Sunday, December 29, 2013

For the NEW YEAR!

ETAN wishes all a fulfilling and peace-filled New Year! May the peoples of Timor-Leste, West Papua, and Indonesia find the peace, prosperity and justice they so deserve.

Thank you for your interest and support our work for justice and human rights. We look forward to working with you in the coming year.

Feliz Anu Novu!

Selamat Tahun Baru!

Tinan Foun Haksolok!

Happy New Year!
John for ETAN

Please support ETAN in the coming year. We hope you will help by donating today!  Thank you to all who have contributed so far.

How to Donate to ETAN

You can donate safely by credit card through ETAN's website: . Or you can mail your donation. To support ETAN's work, write a check made out to ETAN. A U.S. tax-deductible donation to support ETAN's educational work of over $50 can be made out to A.J. Muste Memorial Institute/ETAN. Please mail your donations to: East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873.

Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 Timor-Leste Update Conference

2013 Timor-Leste Update Follow Up - IPS - ANU

Amb. Abel Guterres and Agio Pereira (Minister of State and of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers) on left. Ruth Nuttall (ANU) at the podium.
The 2013 Timor-Leste Update was the first to be held at the ANU and brought together leading and emerging scholars and policy analysts working on Timor-Leste to reflect critically on the prospects and challenges for the nation over the next 5-10 years. The main objective of the Update was to contribute to Australia's knowledge of, and engagement with Timor-Leste, by providing a public forum to discuss recent developments in Timor-Leste. The Update also aimed to strengthen relationships between scholars, government agencies, civil society organisations and research institutions working on Timor-Leste and to help build the profile and capacity of East Timorese researchers and policy analysts.
The 2013 Timor-Leste Update was hosted by the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program at the ANU, with funding from the ANU’s Research School of Asia and the Pacific, and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and it is hoped that the Timor-Leste Update will become a biennial event.
Click on the links below to access all the outputs and related material from the 2013 Timor-Leste Update:
Related Publications
Speakers included: Agio Pereira (Minister of State and of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers), Fidelis Magalhaes (Chief of Staff, Presidency of the Republic of Timor-Leste), Charles Scheiner (La’o Hamutuk); Meabh Cryan (Rede ba Rai); Ines Martins (La’o Hamutuk); Nelson Belo (Fundasaun Mahein); Catharina Maria; Jose Neves (Deputy, Anti-Corruption Commission Timor-Leste); Lurdes Bessa (Member of Parliament, Timor-Leste); Laura Soares Abrantes (Asia Pacific Support Collective Timor-Leste); Lia Kent (ANU);Sue Ingram (ANU); Michael Leach (Swinburne University), Gordon Peake (ANU) and more.

Panel on Sub-national development.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tapol: Urgent Appeal: release Biak prisoners

Urgent Appeal: release Biak prisoners

West Papuan political prisoner Yohanes Boseren, currently on trial in Biak, is suffering from mental health problems thought to be related to the heavy beating he suffered when he was arrested. Human rights lawyers are calling for his immediate release and for him to be given the medical treatment he urgently needs. See appeal here.

Also Don't forget to sign ETAN's petition to unconditionally free West Papuan political prisoners.

Read the West Papua Report 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Message from Dili to Australia - Stop Stealing and Occupying the Timor Sea

Activists in Dili send a message to Australia about its theft of Timor's resources.

The photo within the photo is from an East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
demon at the Australian Embassy in Washington, DC in 2004. The struggle continues

Read from the statement of the Timor-Leste based Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea:

Today, the Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea asks the Government of Australia to:
1. Stop stealing and occupying the Timor Sea, but show your good will as a large nation which
follows democratic prniciples to accept a maritime boundary which follows international law
2. Australia should set an example as a sovereign nation which respects and recognizes the
rights of Timor-Leste’s people.
3. Australia should not promote or continue neocolonialism against Timor-Leste’s people, who
have suffered this for centuries. We will no longer be your slaves.
4. The Abbott government should apologize to the Maubere people, who have been hugely
discriminated against by Australia from the past to the present. If not, we will continue to
demonstrate at the Australian Embassy for the indefinite future.
Read the full statement here

Background from Lao Hamutuk is here and from ETAN here.

