|Vol. 3, No. 2 - Spring 1997|
|ETAN calls for independent observers; condemns alleged attacks on
Draft statement from the East Timor Action Network
The East Timor Action Network/US, disturbed by ongoing violence in East Timor, calls for opening the territory to independent observers from the United Nations, human rights and other NGOs, and the international media.
The presence of independent observers would provide some protection to a civilian population being terrorized by Indonesian troops and police searching for independence guerrillas who launched a series of attacks on military targets beginning on Indonesia's election day. Without international observers, there is no way to verify Indonesian reports that East Timorese guerrillas may have deliberately attacked civilians. If true, this is a sharp change of tactics by Falintil, the East Timorese guerrilla army. Up to now the guerrillas have only attacked active military targets, refusing even to attack off-duty soldiers.
The East Timor Action Network condemns any targeting of civilians in the conflict, by either side. We are well aware that it is Indonesia's occupation that has by far brought the bulk of the terror on the East Timorese. Ongoing arrests, torture, disappearances and other abuses of the civilian population are well documented. According to church and other sources over 200,000 have died as a result of war, famine and disease since Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in December 1975.
We call upon all parties to the conflict in East Timor to fully respect international law. Although neither the identities of the attackers nor their connection to the armed resistance, if any, is clear, ETAN/US deplores any tactics which involve committing violence toward noncombatant.
ETAN is also deeply concerned that guerrilla attacks are being used as justification for yet another massive wave of repression against the East Timorese population, including a massive troop buildup (6,000 additional troops announced so far). ETAN fears the "collective punishment" that may be visited upon the East Timorese people under conditions of arbitrary arrests and detentions, unmonitored by the international press due to the reinstated ban on foreign journalists.
The violence in East Timor can only be resolved by holding a UN-supervised referendum on its political status. However, by taking the simple step of opening the territory to independent observers Indonesia can show it is sincere about building trust before the June 19 UN-sponsored talks between Indonesia and Portugal.