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Caritas petition to British High Commission


19 September, 1999

High Commissioner
British High Commission
PO Box 1812
WELLINGTON

Dear Madam/Sir

Please find enclosed copies of a petition circulated by Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and supporting agencies which seeks action on the issue of East Timor. It was launched on the 10 September and in 5 days has collected a total of 15,343 signatures.

We note with cautious relief that since the petitionís launch, the Government of Indonesia has invited a United Nations Peacekeeping Force to go to East Timor. Although shamefully late, this has been a major breakthrough and, to a certain extent, anticipates the message of the petition.

Nevetheless, we cannot stress strongly enough the continued lack of security in both East Timor and West Timor, and the uncertain reaction of the Indonesian Army (TNI) and militias in Timor to this decision. Indonesia has asked that Peace Keeping Forces work alongside the TNI, who are implicated in the violence, killings and burnings by the militia. Church sources indicate that displaced populations are currently surrounded by the TNI and militia groups. Neither safety of the displaced, nor access for humanitarian assistance is yet guaranteed in West or East Timor.

Caritas has called for continued or increased pressure on Indonesia to: ∑ Immediately guarantee the safety of humanitarian aid drops to displaced populations in the hills and bush of East Timor. ∑ Disarm all Rakyat Terlatih militia operating in West Timor and to guarantee safe access by Caritas and other humanitarian agencies to the main populations of displaced in the West Timor. ∑ Withdraw immediately its armed forces from East Timor.

We applaud the decision made by the British Government to suspend arms sales and review military ties to Indonesia for a period of four months.

In the light of continuing abuse of human rights in East Timor, Aceh, and West Papua by the Indonesian Armed Forces, and in the interests of promoting peace, civilian government, and greater democracy in Indonesia, we strongly urge your government to review the nature of its future support for Indonesia with the aim of reducing international support for the armed forces in that country.

In particular we ask that Britain not renew the sale of arms to Indonesia or engage in military cooperation with the Indonesian Armed Forces until such time as those forces can demonstrate a consistent commitment to respect for human rights.

Additionally we ask that Britain also firmly support calls for the establishment of a War Crimes Tribunal to bring to justice those who bear responsibility for crimes against humanity in East Timor. Overwhelming evidence now points to such crimes having been committed against the East Timorese with the complicity of elements of the Indonesian Armed Forces.

We are grateful for the international pressure so far applied by the British Government to address the terrible events which have occurred since the 30 August and respectfully ask that you continue this pressure with regard to the above concerns.

Sincerely

PETER ZWART
National Programmes Officer
Caritas

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