Mandela, Indonesia and the liberation of Timor Leste

Nelson Mandela took on Suharto in his own house. He demanded to meet with imprisoned East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao during a 1997 visit to Jakarta. Mandela insisted that the meeting take place outside the prison.

From Mandela, Indonesia and the liberation of Timor Leste | The Jakarta Post:
"Unlike many, Mandela remains loyal to the principles of Bandung that included the right to self-determination. Indeed, contrary to leaders of Indonesia’s New Order, he threw his full weight behind the liberation of Timor Leste."
"The defining moments for Mandela and Xanana were at the expense, slowly but surely, of Soeharto." 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

West Papua Report December 2013 - Religious Transformation, crackdown, Freeport, autonomy, Vanuatu speaks out andmore

Latest West Papua Report is now available here


In this edition's "Perspective," Dr. Charles Farhadian describes the transformation of the religious landscape of West Papua, in particular the role of the Indonesian government in the shift of the region from predominantly Christian to predominantly Muslim.

This month's "Update" leads with the police crackdown on West Papuan demonstrators which left at least one Papuan dead, many injured and many under arrest. WPAT sources in Papua New Guinea report that Papuan rights supporters foiled efforts by national police to arrest Port Moresby Governor Powes Parkop for flying the Papuan Morning Star Flag on December 1. Two reports look at the mining giant Freeport McMoRan, including its "greenwashing" activities. Moana Carassas, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, raised the plight of the people of West Papua at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka. A prominent Indonesian journalist called for greater transparency by the Indonesian government in dealing with West Papua.  A regional journal reports on West Papuan activists in carrying their message to the nations of the Pacific.

In "Chronicle," we note condemnation of recent police violence in West Papua by Amnesty International and the West Papua Advocacy Team. The impact of the recent "Freedom Flotilla" is considered in a comprehensive essay. West Papuan voices are largely absent in the ongoing reconsideration of special autonomy for West Papua.  An OpEd by ETAN board member Andrew de Sousa looks at the role of the "School of the Americas" in training military officials who have notorious human rights records. A regional conference examined policing practices.

Powes Parkop, Governor of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea's capital region, was presented with the John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award" for 2013. Parkop (center, holding plaque), with Jennifer Robinson and Benny and Maria Wenda in Port Moresby.

Support ETAN


Monday, November 18, 2013

Indonesia and the School of the Americas

Indonesia and the School of the Americas:

"Inside Indonesia impunity continues to reign supreme: despite some modest gains in reforming the military over the past decade, regular human rights violations continue in West Papua and elsewhere, and the U.S.-created Detachment 88 acts like a death squad, killing suspected terrorists at will. Past crimes continue to go unpunished, with those responsible enjoying prominent positions: Prabowo has formed his own political party and is a leading contender for president, Sjafrie Syamsuddin is a vice-minister, and Lumintang is set to be the next ambassador to the Philippines. General Wiranto, indicted in Timor for his role as head of the military in 1999, is also planning a presidential run."
"It is clear that the Pentagon has also failed to absorb the lessons of the past. With the State Department as a willing ally, human rightsconditions on U.S. military training and other assistance to Indonesian security forces have been systematically dismantled. Despite its rights rhetoric, the Obama administration, like its predecessors, has put made engagement with Indonesia’s security forces a priority. This is what makes actions like the annual mobilization against the SOA so important.
"When the School of the Americas is finally closed it will be an important victory for its victims across the Western Hemisphere, Indonesia, and the world. However, its end must be followed by larger moves to dismantle the system of training which supports atrocities across the globe – including full accountability for those who committed past atrocities, and for those who trained and equipped them."

