HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Washington, DC 20515
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Representative/Senator ___________,
I am writing to express my deepest concern for the plight of more than 100,000 East Timorese refugees remaining in West Timor more than 6 months after Indonesian military and militia-backed violence forced them from their homes. An additional unknown number of others taken by boat and airplane to other islands of Indonesia are still missing. I am greatly alarmed that the Clinton administration is considering re-engagement with the Indonesian military (TNI) despite continued Indonesian military and militia violence in East and West Timor.
The situation for East Timorese refugees remains dire. While some may choose to stay in Indonesia, more than two-thirds of the refugees in West Timor wish to return home. Conditions in the camps are horrendous, with high levels of malnutrition and a severe lack of adequate healthcare. UNICEF recently reported that one in four children under the age of five suffers from acute malnutrition. Unconfirmed reports cited by the UNHCR say some 700 East Timorese have died due to inadequate sanitation and medical care many of who were children. Despite this, access to many of the camps by humanitarian organizations remains limited, and aid workers have been repeatedly threatened. Refugees further face ongoing threats and intimidation by TNI-supported militias. These militias continue to spread disinformation to discourage East Timorese from returning home. Returns are further impeded by an absence of open land routes for border crossing - only two exist at this time.
I urge you to personally request that Secretary of State Albright immediately increase pressure on President Wahid and the Indonesian government to finally resolve East Timor's refugee crisis. Such a resolution requires open and complete access to all refugee camps in West Timor by humanitarian workers, and an immediate end to TNI support for and the disarming and disbanding of militias -- with militia leaders separated from civilian refugees and brought to justice. The Indonesian military must withdraw from the West Timor border region. All refugees who wish to return home should be able to do so without intimidation.
I also hope you will vigorously support continued investigations by the UN's International Commission of Inquiry in preparation for an international tribunal as recommended by the UN's International Commission of Inquiry. While the Indonesian government should be encouraged to carry out its own investigations and prosecutions in a fair and comprehensive manner, preparations for an international tribunal would guarantee justice for East Timor should Indonesia's efforts at prosecution falter or fail to meet international standards.
I thank you for your prompt action in response to my concerns and the concerns of many of your other constituents. After more than 24 years of suffering under a U.S.-backed grueling Indonesian occupation, at the very least the people of East Timor deserve the right to return home safely and a measure of justice.