ETAN Statement on Fifth Anniversary of East Timor’s Independence Vote

Submitted by Editor on Sat, 28/08/2004 - 21:19

Five years ago today, the people of East Timor, defying intense intimidation from the Indonesian security forces and their militia proxies, voted overwhelmingly for independence. We celebrated that historic vote. Outraged, we mobilized as Indonesia capped over two decades of murder and mayhem by systematically destroying the country. Today, the physical scars of that destruction remain visible and the cries of the East Timorese people for justice go largely unanswered. More than two years after independence, East Timor's freedom struggle remains far from complete.

John M Miller

John M. Miller,
718-596-7668; 917-690-4391;

August 30, 2004

Five years later, the East Timorese people still crave justice and full control over their natural resources, and the Indonesian military continues to commit gross human rights violations with impunity.

Last week, the UN Secretary General told the Security Council that "those responsible for the serious crimes committed in 1999 must be held to account, and it is essential that justice is seen to be done in these cases." The recent acquittals on appeal of Indonesian security officials reminded the international community yet again that Indonesia's ad hoc court on East Timor is a sham. Will international pledges of justice also be hollow?

The violence in 1999 was a systematic assault not only on East Timor, but on a UN mission. The UN must heed the call of East Timor's people for the international community to take the lead on issues of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity by setting up an international tribunal. This tribunal must have the resources and clout to credibly prosecute the top Indonesian officials responsible for organizing the most brutal and heinous of crimes against the people of East Timor, beginning with Indonesia'sinvasiononDecember7,1975.

We urge the Australian government to respect the sovereignty and resource rights of East Timor by promptly and fairly negotiating a permanent maritime boundary between the two countries. Resource-sharing agreements, while providing the new nation with much needed funds, are not a substitute for recognition of East Timor's rights under international law. Australia should return the more than US$1 billion they have stolen so far from oil fields that are twice as close to their impoverished neighbor. East Timor should not be forced to concede what is rightfully theirs to Australia.

We call attention to the U.S. government's role during the 1999 referendum period and throughout the illegal Indonesian military occupation of East Timor. A full accounting of U.S. knowledge and actions during this time is essential if future crimes are to be prevented. In 1999, mixed signals from the Clinton administration encouraged Indonesia's campaign of terror. When the U.S. unambiguously cut off the Indonesian military in early September, Indonesia quickly agreed to honor the vote and to withdraw.

In Aceh, West Papua and elsewhere, the Indonesian military continues to use the same brutal tactics it refined in East Timor, often directed by the same commanders. The Bush administration's current efforts to step up training and other assistance to Indonesia's security forces have only encouraged more violations and legitimized continued impunity throughout the archipelago. We call on the Bush administration to halt its drive to engage the Indonesian military.

We call on the U.S. Congress to ban all assistance to this savage force.


John M. Miller
Media & Outreach Coordinator
East Timor Action Network: 12 Years for Self-Determination & Justice

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