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East Timorese Leader Urges Swift Return of Refugees

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Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta Says International Community Must Be Prepared For Indonesian Prosecutions To Falter

World Must Support Indonesian Democracy Not Its Military

Calling the situation of East Timorese refugees in Indonesia "a criminal matter," East Timorese Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta urged their speedy return. He said that all but the commanders responsible for ongoing military and militia terror are welcome to return. These leaders must be called to account, and the international community "must take strong measures at all levels to put the Indonesian military in check."

In a statement issued today, Ramos-Horta also praised Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid's efforts at reconciliation with East Timor and urged the international community to support democracy in Indonesia. "By suspending all military ties with that brutal military, the ... world will not only help stop the terror in West Timor, they will also strengthen the civilian government... [and] bring closer the day when the people of Indonesia can finally live in peace, free from military repression."

Ramos-Horta called on the international community to push forward with its own tribunal, while supporting Indonesia's efforts to investigate and prosecute some of those responsible "for the nightmare of destruction East Timor has witnessed since 1975." He said, "such a tribunal would guarantee justice is served against the masterminds of genocide in the Indonesian military high command if Indonesia cannot meet standard international norms of due process." He urged the international community to clarify the standards that Indonesia must satisfy for credible prosecutions.

Ramos-Horta, vice president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), said East Timorese are welcome to return "including those who collaborated with Indonesia... The CNRT will accept no reprisals against any of them. This is their country."

He urged an intensive short-term increase in personnel in West Timor "to help with accompaniment of civilians. International aid workers must be sent in to the camps, to shine the light of international attention on what our people are facing on a daily basis."

Jose Ramos-Horta shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize.

Statement by 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Co-Laureate José Ramos-Horta

The National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) is deeply concerned about the dire situation still facing those East Timorese in militia and military-controlled camps in West Timor.

More than a month ago, West Timor officials stated that nearly 500 East Timorese, including 310 children, have died due to inadequate sanitation and medical care in the camps. Sanitation and access to medical treatment in the camps is practically nonexistent. Attacks and intimidation by militia and military are an ongoing reality. Access by international aid groups to the refugees is extremely limited, and there have been many militia attacks on aid workers. That this situation continues six months after these East Timorese were driven into forced exile is a criminal matter that must be remedied immediately.

The propaganda being spread through the camps by hard liners in the Indonesian military and their militia lackeys about violence in East Timor is making repatriation efforts much more difficult. We are committed to working together with the Indonesian government to explain to our East Timorese brothers and sisters that they can return safely, including those who collaborated with Indonesia.

Those thousands who voted for autonomy with Indonesia and those militia members who collaborated with the Indonesian Army can feel safe returning to their homeland. The CNRT will accept no reprisals against any of them. This is their country, they belong here and all of us -- the resistance, the pro-autonomy groups -- must meet halfway, bury the past, consolidate peace and rebuild this country.

However, there can be no tolerance for militia leadership that continues to oversee terror campaigns in West Timor, or cross-border and against Oecussi in East Timor. Those responsible for such premeditated savagery must be arrested immediately. Very recently, international peacekeepers near the border between East and West Timor came under fire from Indonesian military-backed militias four times in 24 hours. More recently, a cross-border raid into East Timor by either militias or military (in too many cases they are one and the same) killed one East Timorese civilian; a UN military spokesman said, "further harassment and killing of innocent locals could very well take place."

We are relieved that at long last a militia boss in West Timor, Moko Soares, was arrested, but we are concerned over the nature of and authority over his pending trial in West Timor. More of those in the militia leadership that are still ordering attacks must be brought to trial, and their bosses in the Indonesian military should be called to account as well. If the Indonesian authorities in West Timor can, in the arrogant double speak of the Suharto era, say our people in the camps need to decide whether or not they will come home by the end of March, certainly the rest of the world can tell those authorities that the military thugs calling the shots need to decide to cut loose the militias this week.

In East Timor we are beginning, with UNTAET, to establish our own judicial system, which will soon be ready to try those in East Timor arrested for militia or criminal violence. But, our brothers and sisters will have a harder time practicing forgiveness here in East Timor if they know justice is not being served at the highest levels of power, through trials of those in the Indonesian military who are responsible for the nightmare of destruction East Timor has witnessed since 1975. This is also the only way to send a signal once and for all that the international community will not tolerate ongoing military aggression against innocent East Timorese civilians. For this reason, while we support the process of investigation and trials underway in Indonesia we also encourage the international community to push forward with support for a tribunal. Such a tribunal would guarantee justice served against the masterminds of genocide in the Indonesian military high command if Indonesia cannot meet standard international norms of due process. The international community should clarify these standards now, and focus particular attention on the credibility of judicial personnel, witness protection, and military cooperation, and it should not allow selective immunity from prosecution.

We were extremely grateful that President Wahid took the bold step of coming to East Timor and reaching out his hand in reconciliation. This gesture of goodwill, in which he acknowledged with regret the destruction of our country by the Indonesian military, was not taken lightly by the East Timorese people. Nor will we forget that President Wahid supported our right to self-determination in the Suharto years. We are also grateful for his promise that Indonesian military support for the militia in West Timor will end, and look forward to seeing it fulfilled.

The international community must support the pro-democracy movement and the civilian government in Indonesia by taking strong measures at all levels to put the Indonesian military in check. By suspending all military ties with that brutal military, the great countries of the world not only help stop the terror in West Timor, they also strengthen the civilian government of our friend Abdurrahman Wahid, and bring closer the day when the people of Indonesia can finally live in peace, free from military repression and the draconian "dual-function" that maintains it. We are grateful for current restrictions and call for their continuation, until Indonesia is truly under civilian control, as well as fulfilling its commitments to legal accountability and the return of our people.

To help speed the return home of our fellow East Timorese still in West Timor, we ask for an intensive short-term increase in personnel to help with accompaniment of civilians. International aid workers must be sent into the camps, to shine the light of international attention once more on what our people are facing on a daily basis.

I thank you for your urgent attention to these vital matters.

José Ramos-Horta
1996 Nobel Peace Prize co-Laureate
Vice-President, National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT)
March 22,2000

Contact:Contact: John M. Miller (718)-596-7668; Internet: john@etan.org
Media & Outreach Coordinator, East Timor Action Network
48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA
Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097