'via Blog this'

Monday, November 11, 2013

ETAN on anniversary of Santa Cruz massacre

November 12 is the 22nd anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre. On November 12, 1991, Indonesian troops opened fire on a memorial procession - turned into a peaceful pro-independence demonstration - at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. More than 270 mostly-young Timorese were murdered.

As we have often noted, the media coverage of the massacre was a key turning point in Timor's long struggle for independence. It led to the founding of ETAN and similar groups, energize UN and Portuguese diplomacy, and led to some sanctions on Indonesia. In the U.S., ETAN built on the initial cut-off of military training for the Indonesian military. Eventually, all military assistance was cut off in 1999 as Indonesian troops and militia ransacked the Timor in the aftermath of the historic vote that led to independence.

On the 20th anniversary of the massacre ETAN observed that:
"While Timor-Leste is now independent, its people will not be able to overcome their tragic past without knowing what was done with their relatives’ and friends’ bodies. Ongoing impunity for decades of systematic Indonesian military and police atrocities keeps the East Timorese and Indonesian people from consolidating their democracies and moving on with their lives."

Much remains to be done. A year ago, we noted that:

"Impunity for decades of systematic Indonesian military and police atrocities prevents both countries from consolidating the rule of law as they transition from  military dictatorship do democracy."

We continued to to urge the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration to respond to the recommendations of Timor-Leste's Commission for Truth, Reception and Reconciliation, especially "its calls for an international tribunal to try perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the Indonesian occupation, reparations from Indonesia and other countries that supported the occupation, and restrictions on foreign assistance to the Indonesian military."

And we urged the U.S. and others to press Indonesia "to immediately release all information that can help identify and locate those who were killed or disappeared during the occupation,."

For more information on the massacre see ETAN on the web: Twitter: etan009

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

West Papua Report November 2013: Divesting Freeport, MIFEE, MSG, New Provinces, Travel Restrictions, 1970s Massacres

West Papua Report


This month's PERSPECTIVE covers the growing international movement for divestment in Freeport-McMoran. This reflects growing international concern on the mining operation's violations of human rights and ecological destruction in West Papua.

UPDATE looks at a new report that details the Indonesian military's use of U.S. and Australian provided aircraft to devastating effect on Papuan civilians in the 1970's. A plan to create new Papuan provinces will further disenfranchise West Papuans. Despite claims by the governor of Papua province, severe Indonesian government restrictions on journalists and other international visitors to the region remain in place. An Indonesian military-linked businessmen reportedly bribed Solomon Island officials in advance of Melanesian states consideration of a Papuan application for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). International NGOs and others have written to the MSG urging the regional Melanesian organization to accept the application. Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) continues to face criticism.

In CHRONICLE we note the publication of two important books dealing with West Papua; new statements by ETAN and WPAT, and a new report on the impact of the proliferation of new political districts in Papua.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

ETAN and WPAT on Obama's Upcoming Trip to Indonesia

UPDATE: Obama is not going to Indonesia because of U.S. government shutdown. Our criticisms of U.S. policy to Indonesia remain; the policy needs to change.

Read: ETAN Urges President Obama to Put Human Rights at Center of U.S.-Indonesia Relations During Upcoming Visit to Indonesia

“The U.S. must not ignore injustice and human rights violations to advance narrow strategic and economic interests that have little to do with the well-being of the U.S. or Indonesian people,” said ETAN National Coordinator John M. Miller. “While much has changed in Indonesia since the Suharto dictatorship, U.S. security assistance does not promote further change. Instead it encourages impunity and further violations of human rights.” 
“We are calling for a new relationship between the two countries built on an honest assessment of the bloody past,” said Miller. “Instead of offering more weapons and more training to Indonesia’s military, President Obama should suspend this assistance until there is an end to abuses and real accountability for past human rights crimes.”

We are calling for a new relationship between the two countries built on an honest assessment of the bloody past.

