NEW YORK - August 27 - The
East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) said today that it was "deeply disturbed"
by East Timor's decision to give U.S. troops in the new nation immunity from prosecution
by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
"We are deeply disturbed and angered that the U.S. government pressured
East Timor to exempt U.S. troops from the ICC. The East Timorese suffered greatly
during the U.S.-supported illegal occupation of their homeland when the Indonesian
military committed the very crimes that the ICC is designed to discourage,"
said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.
East Timor's parliament ratified the Treaty of Rome establishing a permanent
ICC on August 12. East Timor is the third country to sign an Article 98 agreement
with the U.S. granting immunity. The others are Romania and Israel. The ICC can
hear cases of genocide and crimes against humanity committed after July 1, 2002.
"When joining the court, East Timor affirmed its commitment to human rights
and universal justice. Now, with the stroke of a pen, the East Timorese government
has undermined these principles," said Miller.
Recently, the U.S. has used the UN peacekeeping mission in East Timor as a
bargaining chip in its campaign to undermine the ICC. Last May, the Security Council
rejected a U.S. proposal to exempt from ICC jurisdiction peacekeepers with the
post-independence UN Mission in East Timor (UNMISET). Although the U.S. voted
to establish the mission, it refused to replace three unarmed military observers
assigned to UNMISET, apparently to send a warning during the contentious debate
over renewal of the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.
ETAN also urged East Timor not to sign additional agreements renouncing jurisdiction
over U.S. soldiers. "There are reports the U.S. government has proposed that
East Timor sign a Status of Forces Agreement with the U.S. which would exempt
U.S. military personnel in East Timor from any criminal prosecution. Although
such agreements have provided exemptions for U.S. personnel in the past, many
now allow host countries to retain the right of jurisdiction in cases of overriding
national interest or of widespread public concern," said Miller.
"The history of East Timor demonstrates why a single standard of justice
and strong enforcement mechanisms are vital. The ICC is designed to deter and
prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide of the nature committed
during decades of Indonesian occupation. We are concerned that East Timor, which
struggled so valiantly for many years to achieve independence and rule-of-law,
is being asked to abandon these principles," said Miller.
"Recent acquittals by the Indonesian ad hoc court on East Timor of Indonesian
security officers accused of crimes against humanity have strengthened calls for
genuine justice for East Timor. This dramatically illustrates the need for international
mechanisms to address serious crimes including an ad hoc international tribunal
for past crimes in East Timor and an uncompromised permanent international court
for current and future crimes," he added.
The East Timor Action
Network/U.S. (ETAN) supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating
for democracy, sustainable development, social, legal, and economic justice and
human rights, including women's rights. For additional information, see ETAN's
web site (http://www.etan.org).