BACKGROUND: More than 18 months after Indonesian soldiers opened fire on hundreds of peaceful marchers in Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor, killing dozens of innocents, the human rights situation in this Indonesian-occupied territory remains appalling. In an April 24, 1993 profile in The New York Times, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo of Dili spoke of "reports of parishioners who warned of rumors that he was to be 'ambushed' by government assassins." The general situation, the bishop said, keeps getting worse: "We lack the freedom to speak, to walk where we want, to have different opinions."
The Clinton administration has begun to address the situation in East Timor, a largely Catholic former Portuguese colony whose population has been decimated since the Indonesian invasion in 1975. In March, the U.S. backed a resolution in the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva expressing strong concern over Indonesian human rights abuses in Timor. As Bishop Belo observed concerning political prisoners, torture is part of the routine, "just as two plus two is four."
USCC POSITION: On several occasions, the Conference has denounced Indonesian human rights violations in East Timor, supported cut-off of US military aid to Indonesia, and urged continuation of the UN-sponsored discussions between Indonesia and Portugal concerning the political status of East Timor.
ACTION REQUESTED: On July 6, President Clinton will meet with Indonesian President Suharto during the G-7 meeting in Tokyo. A letter, initiated by Sens. Wallop, Pell, McCain and Feingold, to President Clinton is presently circulating in the US Senate, urging him to press US concern over human rights abuses and for greater access to East Timor for international humanitarian organizations, and to seek wider allied support for a UN-sponsored settlement of the conflict.
One or both of your Senators is listed as having signed the 1993 Senate letter on East Timor but not yet as signing the Wallop et al. letter. Please call or fax the Senator this week, urging him/her to sign up immediately: the deadline is Friday, July 2.
For further information, call Tom Quigley: (202) 541-3198