10, 1999 12:42 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: East Timor Action
John Miller, 718-596-7668, Jason Mark, 415-2551296 or Lynn Fredriksson, 202-544-6911
Torture and Brutal Intimidation Continue in East Timor; Campaign of Terror Threatens
to Derail Plans for August Independence Vote
- June 10 - As returns come in from the Indonesian parliamentary election, response
from the archipelago have drawn the picture of a budding democracy. But troubles
persist in Indonesia, and in Indonesia-occupied East Timor, where since 1975 more
than 200,000 East Timorese have been killed. It is becoming increasingly clear
that there is no chance of a fair and free fair vote in East Timor's upcoming
referendum on independence if the ongoing dirty war against the Timorese continues.
On May 5, Indonesia, the United Nations and Portugal agreed that the UN would
organize a "ballot consultation" on Indonesia's "autonomy" plan to be held on
August 3, Indonesia committed to ending its forced rule over the former Portuguese
territory if the autonomy offer is rejected. But the Indonesian military is desperate
to ensure that East Timor does not become independent. In the last two months
Indonesian-backed paramilitary units have killed more than 150 people, and many
more are missing. Many prominent Timorese have been forced into hiding after receiving
death threats, In Dill, East Timor's capital, attacks against pro-independence
leaders and human rights workers have been common, Militiamen have driven thousands
of people out of their homes and into makeshift refugee camps, described by human
rights groups as similar to "concentration camps."
Though Indonesian military spokesmen have denied any links to the militias, UN
personnel have seen Indonesian military officials training militiamen and even
participating in attacks against unarmed civilians. Many observers see the escalating
violence as an attempt by the Indonesian military to prevent East Timor's independence,
which many in Indonesia's military believe could lead to further separatist movements
in the multi-ethnic island nation. It's clear that given the chance for a peaceful
vote, most East Timorese would vote for self-determination after suffering 23
years of torture, rape and mass murder.
"Most East Timorese ignored the Indonesian government's stage-managed provincial
election on the island," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for the East Timor
Action Network. "The vote that matters in East Timor is the August 8 UN-organized
vote on its political status, The Indonesian military is afraid that in a free
and fair vote the East Timorese will reject continued Indonesian rule paving the
way for East Timor's independence. But it is the East Timorese people's choice
to make. The tragedy is that a fair vote is impossible in this atmosphere of terror
The Indonesian military's support for certain candidates during the recent election
further highlighted its ties to the paramilitaries. Included on the ruling Golkar
party ballot in East Timor's June 7 provincial election were paramilitary leaders
that have overseen recent brutal attacks on East Timorese civilians. According
to widely published reports, one of these Indonesian military proxies, Eurico
Guterres said just before an April 17 massacre of at least 17 civilians in Dili,
East Timor's capital, "As of today I order all the militia to conduct a cleansing
of the traitors, capture and kill them."
The situation has been complicated by suggestions from Megawati Sukarnoputi--the
leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and arguably the most popular
Indonesian politician-- that independence for East Timor may not be feasible.
Observers fear that Megawati's statements regarding East Timor may mean that a
possible Megawati government might try to renege on the UN agreement,
"The US also needs to make clear to any incoming Indonesian leader that Indonesia
has signed a binding international agreement to allow independence should East
Timorese reject remaining part of Indonesia," said Medea Benjamin, founding director
of Global Exchange.
ETAN and Global Exchange are urging the lawmakers in Washington to help stop the
Indonesian- backed campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in East Timor. The State Department
and Pentagon report $106 million in projected arms sales to the Indonesian military
for 1999, along with plans to train the Indonesian police. The Pentagon is also
working to restore training programs for the Indonesian military which the U.S.
congress has passed legislation to end Among the troops the U.S. has trained for
years are the notorious Kopassus elite forces, which have in turn trained death
squads in East Timor and are implicated in recent massacres there, ETAN, Global
Exchange and other human rights organizations are calling on US lawmakers to support
House Resolution 97, which call for an end to U.S. support for the Indonesian
military until it "is no longer mining, financing, or supporting paramilitary
units in East Timor," and its companion bill in the Senate, S. Res 96. Human rights
groups are also working to build support for HR 1063, which would close loopholes
that have allowed the Pentagon to train Indonesian troops. The legislation is
sponsored Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Lane Evans (D-IL),
"The US, merely by ending all support for the Indonesian armed forces, can send
the clearest of signals that the violence in East Timor must end," Benjamin said.
"Unfortunately, the Department of Defense is doing its best to circumvent congressional
intent by pressing for new military training programs and weapons shipments to
the Indonesian military," said Miller. Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based
human rights group, has lead two observation delegations to Indonesia and produced
the award-winning documentary about Indonesia and East Timor, "One Struggle, One
The East Timor Action Network has been working since 1991 for East Timorese self-determination
and changes in U.S. foreign policy toward Indonesia and East Timor.
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