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Justice Needed as UN Meets on Anniversary of Timor Massacre

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Headlined to H3 11/12/12

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UN Meets on Anniversary of Massacre
ETAN Urges UN and U.S. to Act for Justice for Timor-Leste

November 12, 2012 - The East Timor and Indonesia   Action   Network (ETAN) urged the United Nations, the U.S., and other governments to fulfill outstanding promises of justice for the many victims of Indonesia's illegal invasion and occupation as the UN Security Council meets to wrap up the current peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste.

The Security Council meets today on the 21st anniversary of one of the most notorious attacks on civilians during Indonesia's brutal occupation. On November 12, 1991, Indonesian troops attacked a peaceful demonstration at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, Timor-Leste's capital. Hundreds were killed and injured and the final resting place of many of the victims of the Santa Cruz massacre remain unknown.

 

Without sustained pressure on the Indonesian government, U.S. government support for the rights of the East Timorese will end at the Indonesian border. The U.S. needs to back up its talk of rights with actions.


"As the latest UN mission ends, promises of justice remain unfulfilled," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "The UN should state clearly that there can be no impunity for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during Indonesia's invasion and occupation of Timor-Leste from 1975-1999."

"The East Timorese people can not fully overcome their past until they know the fate of the bodies of  their relatives and friends," said Miller. "Impunity for decades of systematic Indonesian military and police atrocities prevents both countries from consolidating the rule of law as they transition from  military dictatorship do democracy." 

ETAN continues to urge Congress and the Obama administration to respond to the recommendations of Timor-Leste's Commission for Truth, Reception and Reconciliation, including its calls for an international tribunal to try perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the Indonesian occupation, reparations from Indonesia and other countries that supported the occupation, and restrictions on foreign assistance to the Indonesian military.



"The U.S. and others should press President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to immediately release all information that can help identify and locate those who were killed or disappeared during the occupation," said Miller. 

 "President Obama must restrict U.S. military assistance until the Indonesian generals and political leaders who organized and directed numerous crimes during the 24-years of illegal occupation are credibly tried. Instead, the Obama administration plans to sell  deadly Apache attack helicopters to the Indonesian military. "

Santa Cruz massacre, November 12, 1991, Dili, East Timor
November 11, 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre by Max Stahl

President Obama is expected to meet Indonesia's President along with other ASEAN leaders at the East Asia Summit in Cambodia next week. Officials credibly accused (and in some cases indicted) of crimes against humanity in Timor and elsewhere continue to hold important positions   as civilians or  in the Indonesian military in West Papua and elsewhere. 

"Without sustained pressure on the Indonesian government, U.S. government support for the rights of the East Timorese will end at the Indonesian border," said Miller. "The U.S. needs to back up its talk of rights with actions."

During a joint media conference in Timor-Leste on September 6, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "we are standing with you as you work to build a strong democracy with robust institutions, the rule of law, and protecting the rights of all of your citizens. Strong democracies, we know from long practice, make more stable neighbors and capable partners, which is one of the reasons why the United States is advancing democracy and human rights as a central pillar of our engagement throughout Asia." 

Background

The UN is ending the  UN Mission Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste  (UNMIT), but will remain engaged in the country through its agencies.
 
On November 12, 1991, Indonesian troops opened fire on a memorial procession - turned into a peaceful pro-independence demonstration - at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. More than 270 mostly-young Timorese were murdered. Unlike previous mass atrocities committed during Indonesia's 24-year occupation, the massacre was witnessed by the NY-based Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn and other international journalists. Their first-hand reports, video and photographs were shown worldwide. The Santa Cruz massacre galvanized international support for Timor-Leste and was the  catalyst for U.S. congressional action to stem the flow of U.S. weapons and other assistance for Indonesia's security forces.
 
During more than two decades of U.S.-backed occupation of Timor-Leste, Indonesian soldiers committed serious crimes with impunity, taking as many as 184,000 Timorese lives and torturing, raping and displacing countless others. Timor-Leste became independent in 2002.

Earlier this month, the Timorese organization La'o Hamutuk wrote to the Security Council "Acquiescence with impunity for serious crimes perpetrated by Indonesian actors against Timor-Leste people between 1975 and 1999 betrays the global consensus 'to put an end to impunity' achieved in the Rome Statute,10 besmirches the reputation of the United Nations, and imperils security and rule of law in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and around the world." 

In her  May 2012 report, the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights wrote "[E]nding impunity is an essential prerequisite to ensuring stability, peace and sustainability, and she reminded "the Government of Indonesia, the United Nations and the international community of the role they must play in ensuring that the perpetrators of crimes during the Indonesian occupation are brought to justice."    

Timor-Leste's  Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation  researched and documented the nation's experiences during the occupation. The Commission's comprehensive 2,500-page report recommended establishment of an international criminal tribunal and also advocated that countries (including the U.S.) which backed the occupation and corporations which sold weapons to Indonesia during that period should pay reparations to victims. The Commission urged the international community not to support Indonesia's military until it was thoroughly reformed and respectful of human rights.

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John M. Miller is National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). He is Treasurer of the War Resisters League.
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