BACKGROUND: Nearly two years after Indonesian soldiers opened fire on hundreds of peaceful marchers in Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor, killing from 150 to 250 innocent people, harsh repression continues in this Indonesian-occupied territory. In a communication in September 1993, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo of Dili said dozens of young people who had tried to hold a demonstration (but had not actually done so) during the early September visit of a staff delegation from the US House of Representatives "were barbarously beaten and tortured." Bishop Belo concluded: "I ask you...to contact members of Congress so that they will continue to pressure Indonesia to withdraw its troops from East Timor and give more freedom to the people...As you can see, we are living in an environment of terror and pressure."
The Clinton Administration has taken some steps to address the situation in East Timor, the largely Catholic former Portuguese colony whose population has been decimated since the Indonesian invasion in 1975. In July, during the G-7 meeting in Tokyo, President Clinton raised the issue of human rights in East Timor with Indonesian President Suharto. In September, Secretary of State Christopher provided US encouragement for the UN-sponsored discussions between Indonesia and Portugal concerning the political status of East Timor.
USCC POSITION: On several occasions, the Conference has denounced Indonesian human rights violations in East Timor, supported a cut-off of US military training for Indonesia, and urged continuation of the UN discussions, which the Holy See has also encouraged.
ACTION REQUESTED: Around November 19-20, President Clinton and other high-level US officials will meet with Indonesian President Suharto during the Asia Pacific Economic Conference summit in Seattle, Washington. A Senate letter, initiated by Senators Pell, Feingold and Durenberger to President Clinton is presently circulating in the US Senate, urging him to press US concern over human rights abuses, an end to harassment of East Timor's Catholic Church, and the need for steps that might lead to reconciliation and a peaceful UN-sponsored settlement of the East Timor conflict. A similar letter, initiated by Representatives Hall, Machtley, Lantos and Porter, is also circulating in the House.
Please call or fax your Senators and Representatives, urging them to co-sign the letter. The deadline is Friday, November 12.
For further information, call Tom Quigley: (202) 541-3198