Since Obama's last visit to Indonesia, the human rights situation has deteriorated in West Papua and religious intolerance has grown.
“President Obama can send a strong message against impunity by making clear he and and other senior U.S. officials will not to meet with any Indonesian politicians -- including likely presidential candidates, such as retired generals Prabowo and Wiranto -- who have been credibly accused of human rights and other crimes,” said Miller.
The two presidents.
Read: West Papua Advocacy Team Open Letter to President Obama

This year marks 50 years of Indonesian rule over West Papua, which had previously been a Dutch colony slated for independence. Half a century of Indonesian rule has seen West Papua subjected to crimes against humanity, according to numerous credible human rights reports. Half a century of colonization of one people by the armed forces of another has taken place. Half a century of ongoing conflict has been the result. To resolve the conflict peacefully, international mediation is needed. West Papua was delivered to Indonesian rule as a result of American mediation, which confers upon the United States a special responsibility to act to resolve the current conflict peacefully.

The increasing militarization of West Papua indicates that there is no let-up in sight to the half-century of widespread violations of basic human rights in West Papua. If Indonesia is democratizing, the reverse is the case in West Papua.

We therefore recommend that on your trip to Indonesia, you:
  1. Press for a dialogue between the Indonesian government and West Papuan civil society, with international third-party mediation, along the lines of the successful international medication of the Aceh conflict in 2005. Current policy is not advancing dialogue. Internationally-mediated dialogue is a growing call from civil society voices in both West Papua and Indonesia.
  2. Halt military assistance to the Indonesian security forces. United States cooperation with the most brutal elements of the security forces encourages the climate of impunity, and United States sale of Apache helicopters increases the repressive capacity of the security forces in West Papua. Cooperation with the Kopassus Special Forces and Detachment 88of the Indonesian National Police should be suspended pending an improvement of the human rights situation in West Papua and the initiation of dialogue, and the agreement to provide Apache helicopters should be cancelled. Non-military ties should continue to expand but military cooperation be made conditional on respect for human rights in West Papua, as it was with respect to the Timor-Leste situation prior to Timor-Leste's independence.
  3. Press for open access to West Papua by international observers, NGOs and others, so that the conflict will no longer be hidden.
  4. Support efforts from within Melanesia to address the root causes of the conflict in West Papua, the denial of self-determination and the persistence of repressive policies by the Indonesian security forces.
  5. Press President Yudhoyono to order a halt to security forces' violations of the human rights of West Papuan civilians, and hold security personnel accountable for their crimes by laying charges, where evidence merits, in civilian courts.
West Papua Advocacy Team

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

West Papua Report September 2013: Asia Pivot, 'Helicopters, MSG, Freedom Flotilla, more

Read the Report here

This month's PERSPECTIVE is by retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer (and West Papua Report editor) Edmund McWilliams. His analysis assesses the implications of the U.S. government "pivot" to Asia for U.S. policy regarding Indonesia and West Papua. The U.S. re-focus toward Asia and the Pacific involves closer U.S. political, security and economic ties to countries of the region. These enhanced security ties, in particular, will mean diminished U.S. government attention to human rights violations, corruption, and undemocratic behavior by regional militaries the U.S. seeks as "partners," including Indonesia.

In "UPDATE," we note the U.S. government's decision to proceed with the sale of eight Apache helicopters to the Indonesian military. More than 90 NGO's had urged the sale not go forward, due in part the likelihood that it will employed in West Papua. A"freedom flotilla" has left Australia for West Papua. Indonesian officials have threatened to arrest participants. Jakarta may renege on it pledge to invite Foreign Ministers of the Melanesian Spearhead Group nations to visit Jakarta and West Papua. Indonesian security forces have arrested scores of Papuans who sought peacefully to assert their cultural identity. 

In this month's "CHRONICLE," we note an open letter by the Australia West Papua Association to the Pacific Islands Forum to take up the issue of West Papua and link to an interview with Benny Wenda carried by Democracy Now!

