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Senate Letter on APEC

Wednesday, November 17, 1993


(Washington, D.C.) -- Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) today released a letter sent to President Clinton urging him to raise concerns about the situation in East Timor with Indonesian President Suharto during the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) starting tomorrow in Seattle. Feingold's letter was signed by a bipartisan group of 37 Senators.

"Over the past few months we've shed some additional light on the situation in East Timor," said Feingold, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "but we need to keep up the pressure."

In their letter to Clinton, the Senators applauded the actions of the Administration on behalf of human rights in East Timor but pointed out that the State Department and several human rights organizations continue to report that the human rights situation in East Timor is abysmal.

Feingold and his colleagues urged the President to "raise our concerns (about continued human rights violations) and reiterate the need for an authentic long-term solution to the Timor tragedy under the auspices of the United Nations."

Feingold was joined by Senators Dave Durenberger (R- MN), Claiborne Pell (D-RI), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Byron Dorgan (D- ND), Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Malcolm Wallop (R-WY), Barbara Boxer (D-CAL), Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Harris Wofford (D-PA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Paul Simon (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Paul Wellstone (D-MN), Jay Rockefeller (D-W. VA), Bill Bradley (D-NJ), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), John Chafee (R-RI), Don Riegle (DMI), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (D-CO), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dale Bumpers (D-ARK), Jim Sasser (D- TN), Richard Bryan (D-NEV), Carl Levin (D-MI), Jeff Bingaman (D- NM), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), John Kerry (D-MA), Tom Daschle (D-SD), Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL), Mark Hatfield (R-OR), and Joe Biden (D- DE) in sending the letter to Clinton.

The text follows:

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

November 15, l993

President William J. Clinton

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Mr. President,

As you prepare for the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) economic summit in Seattle from November 17-20, we are writing to urge you to take the opportunity to underscore the need for serious action to resolve the conflict in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, which was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, and has been the scene of widespread and severe human rights abuses ever since.

We believe that a just resolution in East Timor could create a better atmosphere for both American and Indonesian business interests, as well as for U.S.--Indonesian relations in general.

We applaud your Administration's actions on behalf of human rights in East Timor. We are grateful that in your discussions with President Suharto during the G-7 meeting, you raised the issue of East Timor. We also appreciate the position taken by your Administration at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva in March, when the United States co-sponsored a resolution strongly condemning human rights abuses in East Timor an calling for greater U.N. nvolvment in the conflict.

Nevertheless, the State Department and several human rights organizations continue to report that the human rights situation in East Timor is abysmal. There are consistent and reliable reports of torture of East Timorese detainees, harassment of the Roman Catholic Church, and arbitrary arrests of East Timorese opposed to Indonesian occupation. In fact, during a September visit of Congressional aides at least 53 student activists were taken into custody "to attend guidance courses" while the delegation was visiting the island. Moreover, Jakarta has still not accounted for the 66 individuals missing after the Dili Massacre of November 1991, nor have civilians convicted in connection with the peaceful demonstration of November 12, 1991, been treated in accordance with international human rights standards.

When yu andmembers of your Administration meet with President Suharto and other high-level Indonesian officials at the APEC conference, we hope that you will raise our concerns and reiterate the need for an authentic long-term solution to the Timor tragedy under the auspices of the United Nations. Such a solution should be "in pursuit of the right of self-determination" for East Timor, as endorsed by the U.S. Senate in a November 1991 resolution.

We emphasize our support for the United Nations talks between Indonesia and Portugal. We were encouraged by the September 17 joint United Nations communique between Portugal and Indonesia calling for specific steps to be taken to secure the rights of the East Timorese, such as freer access for international humanitarian and human rights groups,. Implementation of this agreement, as well as the withdrawal of Indonesian troops, release of East Timorese political prisoners, and the granting of meaningful autonomy to East Timor, would help foster an environment of peace and reconciliation in East Timor. Hopefully, negotiating an agreement will be a matter of priority.

We recognize the long-term friendship between the United States and the Republic of Indonesia, dating back to the strong support of the U.S. Senate on behalf of Indonesia during its struggle for independence from the Netherlands during the l940's. It is in the spirit of this historical link in which we ask for your continued support for East Timor, human rights, and prosperous trade relations between our two countries.

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Return to Congressional Action on East Timor: Statements, etc.

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