RECENT EVENTS: On December 10, 1996, Human Rights Day, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo of East Timor became the first Catholic Bishop to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He visited Oslo for the Nobel award ceremony and then to Rome where on December 20 he had an audience with the Pope. The Holy Father told Bishop Belo of his hope that the Nobel would be a shield in the bishop(s efforts to pursue peace for his people. Sadly, no sooner had he returned on Christmas Eve to East Timor than a new and intense wave of repression by Indonesian forces began. Outside the cathedral in the capital city of Dili on December 24, a soldier was killed under circumstances that remain unclear. Bishop Belo immediately condemned the killing, yet, according to reports from the bishop, since December 24 Indonesian forces have used the killing as a reason to arrest, beat and torture many young people, some whose only crime was to wear a tee shirt with a likeness of Bishop Belo on it. U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) was with Bishop Belo at the time of the December 24 events, and U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) visited East Timor from January12-14, and has referred to the present situation there as "a reign of terror."
Rep. Wolf recently wrote: "I have visited some corners of the world where people live in fear: Sarajevo and Mostar before U.S. peacekeeping troops arrived in Bosnia, Chechnya when their battle with Russia was raging, Sudan in the midst of vicious conflict, and China. But the abject terror I found on my visit to East Timor this month is as bad as anything I have ever seen. We must not overlook its tragic plight."
ROLE OF THE U.S.: International pressure, especially from the US, has prevented a bad situation in East Timor from becoming a good deal worse. Concern expressed by Congress and the Administration now could have a deterrent effect on the Indonesian authorities before the current situation gets out of hand. US actions at the UN could help encourage talks between the parties directly concerned.
USCC POSITION: The USCC has long supported the efforts of Bishop Belo. On July 26, 1994, Bishop Daniel Reilly, as Chairman of the Committee on International Policy, issued a statement expressing concern over the difficulties experienced by Bishop Belo and the Catholics of East Timor, and about the human rights situation there. The statement urged intensification of the UN discussions, which the Holy See has strongly encouraged. While the Conference takes no position on the political questions of East Timor's independence or integration with Indonesia, it has consistently denounced the serious violations of human rights, including religious liberty, and calls for the unresolved political status to be settled under the mediation of the UN and the participation of the governments of Portugal and Indonesia.
ACTION REQUESTED: Congressional protests and representations by various U.S. Administrations since 1979 have helped to limit the severity of human rights abuses in East Timor. It is crucial to contact your Senators and Representatives expressing support for the efforts of Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI), US Reps. Tony Hall (D-OH), Patrick Kennedy and Frank Wolf which call on the United States to raise the issue of repression in East Timor with the Indonesian government and also call for strong support for UN-sponsored talks in which Bishop Belo has played a crucial role, to promote human rights and peace in East Timor. It is anticipated that additional letters and resolutions in the Congress will follow up on these matters, and it is important that your senators and representatives be encouraged to support such initiatives. Please raise the issue of East Timor with each Member of Congress you meet with, expressing support for Bishop Belo's efforts for peace and human rights. Ask Members to contact the State Department about the current repression in East Timor, stressing that the US should press for an end to the violence and a renewal of UN peace talks with East Timorese participation.
Encourage House Members to support the resolution on the reverse side.
In the House of Representatives
(Mr. Hall of Ohio, Mr. Wolf, Mr. Frank of Massachusetts, Mr. Smith of New Jersey, Mr. Kennedy of Rhode Island, Mrs. Morella, Mrs. Lowey, Mr. Lantos and Mr. Porter.)
To honor 1996 Nobel Peace Prize recipients Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta, and to express support for the process of building a just and lasting peace in East Timor.
Whereas the Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1996 to Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta for their tireless efforts to find a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor;
Whereas Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and has systematically oppressed the people of East Timor;
Whereas since 1975 one-third of the population of East Timor is estimated to have perished of starvation, war, and terror;
Whereas Indonesia(s invasion was condemned by the United Nations, as was its subsequent occupation of East Timor;
Whereas on November 12, 1991, Indonesian troops opened fire on thousands of peaceful mourners and demonstrators at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, the capital of East Timor, killing and wounding hundreds;
Whereas Bishop Belo has been the preeminent representative of the people of East Timor, and has at great risk to his own life fought for the human and civil rights of the people of East Timor, while also being a steadfast advocate for nonviolence and dialogue between the people of East Timor and the Indonesian authorities;
Whereas Ramos-Horta has since 1975 been the leading international spokesman for the people of East Timor, and has made valuable contributions to their cause though his efforts to create a peace plan for the region; and
Whereas both men are an inspiration not only for those who desire peace in East Timor, but for those the world over who seek peacefully to resolve longstanding, bloody conflicts: Now, therefore be it
Resolved, That the United States House of Representatives--
- recognizes, admires, and honors Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta for their sustained and self-sacrificing contributions on behalf of their oppressed people;
- expresses its support for the continued efforts of Bishop Belo, Ramos-Horta, and the people of East Timor; and
- affirms its support for a diplomatic solution to the conflict in East Timor based on the people(s right to self-determination,