Police surrounding event welcoming Freedom Flotilla in Sorong
just prior to arrests of organizers (Photo: NFRPB/
WPM sources)

Link to this issue:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Groups Condemn Sale of Deadly Attack Helicopters to Indonesia

Contact: Contact: John M. Miller, +1-917-690-4391,
Ed McWilliams, +1-575-648-2078

August 26, 2013 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) today condemned the U.S. government's decision to approve the sale of deadly Apache attack helicopters to Indonesia. The sale demonstrates that U.S. concern for greater respect for human rights and justice in Indonesia are nothing more than hollow rhetoric.

The new Apache attack helicopters will greatly augment the capacity of the TNI to pursue "sweeping" operations, extending TNI capacity to stage operations after dark and in ever more remote areas.

The sale, announced during the visit of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to Jakarta, ignores the appalling record of human rights violations by the Indonesian military (TNI), which will operate this deadly weapons system.

The helicopters are offensive weapons often used in counter-insurgency campaigns.

The TNI continues to conduct military campaigns in West Papua. The military's "sweeps" and other military operations purportedly target the few remaining, lightly-armed pro-independence guerrillas. In reality, the operations are aimed at repressing and intimidating Papuans. The sweep operations, involve assaults on remote villages in West Papua, destroying civilian homes, churches and public buildings and forcing civilians from their homes. These attacks drive civilians into surrounding mountains and jungles where many have died due to a lack of food, shelter or medical assistance.

The new Apache attack helicopters will greatly augment the capacity of the TNI to pursue "sweeping" operations, extending TNI capacity to stage operations after dark and in ever more remote areas.

The statement by Indonesia's Minister of Defense that the sale does not include any conditions on the use of these weapons is especially concerning. The TNI use of these weapons platforms will be largely unconstrained. TNI personnel are not accountable to the civilian judicial system nor is the TNI as an institution subordinated to civilian government policy or operational control. For decades, the TNI has drawn funding from a vast network of legal and illegal businesses enabling it to evade even civilian government budgetary controls. Legislation to restrain the TNI has been weak or only partially implemented.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, second from left, meets with Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in Jakarta, Aug. 26, 2013. DOD photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler 

On Monday August 26, Secretary of Defense Hagel announced that the U.S. had closed a deal for Indonesia to buy eight AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for a half a billion dollars. The U.S. did not attach conditions restricting their use.

The sale represents the latest step in the Pentagon's increased engagement with the TNI. In 1999, restrictions on U.S. engagement with the Indonesia military were tightened as the TNI and its militia allies were destroying East Timor (now Timor-Leste) following the UN-conducted referendum on independence. Through the 2000s, restrictions on engagement with the Indonesian military were gradually lifted, even though it remained unaccountable for its past crimes in Timor-Leste and throughout the archipelago  and rights violations continue in West Papua and elsewhere.

Last year, ETAN and WPAT coordinated a letter signed by more than 90 organizations urging the U.S. not to sell the deadly attack helicopters to Indonesia. The groups warned that the helicopters will escalate conflicts in Indonesia, especially in the rebellious region of West Papua: "Providing these helicopters would pose a direct threat to Papuan civilians."

ETAN, formed in 1991 and advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. Since its founding, ETAN has worked to condition U.S. military assistance to Indonesia on respect for human rights and genuine reform. See ETAN's web site: WPAT publishes the monthly West Papua Report.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pedalling for Papua in NYC August 22, 2013

Pedalling for Papua
Thursday, August 22, 2013, 7:00pm
Maryhouse, 55 E Third St, New York City (Lower East Side)

for more information contact: or call 917-690-4391

RSVP on Facebook

Pedalling for Papua is coming to New York City! A 12,000 kilometer international bicycling and performance tour, Pedalling for Papua aims to raise awareness of the 50 year old human rights and environmental abuse in the underreported region of West Papua.

As home to the bird of paradise, the second largest jungle remaining in the world, and our planet’s most bio-diverse marine zone, this beautiful region has been subject to what many observers have dubbed a slow-motion genocide. Tens of thousands of indigenous West Papuans have died as a result of the military presence and lack of development in their homeland.

