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East Timor Rights Group Wants US Apology for Not Preventing Invasion - 2001-12-07


A human rights group in East Timor wants the United States to apologize for supporting Indonesia's invasion of East Timor 26 years ago today [December 7]. The demand follows the release of secret US government documents that show that US government officials did not stop the plan.

A spokesman for the East Timorese human rights group, Yayasan Hak, says the Indonesian government bears the greatest responsibility for the invasion of East Timor. But Joaquim Fonseca says senior US officials also should be held accountable. "For the complicity that was committed by the US government, the U-S highest officials - in which case was the president of the United States - should be held accountable for that," he said. Mr. Fonseca's comments come after the National Security Archive in Washington released previously classified documents about the 1975 invasion. The documents detail how former President Gerald Ford, along with his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, met with former Indonesian President Suharto before the invasion.

At that time, during the height of the Cold War, the U.S. administration feared a possible spread of communism in Asia, including East Timor. According to the documents, Mr. Ford and Mr. Kissinger gave Mr. Suharto approval for the invasion, which took place the following day, December 7.

However, the United States never officially recognized Indonesia's occupation of East Timor.

On Friday, hundreds of East Timorese commemorated the anniversary of the invasion in the capital, Dili. Human rights groups say an estimated 200,000 people died as a result of the invasion. In 1999, East Timor voted to break free from Indonesia in a United Nations-supervised referendum. East Timor is now under U.N. administration until its full independence in May next year.

Since the referendum, the United States has been one of the biggest aid donors to the territory. But Mr. Fonseca says the United States still should push for justice for past crimes. "It is a great hypocrisy if the United States is doing all the effort to chase all those who killed thousands of people in Washington and New York in September, if it doesn't open its eyes to push for justice for those who were killed in East Timor," he said. An Indonesian government spokesman says the release of the documents is not expected to affect current US-Indonesian relations.

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