Tuesday, April 21, 1998.

UNHRC Resolution on East Timor about to be scuttled

The resolution on East Timor tabled last week, by the European Union, at the UN Human Rights Commission currently sitting in Geneva is about to be scuttled by Britain. Voting on the resolution begins on Tuesday, April 21.

After appearing to be staunch in pressing for a resolution, it now appears that Britain, on behalf of the European Union is holding direct negotiations with Indonesia for a chairman's statement and are doing so behind the backs of the Portuguese. From reports that the East Timor International Support Center has received, it appears that the Tony Blair government is not even demanding any specific commitments from Jakarta, such as for instance a clear commitment to invite a Special Rapporteur at a clearly specified time, to investigate the human rights abuses in East Timor.

The EU's tabled resolution expresses profound concern on the increasing violence in East Timor in 1997, in particular during the period of the general elections in Indonesia, and the continuous migration of Indonesians into the troubled territory. It also highlights the continuing efforts by Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission in investigating human rights violations in East Timor.

At the same time, the tabled resolution welcomes the efforts of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his Special Envoy to East Timor, Jamsheed Marker, in the establishment of a regular and official dialogue on the question of the troubled territory. The resolution also encourages the UN chief to continue his efforts to find a "fair and internationally acceptable solution" for the East Timor issue, as well as the progression of the intra-Timorese dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations.

Last year, the UN Human Rights Commission approved an EU resolution condemning Indonesia with 20 votes in favour, 14 against and 18 abstentions.

It is quite clear that certain EU countries are using the Asian financial crisis as an excuse not to take a stand on East Timor, arguing that the West should not put extra pressure on Indonesia right now. This argument is hypocritical an unethical and displays a lack of courage on the part of the Europeans despite the fact that the EU has a Common Position on East Timor. The Common Position, among other clauses, "fully respects the interests and legitimate aspirations of the Timorese people, in accordance with international law."

"My experience this year in observing the way your delegation is conducting itself in regard to the issue of East Timor throws into doubt your public promises and pronouncements," wrote Nobel Peace Co-Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta in a message today to British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

"You [Britain] continue to sell weapons to Indonesia, fail to be serious in dealing with the human rights situation in East Timor and once again, it is obvious that if you have to choose between your historic ally, the Portuguese, and your favourite dictator Suharto, you will no doubt always stab the Portuguese in the back," added Ramos-Horta.

"I mention the Portuguese because it is more than obvious that as far was we, the East Timorese are concerned, we don't even enter into the equation."

Background information
a) Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it a year later but the United Nations still regards Portugal as the territory's administering power. Some 210,000 East Timorese, mostly civilians, women and children, lost their lives in the bombardments and "cleaning" manoeuvres of the Indonesian army.

b) The European Union's Council of Ministers adopted its first COMMON POSITION on East Timor in 1996 after months of debate and years of pressure from campaigning groups in member states. The main part of the EU Common Position on East Timor is contained in two articles:

Article 1: The European Union, referring to its previous declarations on the situation in East Timor, intends to pursue the following aims:

1) to contribute to the achievement by dialogue of a fair, comprehensive and internationally acceptable solution to the question of East Timor, which fully respects the interests and legitimate aspirations of the Timorese people, in accordance with international law;

2) to improve the situation in East Timor regarding respect for human rights in the territory.

Article 2: To pursue the aims referred to in Article 1, the European Union:

1) supports the initiatives undertaken by the United Nations framework which may contribute to resolving this question;

2) supports in particular the current talks under the aegis of the UN Secretary-General with the aim of achieving the solution referred to in point (1) of Article 1, effective progress towards which continues to be hampered by serious obstacles;

3) encourages the continuation of Intra-Timorese Dialogue meetings in the context of this process of dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations;

4) calls on the Indonesian government to adopt effective measures leading to a significant improvement in East Timor, in particular by implementing fully the relevant decisions adopted in this connection by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

5) Supports all appropriate action with the objective of generally strengthening respect for human rights in East Timor and substantially improving the situation of its people, by means of the resources available to the European Union for action by NGOs.

What you can do
1. Please do what you can to press your own governments to support the resolution, AND;

2. Fax letters, supporting the resolution, to the British Foreign Secretary's Office in London at +44-171-270-3731 (salutations: The Right Hon. Robin Cook, MP, Foreign Secretary). Also send copies of your letters to TAPOL, Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, Surrey, UK, fax: +44-181-653-0322.

PLEASE ACT SOON, voting takes place in less than 24 hours' time.

East Timor International Support Center
PO Box 651, Nightcliff, Darwin 0814, NT, Australia
Web-site: http://www.easttimor.com

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