This story needs to be told, and it will be. Over six months, Jeremy Bally will tour a multimedia performance on his bicycle through seven countries.

The show takes recorded conversations with West Papuan exiles, refugees and activists live on stage through an original animation. 

This is projected beside Jeremy as he narrates with original spoken word poetry and ukulele based hip-hop music.

Entry is by donation. See you there!

About the Performance
In January and February 2013, Jeremy Bally conducted a series of interviews with members of the West Papuan diaspora. Among those he spoke with were musicians, students, activists, and former political prisoners. All of them identified as either refugees or exiles themselves, or having been born to refugees.

Those interviews were recorded with permission, and have been transformed into a story of West Papua by West Papuans. Now set to original animation, their story is narrated on stage through ukulele based hip hop and spoken word.

We believe that stories, when told well, have the power to change the world. Our vision for this performance is that audiences are at once engaged, educated and inspired to participate in building a peaceful future for West Papua.

Pedalling for Papua on FacebookTwitter

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see also

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Guatemalan path for Indonesian justice

Guatemalan path for Indonesian justice
By Andrew de Sousa*
Over two months ago, a packed courtroom in Guatemala City appeared to be in chaos. Many were in tears as the room filled with cries of "justicia!". The former military dictator General Efrain Rios Montt, meanwhile, was surrounded to ensure he would not escape.

What many assumed to be impossible had happened: someone was being held responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses of the past century, the genocide of the indigenous Maya of Guatemala. Despite its notoriously corrupt judicial system, Guatemala had become the first country in the world to convict a former president for genocide in its own territory. It was a legal victory for human rights everywhere and ideally will serve as precedent for holding other leaders accountable, including in Indonesia.

While separated by some 16,000 kilometers of Pacific Ocean, Guatemala and Indonesia have similar modern histories. At the beginning of the Cold War, the United States government felt threatened by progressive, leftist movements in both countries. A decade before the Central Intelligence Agency supported General Suharto's rise to power, the democratically-elected Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz was ousted in a CIA-backed coup d'etat, just two years after legalizing the communist party and 18 months into a modest land reform program perceived as a threat to US business interests.

Throughout the Cold War, the US provided support to both the Indonesian and Guatemalan militaries under the pretext of stopping the spread of Communism. Just as perceived links to the Communist Party of Indonesia, or Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI), or Chinese ethnicity were used to justify the massacre of as many as one million Indonesians, the Guatemalan military killed an estimated 200,000 mostly unarmed indigenous Mayans who were assumed to be guerrilla sympathizers based solely on their ethnicity. Before the purge, the PKI was the world's largest non-ruling communist party.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, while the Indonesian military's atrocities extended to the annexed island of East Timor, now known as Timor-Leste, across the Pacific a succession of military regimes increased their repression of the Guatemalan people. While thousands of activists were disappeared in the cities, the military conducted a scorched earth campaign against the entire Maya population.

While then US president Ronald Reagan applauded the "wise and steadfast leadership" of General Suharto, his praise for Guatemalan General Rios Montt was even more effusive. According to Reagan, the military dictator who oversaw the 16 bloodiest months of the 36-year conflict in Guatemala was "a man of great personal integrity and commitment".

The conflict in Guatemala officially ended with the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords. The government agreed to uphold international human rights standards, end extra-judicial or clandestine security forces, stop extra-judicial executions and enforced disappearances, and create a United Nations-supported Historical Clarification Commission. The commission found that acts of genocide had occurred, with successive military governments responsible for 626 separate massacres and 93% of the deaths during the conflict, with 83% of the victims being indigenous Maya.

Still, for almost 15 years after the Peace Accords, Guatemalan courts refused to hold high-ranking officials responsible for the atrocities of the 1980s. A group of brave Maya survivors, organized as the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR), helped to change that.

