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January-February 2001: East Timor 


What You Can Do

THE COMING MONTHS are an excellent time to raise issues concerning East Timor and Indonesia with members of Congress (returning and newly-elected) and other officials. Important issues to raise include: 

Ongoing Refugee Crisis 

  • Military-supported militias must be verifiably disarmed and disbanded. Militia leaders should be arrested and extradited to East Timor to stand trial. 
  • Indonesia must guarantee international and local humanitarian workers safe and unimpeded access to refugees. 
  • An internationally-supervised registration of refugees must be conducted in an environment free of fear and intimidation to enable refugees to choose to return to East Timor or settle in Indonesia. 
  • The U.S. must maintain heightened pressure on Indonesia to comply with their promised disarmament campaign. 

Suspension of U.S.-Indonesia Military Ties

  • Until the refugee crisis is resolved (through the conditions above being met), the Indonesian civilian government clearly controls the Indonesian military, and those responsible for human rights atrocities committed in East Timor are held accountable for their actions, the current suspension of all military ties must be maintained. International Tribunal 
  • The U.S. should unequivocally support an international tribunal for East Timor in which military and militia leaders responsible are prosecuted for their systematic human rights abuses and crimes against humanity from 1975 on.. See below for more information.

Timor for the East Timorese 

  • Calls by the East Timorese people for greater participation in decision-making power about their own country’s future must be heeded by the UN administration, member governments of the UN, and international NGOs and institutions.

What You Can Do 

Call or Write the Incoming Administration with the above messages

Meet with Members of Congress 

Meet with your representatives and senators in-person at their home offices or call their offices. The new Congress begins January 3. Plan to educate any newly-elected representative or senator and contact returning members to reiterate your concerns. (Call your local League of Women Voters for contact information, or go to and type in your zip code to find your representative and senators.) See ETAN’s website for legislation considered by the 106th Congress; some of these bills will be re-introduced in the new Congress.

Write, Write, Talk, Talk 
Write letters-to-the-editor and op-eds to educate your community via local media outlets. Arrange interviews with East Timor activists on your local radio and television station. Contact ETAN outreach coordinator John M. Miller (, 718-596-7668) for assistance. Consult the ETAN website for sample letters-to-the-editor.

Organize Local Events 
Organize local events to educate the public about East Timor in your hometown. Arrange video screenings of documentaries on East Timor, Indonesia, and U.S. foreign policy. Hold local fund-raisers to raise money for East Timorese organizations and/or the East Timor Action Network. Network with labor activists about supporting East Timorese efforts to advocate for worker rights. Start a book drive to help rebuild East Timor's destroyed libraries. Contact ETAN staff Karen Orenstein (, 202-544-6911) for more information about such worthy projects in East Timor.

Thank you! Your efforts make a big difference


Indonesia's recent promises to disarm militias in West Timor have once again proven largely hollow. Indonesian security forces in West Timor have confiscated homemade weapons, but few modern ones.

The killings of three UN High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) workers in September, including an American citizen, most international humanitarian organizations have abandoned West Timor. Few humanitarian workers have returned. Supplies of food and medicine are running dangerously low. Militias have tightened their control over some refugee camps, taking roll call every night. In areas where militia control has weakened, repatriation has often increased, demonstrating a direct link between militia intimidation and repatriation. Returning refugees tell of money and goods confiscated by Indonesian soldiers.

Immediately following the September 6 militia rampage in Atambua, West Timor,  the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1319 (UNSCR 1319) calling for "immediate and effective action" to resolve the crisis in West Timor.  A UN Security Council delegation visited West Timor in mid-November to assess compliance with UNSCR 1319 and found continued intimidation and misinformation by the militias. It called the conditions of the refugees in the "dilapidated" camps "truly depressing." 

No Indonesian military personnel and appallingly few East Timorese militia leaders have been held accountable for human rights violations committed in East or West Timor. Though notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres is finally in custody, Indonesian authorities have refused to honor a UN request to extradite him to East Timor. Meanwhile, some Indonesian leaders are hailing Guterres and other militia thugs as national heroes! In August, Indonesia's upper house of parliament undermined its own ability to achieve genuine accountability for past human rights abuses by passing a constitutional amendment prohibiting retroactivity in prosecutions. Indonesia's new human rights court legislation may allow some prosecutions but there are many obstacles and justice will likely be delayed if not denied, underscoring the need for an international human rights tribunal as called for by the East Timorese leadership to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor.

Parliamentarians also voted to extend the military's right to 38 parliamentary seats until at least 2009. Indonesia's new human rights court legislation may allow some prosecutions but there are many obstacles. Justice will likely be delayed if not denied, underscoring the need for an international human rights tribunal as called for by the East Timorese leadership to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor. Within East Timor, the Serious Crimes Unit of the UN administration faces a grave lack of resources, resulting in few investigations of atrocities committed last year.

I n mid-October, Indonesia's aid donors, including the World Bank, IMF, and U.S., in the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI) together pledged $5.3 billion in assistance to Indonesia. Prior to the CGI meeting, the U.S. and World Bank threatened that aid could be jeopardized if Indonesia failed to curtail the militias. The U.S. administration has since said that "our pledge is based on the assumption that Indonesia will fulfill its responsibilities to the international community, including continued and full compliance with UNSCR 1319, and that our willingness to proceed with obligations under our pledge will take into account Indonesia's progress toward these goals." The U.S. must keep its word and be prepared to withhold financial assistance if militias retain control of West Timor.

A timetable for full independence will be developed shortly with Independence Day likely to come in late 2001. East Timorese are calling for greater East Timorese participation in decision-making about their country's future. They want a more active partnership with the U.N. and international NGOs and an end to international institutions making choices for them; more East Timorese administrators with real authority, and the active participation by all segments of East Timorese society in decisions about land use, education, health, and development policy. As a member of the U.N. Security Council -- which has authority over UNTAET, the UN administration in East Timor -- the U.S. must continue to press for greater Timorization of UNTAET and for international assistance that meets East Timorese needs and follows their priorities.

January  2001

East Timor Action Network 
PO Box 1182 White Plains, NY 10602 
(914) 428-7299;

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