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Stemming the Tide of Violence in East Timor 

also: Feingold Calls for Suspension of U.S. Military and Economic Benefits  to Indonesia (Sept 9, 1999)

STEMMING THE TIDE OF VIOLENCE IN EAST TIMOR -- (Senate - September 14, 1999)

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Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the tumultuous events that have unfolded in East Timor since the August 30 ballot to determine the territory's political future, and to state clearly what the United States is and should be doing in response to this crisis.

How can anyone not be horrified at the blind eye that the Indonesian government has turned to the unchecked violence and mass murder being perpetrated in East Timor by anti-independence militias--violence that even today is blatantly supported by elements of the Indonesian army.

In just one week, since the ballot's results were announced on September 4, the militias have driven out or slaughtered nearly the entire population of the capital city of Dili. East Timor is dotted with villages and cities that have become virtual ghost towns in a matter of days. Many of the people that have been driven out have been

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forced into militia-run refugee camps in West Timor. Mr. President, these innocent civilians are unprotected targets for a group of thugs who are willing to obliterate East Timor completely rather than allow it to start down the road to the independence more than 78 percent of its people voted for on August 30.

The message of the militias is clear: if Indonesia can't have East Timor, there will be no East Timor worth having for the East Timorese.

Cities are in flames and militia members are stealing anything of value that they have not destroyed. Churches, usually recognized as places of sanctuary--even by combatants during war--have been burned with refugees still inside. Mr. President, this is literally a scorched earth policy. It is like few of even the worst episodes we have seen in the often bloody 20th century.

No segment of the pro-independence population in East Timor has escaped the wrath of the militias. Religious leaders, foreigners, and the families of activists have been especially targeted for summary execution. At least 20 priests and nuns across East Timor have been murdered. Three of the priests were among approximately 100 Timorese victims killed in a brutal grenade attack on the town of Suai. Women, children, and the elderly have been massacred. Members of the United Nations Assistance Mission to East Timor (UNAMET) have been targeted, as have foreign journalists who are trying to cover the atrocities.

The leaders of the Timorese independence movement and their families are especially vulnerable to attack. Early last week, the Indonesian government released independence leader and political prisoner Xanana Gusmao from jail in Jakarta. On Friday, he learned that his 82-year-old father had likely been murdered by pro-Jakarta thugs, and that his elderly mother is missing.

Last week, the United Nations evacuated most of its personnel to Australia. About 80 brave UNAMET personnel elected to stay in East Timor to try to protect the approximately 1300 East Timorese who remained huddled behind the compound's barbed wire fences. They remained barricaded in what was left of the UNAMET headquarters for about a week with little, if any, power, water, or working telecommunications lines. Militia members have repeatedly fired into the compound.

On Friday, some of the Timorese, including women and children, desperate to escape the violence, climbed the razor-sharp fence separating them from the armed thugs and attempted to find refuge in the hills behind the UNAMET mission. They were fired on by the militias as they tried to escape. The unarmed UNAMET personnel were powerless to help and could only watch in horror as those they had come to help were shot down by ruthless opponents of justice, self-determination, and the rule of law. Yesterday, the U.N. evacuated most of its personnel and the refugees remained in the compound to Australia.

The boldness of the militias, and the complicity of the Indonesian army, and apparently members of the Habibie government, is astounding. I am truly shocked by the total impotence or inaction of the Indonesian government over the last two weeks. President Habibie promised the United Nations, the international community, and--most importantly--the people of East Timor, that he would ensure a secure environment in the territory and that the wishes of the Indonesian people would be respected. Neither has happened.

Some argue that Habibie may be unable to stop the violence. Others say he is unwilling. His level of control over the army, which he did not consult prior to agreeing to the U.N.-supervised ballot on the future of East Timor, is, of course, a subject of a lot of debate. Whatever the case, Habibie has not made any compelling strong statements condemning this violence, and has made no attempt to reign in the army personnel who are participating in this rampage.

I am also disturbed by the inaction of the head of the Indonesian military, General Wiranto. This past weekend, Wiranto implied that he may not have control of all of his forces. On Saturday, he accompanied a delegation from the United Nations Security Council to Dili, and he saw for what he said was the first time the devastation in that city. Soon after this visit, he said he would recommend that President Habibie accept an international peacekeeping force.