In 2000 and 2001, AJR filed legal charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against two former presidents, Romeo Lucas Garcia and Rios Montt, and their top military commands. The move appeared quixotic: Rios Montt enjoyed immunity as a sitting member of parliament, and his political ally, Alfonso Portillo, was president. With a lack of political will among judges and public prosecutors, the case stalled under the regularly filed appeals of defense lawyers.

In 2006, however, the system began to change. The UN created an International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, placing an international prosecutor in Guatemala to target organized crime. Then, in 2011, four low-level former soldiers were convicted and sentenced to 6,060 years in prison each for their role in the 1982 Dos Erres Massacre, the first time members of the military were found guilty for atrocities committed during the 1980s. A year later a fifth soldier was convicted and sentenced. When Rios Montt left parliament in 2012, he was placed under house arrest pending trial.

Within a year, Rios Montt was before a three-judge panel. Over six weeks, the court heard evidence of the military's systematic rape, torture and murder of rural subsistence farmers targeted merely for being from the Ixil Maya communities. Experts provided evidence that Rios Montt was fully aware and in command of these scorched earth operations, making him culpable of genocide. Rios Montt was sentenced to 80 years and immediately taken to prison.

On May 20, in an unprecedented ruling 10 days after the conviction, the Constitutional Court annulled the second half of the trial. Rios Montt was back under house arrest and many lamented a major defeat for the pursuit of justice. While the reversal was unwanted, for those most involved it was far from unexpected. From the beginning, the trial was not only about Rios Montt but also about to create a process of justice for Guatemala as a whole - and the elite in particular - to acknowledge that what had happened to the poor and indigenous Ixil Maya population was illegal and wrong.

The trial gave the people of Ixil a national stage to tell their story. Their testimony was broadcast and the public heard how children were forced to watch their parents being killed and fetuses ripped from their mothers' wombs. A former solider testified how the current president, Otto Perez Molina, ordered his troops at the time to burn villages and kill anyone who tried to escape. The most powerful message of all was "si hubo genocido!", or that genocide did occur. This motto was a rallying cry for an emboldened fight for justice - what was once only said in private or abroad was now in the open.

While impunity still reigns in Guatemala, it is only a momentary victory. The testimony of dozens of survivors, built upon decades of struggle and resistance, engendered hope more powerful than any court ruling. By refusing to let those in power silence them, some of the poorest and most oppressed people in the Western Hemisphere were able to accomplish the impossible. By holding Rios Montt accountable, if only temporarily, they have shown that it is possible for justice to prevail in even the most unlikely of circumstances.

Who is to say that the same cannot happen in the courts of Jakarta or the fledgling legal system in recently independent Timor-Leste? Certain prominent Indonesian politicians, including former military generals and at least one presidential hopeful, could easily be found culpable for human rights abuses if justice was legitimately pursued. While Guatemala's fight for justice has only now gained traction, 15 years after the initial calls ofreformasi and Indonesia still has not come to terms with its genocidal past.

In the words of Guatemalan genocide survivor Edwin Canil, "This has got a long way to go yet. It's just a question of who gets tired first: them or us. But we're still here and staying firm."

* Andrew de Sousa is with the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South and a member of the board of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN),

also published in Speaking Freely at Asia Times Online 

(Copyright 2013 Andrew de Sousa) 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Making a difference

Rev. Elice Higginbotham
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
August  2013
Protester with signs outside ETAN's protest of the Appeal to Conscience award's ceremony in New York City. Photo by John M. Miller/ETAN.
Dear friend:

Do you ever wonder if signing a petition makes a difference?

Last spring, some shocked Indonesians informed ETAN that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was to be honored by the New York-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an organization dedicated (it said) to religious tolerance and human rights. Our immediate response was to organize protests against giving the "World Statesman Award" to SBY. Among other actions, we organized online petition that many of you signed.

I am writing to urge you to support ETAN by making a contribution today. Please go to to donate.

