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East Timor support bill passes US Senate!
22 November 1999
Senate Passes Appropriations Bill Restricting U.S. Military Assistance to Indonesia Congress Sets Conditions Including Bringing Human Rights Violators to Justice, Return of Displaced Persons to East Timor 19 November 1999
This evening, the U.S. Senate linked restoration of U.S. military assistance to Indonesia to substantial progress inprosecuting members of the Indonesian armed forces and militia members responsible for the extensive destruction in East Timor following the overwhelming pro-independence vote. The Omnibus/DC Appropriations Conference Report (HR 3194), passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday, would restrict military assistance until East Timorese forcibly displaced to West Timor and other parts of Indonesia return home.
Indonesia must also take 'effective measures to bring to justice' members of the Indonesian military involved in 'aiding or abetting militia groups' and members of the military and militias involved in human rights violations. Military aid is also conditioned on Indonesia assisting in investigations of human rights violations by the Indonesian military and its militias, and preventing further militia attacks.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) praised the congressional action which took place as two high-level Clinton administration officials, Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Stanley Roth prepared to visit Indonesia and East Timor.
'This bill makes clear that the U.S. Congress intends to maintain pressure on the Indonesian military and government until East Timorese refugees have returned and a peaceful transition to independence is achieved,' said Lynn Fredriksson, Washington Representative of the ETAN/U.S. The appropriations bill would bind into law for Fiscal Year 2000 much of the Clinton administration's temporary ban on military assistance to Indonesia first announced in early September as the Indonesian military and its militias began their scorched earth campaign in the wake of East Timor's August 30 vote for independence. President Clinton has said he will sign the bill. 'Indonesia's new president has said he wants to see the refugees return. He also wants to establish good relations with East Timor. Continued U.S. pressure on the Indonesian military will help achieve these goals,' said Fredriksson. 'Investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the destruction of East Timor can only help build democracy in Indonesia.
Bans on military assistance should remain in place until there are fundamental changes in the Indonesian military, including an end to human rights abuses in Indonesia itself,' she added. The appropriations bill also increases Economic Support Funds for the Agency for International Development (USAID) by $168.5 million. ETAN is encouraging the administration to utilize a significant portion of this money to aid reconstruction in East Timor. Two additional provisions of the bill deal with military training. One requires a detailed report of all overseas military training for foreign militaries past or planned by the Pentagon. This provision resulted from controversy over the Joint Combined Exchange Training program (JCET) of the Indonesian military, which members of Congress, including Rep. Lane Evans (IL), and ETAN exposed last year.
A second provision continues the ban on International Military Education and Training (IMET) aid to Indonesia, which has been restricted since 1992. The bill also affirms current law by retaining the ban on Indonesia's use of U.S.-supplied weapons in East Timor. Key leaders in congressional efforts to maintain restrictions on the Indonesian military and to support East Timor include Senators Patrick Leahy (VT), Russell Feingold (WI) and Tom Harkin (IA) and Representatives Patrick Kennedy (RI), Nita Lowey (NY) and Chris Smith (NJ). Over 200,000 East Timorese remain in West Timor and other parts of Indonesia; most against their will.
On Friday, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said that militia activity is forcing its staff to mount 'commando-style snatch-and-run' operations in West Timor to help East Timorese refugees return home. On Thursday, it reported that militias attacked a UNHCR convoy, injuring at least two refugees. Indonesian police stood by as the attack took place. Komnas HAM, Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights, recently reported that militia groups in West Timor control the refugee camps and have committed 'systematic and organized human rights violations,' including forced disappearances, arbitrary detention and violence against women. Indonesian security forces 'let these things continue,' Komnas HAM said.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. was founded in November 1991, following the massacre of more than 271 peaceful demonstrators in Dili, East Timor.
ETAN supports genuine self-determination and human rights for the people of East Timor. ETAN has 27 local chapters throughout the U.S. END
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