Finally, under considerable pressure from the international community, and with the support of General Wiranto and the head of the Indonesian police, Habibie announced early Sunday that his government would allow international peacekeepers, led by Australia, to come to East Timor to restore order and stop the violent rampage of the militias. But, as is often the case in clashes such as this, his announcement, while welcome, came too late for those Timorese murdered by the militias and those hiding in the hills who have been forever scarred by the violence and impoverished by the destruction that has been leveled against the democratic aspirations of the people of East Timor.

Now that the international community has reached this critical point in the transition of the political future of East Timor, Mr. President, here, I think, are the steps that must be taken next.

First and foremost, the international peacekeeping force must be deployed at the earliest possible date. I am very concerned at the words of delay coming out of Jakarta this morning.

I deeply regret that it took President Habibie so long to recognize the need for international assistance. Now, the Indonesian government, military, and President Habibie must cooperate fully with the deployment and must not interfere in the operations of this peacekeeping force. They must allow the force to deploy quickly, restore order, and help the East Timorese people to regain a semblance of security in their own homes and some hope of actually realizing the aspirations manifest in the results of the August 30 ballot.

I understand that Indonesian Foreign Minister Alatas continues meeting in New York today along with officials from Australia, to discuss the details of the Security Council mandate for the peacekeeping mission. One of those details clearly is to determine the composition of this international force and the role of the Indonesians themselves in such a deployment. Another should be to lay the groundwork for investigations into the crimes that have taken place in East Timor, including procedures to begin to collect evidence for future prosecutions.

Nobel laureates Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Carlos Belo have called for the immediate formation of a war crimes tribunal to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these vicious crimes. That tribunal should be formed at the earliest possible date. To achieve that goal, the immediate priority of the international community should be to get the peacekeeping forces deployed to gain control of the situation and prevent any further bloodshed, and to allow the Timorese that have fled to return home.

The mandate for the peacekeeping mission should also be clear about the rules of engagement for disarming and detaining members of the militias. Some militia leaders have said that they will not disarm. This volatile situation poses a grave risk to the peacekeepers, and must be dealt with carefully and expeditiously.

Second, we must quickly and concisely define the scope of the U.S. role in this peacekeeping mission. I am pleased that Australia has come forward to take the lead on this peacekeeping mission in East Timor, and that other countries in the region have offered to contribute troops to this effort. It is my general belief that peacekeeping operations should be led by countries in the region where the conflict is occurring. I am also troubled by some word this morning that the Indonesian government is perhaps balking at the idea of Australia leading this mission--which I think is very appropriate, that Australia do so.

The militia-led violence, and the blatant collusion of the Indonesian military in the commission of that violence, is a direct slap at rule of law and the protection for the right to self-determination in international law and supported by the United Nations. I hope that any participation by the Indonesian military in this peacekeeping force will be scrutinized. Those who helped perpetrate the violence must not be placed in positions of trust within this operation.

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I will say more about my views with respect to U.S. involvement in this peacekeeping operation in a few minute.

Third, the international community must keep the pressure on the Indonesian government. I am pleased that the President of our country made a decision I have advocated for some time to suspend military-to-military activities with Indonesia. I am also encouraged that this decision includes halting all new military sales to that country. I hope that the President will expand this decision to immediately halt any sales currently in the pipeline. If we are to be taken seriously by the Indonesian government, those sales must also be included. And these benefits should not be reinstated until specific steps have been taken to implement the results of the August 30 ballot.

I have heard many observers argue that Indonesia is too important financially to the United States and other countries to risk angering Jakarta. I would argue that no amount of trade is worth East Timorese lives. If we truly are to support Indonesia in its transition to true democracy, we must insist that the violence stop, and we must use every cent of our economic leverage to do so.