More than 2,000 of you spoke out against the award to SBY by signing ETAN’s petition. The petition motivated a spin-off in Indonesia, which gathered an additional 6,000 signatures, mostly from amazed, amused or outraged Indonesians. I was in Jakarta during this time and many Indonesians expressed their appreciation for ETAN's actions.

We weren’t surprised when SBY did, indeed come to New York to accept the “World Statesman Award.” Our old antagonist, Henry Kissinger, was on hand to present it at a big-ticket fundraising dinner. But so was ETAN’s “welcoming committee” of Indonesian, U.S. and other human rights advocates, who protested the award and spoke out about SBY’s real record on human rights, religious tolerance, and the rule of law in Indonesia.

Our actions helped to draw attention to Indonesia’s continued persecution of religious minorities and other human rights violations. For the first time the semi-weekly public protests by religious minorities in front of the National Palace in Jakarta drew regular media attention. Letters and other denunciations of the award from academics, rights activists, religious figures, and others generated news in Indonesia for weeks prior to the awards ceremony. Calls for SBY to make good on the promises he made in his acceptance speech continue to this day.

We were interested to learn just how “threatening” Indonesia’s diplomats find ETAN. We were told of a meeting among U.S.-based diplomats who blamed ETAN, among others, for the uproar about the award. We heard from Indonesians living in the New York area who had received offers of dollars and dinner to fill seats at the award presentation. Those bused in were forced to participate in a “counter-demonstration” aimed at covering up the truths that ETAN was exposing. We do not have access to the discretionary funds of the Indonesian Embassy; our protest was smaller, but all the more genuine.

Your signature made a difference. And so can your donation.

The “No Award for SBY” petition represents just one of ETAN’s deceptively modest efforts to keep Indonesia - and its continued military and economic support from the U.S. - in the public eye and before policymakers. These efforts have been making a difference for more than two decades and, with your support, will continue to do so.

Please contribute what you can. We depend on support from people like you. People who are dedicated to human and civil rights for the peoples of Indonesia.

Your financial contribution to ETAN will make a difference. With your help, ETAN can continue to:
  • Keep you and others informed about violations of human rights, the role of corporate interests and other developments in West Papua through our monthly report,
  • Respond to calls for action in response to reports of human rights violations,
  • Provide firsthand reports on elections, legislation, economic development in Indonesia, West Papua, and Timor-Leste,
  • Keep you aware of the influence of U.S. policy on events in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and West Papua – and keep U.S. and Indonesian policymakers aware that we are watching them.
Please see our website for information about our current campaigns.
Please give generously, so that together we can continue to make a difference. 
In solidarity,

Elice HigginbothamMember, Board of Directors, ETAN

P.S. Please consider becoming an ETAN sustainer by making a monthly donation by credit card. Help put ETAN on a firmer financial footing: information here.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Watch The Act of Killing, Say Sorry for 65

In 1965-1966, up to a million Indonesians were massacred. Hundreds of thousands more were injured, disappeared, raped and imprisoned without trial. The United States and the United Kingdom secretly welcomed and supported the killings.
Many of the mass murderers are still alive today and have never been brought to justice – on the contrary, the killers are celebrated as heroes. For fifty years the victims have been asking for justice and for the government to Say Sorry for ‘65, but Indonesia denies these crimes even happened.
The new film THE ACT OF KILLING has finally exposed the staggering reality of Indonesia’s holocaust, and given the victims the chance they dream of – take action now to support their call for President SBY to Say Sorry for '65.

Say Sorry for ’65 is campaign initiated by Tapol and supported by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).

Take action!

1.Join the call for Indonesia President SBY
to Say Sorry for 65

Sign Our Petition
2.Support the campaign for justice

3.Find a screening near you
Going to a showing of The Act of Killing?
Print this and give out to the audience
4.Spread the word
Watch the trailer

Share the Video 
5.Learn more about our campaign
Read More 

Download and print Factsheet:
Minta Maaf! Say Sorry for 65 (PDF)

Subscribe ETAN's Key Contact List:
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