participation of members of the armed forces of Indonesia in the riots. The Senate also urges Indonesia to take action to assure the rights of the ethnic Chinese and all other minority groups in Indonesia.

On July 10, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 237, which urges the Clinton administration to "work actively, through the United Nations and with United States allies, ... to support an internationally supervised referendum on self-determination."

The appropriations provision is the latest in a series of expanding restrictions on the U.S. sale of weapons to Indonesia. Under congressional and public pressure, the Clinton administration instituted a ban on small arms and riot control equipment in 1994. The ban has since been expanded to include armored personnel carriers and helicopter-mounted weaponry.

As passed by the Senate, the appropriations bill (Sec. 566) reads in full: "In any agreement for the sale, transfer, or licensing of any lethal equipment or helicopter for Indonesia entered into by the United States pursuant to the authority of this Act or any other Act, the agreement shall state that such items will not be used in East Timor."

After the December 1975 invasion of East Timor, the State Department's legal office said that the use of U.S. arms weapons during the invasion violated the agreement governing weapons sales to Jakarta signed in August 1950. The Mutual Defense Agreement Between the United States of America and Indonesia on Equipment, Materials and Services allows the use of the weapons "solely for legitimate national self-defense" as defined by the U.N. Charter. The United Nations, through ten Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, called Indonesia's invasion of East Timor an act of aggression and has never recognized Indonesia's rule over the territory.

On December 7, 1975, Indonesia brutally invaded East Timor. The following July 17, East Timor was illegally but formally "integrated" into Indonesia as its "27th province." The UN and most of the world's countries do not recognize this act, and the East Timorese reject it. According to human rights groups and the Catholic Church more than 200,000 -- one-third of the population – have been killed by the Indonesian occupation forces.

The East Timor Action Network/US was founded in November 1991, following the massacre of more than 271 peaceful demonstrators in Dili, East Timor. ETAN/US supports genuine self-determination and human rights for the people of East Timor in accordance with the UN Charter and General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. ETAN/US has 20 local chapters.