Last week I introduced a bill, S. 1568, that would suspend all military and most economic assistance to Indonesia until steps have been taken to implement the August 30 ballot. I am pleased that the Administration has suspended some military aid. It is now imperative that we keep the pressure on by refusing to reinstate that aid--and by threatening to suspend all other aid--until the results of the August 30 ballot are implemented. My

bill would suspend new assistance and sales as well as those loans and purchases currently in the pipeline. In order to be effective, we must stop all aid in its tracks, not just new aid. We should also call on our allies to do the same. The recent financial troubles in Asia have made Indonesia dependent on bilateral and multilateral assistance. We should use that dependence as leverage to ensure that the Indonesian government lives up to its commitments in East Timor, including its newly announced willingness to admit a peacekeeping force into East Timor.

In that regard, I am pleased that the European Union yesterday announced that it has suspended all arms sales and military cooperation with Indonesia.

That welcome development makes it all the more important that we continue to push for passage of our legislation to suspend assistance. We must continue to apply the financial pressure provided for in this bill so that the Indonesians will understand the continuing U.S. resolve to see justice done in East Timor.

Finally, the United Nations mandate for this peacekeeping mission should include full access to East Timor for peacekeeping troops, humanitarian workers, and war crimes investigators. The anti-independence movement cannot be allowed to block access to any part of East Timor. In addition, humanitarian workers should also be allowed full access to the refugee camps in West Timor. The nations of the international peacekeeping force must make clear that no such interference will be tolerated.

People are dying. Women and children are being slaughtered while the politicians try to leverage the situation to their advantage. President Habibie has a chance to do what is right for his people, and the East Timorese people, before he leaves office. The way to salvage what is left of Indonesia's shredded international reputation is to allow international peacekeepers to deploy rapidly into East Timor to stop this senseless bloodshed.

Let me say another word about the U.S. role in this peacekeeping mission. As many of my colleagues know, I have been a vocal opponent of U.S. deployments to such places as Bosnia and Kosovo. While I support the concept of an international peacekeeping force led by countries from the region, it is my strong preference as it was in those cases that U.S. troops on the ground in East Timor not be a significant part of this peacekeeping mission. Our troops are currently overextended in open-ended commitments in such places as Bosnia, Kosovo, and Saudi Arabia. We should do whatever we can to limit our involvement in these places and be very hesitant to get deeply involved in any new missions of this sort.

That said, however, I am open to supporting a request to the Congress from the Administration for U.S. financial, diplomatic, communications, and logistical support for an international peacekeeping mission to East Timor that is led by countries in the region. The Administration must continue to consult closely with the Congress prior to making any commitment to assist with such a peacekeeping mission.

I believe strongly that the United States must develop criteria for deciding whether and where and how deeply to get involved in peacekeeping missions abroad. Our men and women in uniform and their families deserve to understand the dangers of proposed missions and to be given a good-faith estimate of their length.

As my colleagues know, I oppose our continuing involvement in the Balkans. The Administration argued that our action against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was necessary for humanitarian reasons. The trouble I have with our operations in Kosovo is that we have not shown the same willingness to intervene outside of our hemisphere to places like Rwanda and East Timor. What constitutes a humanitarian tragedy that warrants involvement by the United States military? The answer to that questions seems to change frequently under the current policy. I am afraid we really have no policy framework to address this crucial question. But the question will continue to arise and will do so with increasing frequency.

In my view, the legal case for international intervention in East Timor is more compelling than the situation in Kosovo because of the long-standing legal disputes over the political status of the territory, as well as the clear expression for self-determination by the people of East Timor on August 30. The people of East Timor cast their votes in a ballot sanctioned by the Indonesian government and supervised by the United Nations.

The East Timorese were promised a secure environment in which to express their honest views about the political future of their homeland. Instead, they had to endure intimidation by armed thugs supported by the army and by elements of the government that had sworn to protect them and to respect their wishes. Yet miraculously almost 99 percent of registered voters went to the polls, bringing along their courage and a commitment to freedom. And then when the militias began a murderous rampage, the government did nothing. They would not grant the international community the power to act.

So again, Mr. President, let me reiterate my view of the next crucial steps that must be taken in East Timor.

An international peacekeeping force must be deployed as rapidly as possible.

We must quickly and concisely define the scope of a limited U.S. role in the peacekeeping mission.

The international community must keep the pressure on the Indonesian government, and the peacekeepers, humanitarian workers, and war crimes investigators must be allowed full access to East Timor. And it all must happen as soon as possible. Thousands of lives and the legitimate hopes of a people hang in the balance.

