Why you are receiving this ALERT: On October 24, President Clinton will host Indonesian President Suharto in Washington, and once again we hope to encourage many Senators to sign on a Dear Colleague letter urging Mr. Clinton to raise the issue of human rights in East Timor. We're asking you to put a call in to both your Senators.
Background: In the worst disturbances in the territory in nearly a year, demonstrations shook East Timor for several days in September. More than 100 young people were arrested, many of them reportedly tortured. Tension between the Indonesian military (aided by roving vigilante groups) and the people remains very high. Estimates of non-Timorese settlers, encouraged to migrate by the Indonesian government so as to consolidate its occupation, run as high as 200,000 and are continuing.
Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, the undisputed leader of the forces for peace and a negotiated settlement of the territory's political status, has come under vicious attack by Indonesian press, evidently seeking to tarnish his reputation at a time when the Nobel Committee is said to be considering him for this year's Peace Prize.
USCC Position: The Conference has long supported the right of the people of East Timor to determine their political future, as provided for by mandate of the UN, and has protested the regime's denial of full human rights. We have encouraged specific Congressional action to restrict military aid to Indonesia because of the continuing human rights violations in East Timor. Bishop Belo addressed the Committee on International Policy last June and expressed gratitude for USCC support, especially praising the 1994 committee statement on East Timor.
Action Requested: Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Sen. Connie Mack (R-FL) are presently circulating a Dear Colleague letter, inviting other Senators to join in signing a letter to the President, urging him to raise with President Suharto the need to come to resolution on the problem of East Timor. Please call/fax your Senators before October 19, urging them to sign on to the Feingold/Mack letter. Thanks, as ever for your good efforts on this seemingly small but symbolically important human rights issue.
For more information, copy of Dear Colleague letter: Tom Quigley (202)541-3184