I ask unanimous consent that an editorial from today's New York Times entitled ``Effective Force for East Timor'' be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

An Effective Force for East Timor

``We cannot wait any longer,'' Indonesia's President, B.J. Habibie, said on Sunday. ``We have to stop the suffering and mourning immediately.'' With those words, Mr. Habibie bowed to world opinion and agreed to allow international peacekeepers into East Timor. But important, questions remain about when--and with what powers--the force will go in. The international community needs to maintain political and financial pressure on Indonesia to accept a force large and powerful enough to protect East Timor's people--and to do so immediately, before thousands more are killed.

Militias created and backed by Indonesia's military have been rampaging in East Timor for months, but the violence dramatically worsened after an Aug. 30 vote that overwhelmingly supported independence for the disputed province, which Indonesia invaded and swallowed in 1975. The militias have set

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fire to much of the territory and killed perhaps thousands of people, many of them the pro-independence intelligentsia. Others have been rounded up and taken to West Timor, and tens of thousands have fled to the mountains, where they are in danger of starving.

Mr. Habibie's announcement that he would accept an international force took considerable political courage, as the idea is hugely unpopular with Indonesians and especially with its powerful military establishment. He agreed after several countries began to cut off joint training exercises, as well as military aid and sales, and important donors and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank suggested that they would condition further assistance on Indonesia's performance in East Timor.

The peacekeeping force, which requires the blessing of the United Nations Security Council, would be organized and led by Australia. Australian officials say they will provide about 4,500 of the anticipated 7,000 troops needed if Indonesia's military in East Timor is cooperative. They say they can get 2,000 troops to East Timor within 72 hours of United Nations approval.

President Clinton says that Washington does not anticipate providing ground troops for the mission, but that American support forces would assist with logistics, intelligence, airlift and coordination. Australia has maintained that American expertise is needed for these tasks, and this is an appropriate role for the United States.

Yesterday the Security Council met to hear a chilling report from a delegation of U.N. ambassadors that had just returned from East Timor, and to begin to negotiate the details of the force. Happily, Indonesia has retreated from earlier statements that the unit should contain only Asians. The world needs to keep up the economic and diplomatic pressure to convince Mr. Habibie that the force must be able to detain militia members or Indonesian soldiers who terrorize the population or menace peacekeepers.

President Habibie has already agreed to a commission to look into human rights violations. Those investigators must be able to work freely. Most crucial, Mr. Habibie cannot be permitted to stall. There will soon be nothing left of East Timor to save.

Mr. FEINGOLD. I, again, thank the majority leader for the opportunity to address this matter at this time, and I yield the floor.


September 8, 1999


WASHINGTON, D.C.– U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) today introduced a strongly-worded bill in the U.S. Senate calling for the immediate suspension of assistance to the Government of Indonesia until the results of the August 30th vote in East Timor have been implemented.

"I am outraged at what is going on in East Timor today," said Feingold. "The Indonesian government clearly has not lived up to its commitment to maintain security, and in fact is openly supporting the militia violence. If the Indonesian government cannot maintain peace, I believe an international peacekeeping mission is the best option."

The bill calls for:

the immediate suspension of all U.S. military assistance to Indonesia, including the licensing of military exports;

a requirement for the United States to oppose any loans or other assistance by international financial institutions and to urge other donor countries to do the same;

support for an international peacekeeping mission in East Timor.

"The United States and the rest of the international community must exercise any and all leverage it has with the Indonesians to allow for this contingency," said Feingold. "The United States provides a great deal of economic and military assistance to Indonesia. We must consider suspending these benefits if the Indonesian government does not take steps to stop the violence occurring in East Timor."

Feingold, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific has been working for nearly seven years to promote a U.N.-sponsored referendum on East Timor. That vote occurred on August 30th. Voter turnout was over 99 percent of registered voters, and the results indicated overwhelming support for independence. Since the vote, however, the small pacific island has been consumed by militia violence supported by the Indonesian military. "We all know that if the Indonesian military wasn't supporting these horrific acts against its people that there would not be the kind of violence we've seen in recent days," said Feingold.

The Feingold legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Paul Wellstone (D-MN).



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