Immediate repatriation of the East Timorese is called for by the 10th Christian Consultation on East Timor

11th October 1999

PRESS RELEASE FROM CIIR (Catholic Institute for International Relations, London)

ciirFrom 8-10 October 1999 representatives of churches and church organisations* met in Aachen, Germany for the 10th Christian Consultation on East Timor to discuss the current situation. It was clear that the most important issue on the agenda was the immediate repatriation of East Timorese from West Timor and other islands in the Indonesian archipelago. Again and again the meeting heard stories about the plight of the refugees – poor living conditions and constant threats and intimidation.

It is estimated that as many as 200,000 refugees have been expelled from East Timor. There is a new danger in that a law about to be passed that will release East Timor from the authority of Indonesia will mean refugees could be seen as internally displaced persons and be pressurised to join a transmigrasi-programme. Returning home to East Timor will become that much more difficult, if not impossible. The Consultation, in a letter to Sadako Ogata, the High Commissioner for Refugees called for the immediate repatriation of East Timorese and asked for formal steps to be taken to get a commitment that those East Timorese remaining in Indonesia after this new law is passed will be escorted back to East Timor in safety and under the protection of the UNHCR. The participants of the Consultation also appealed to those governments concerned to honour their commitments to East Timor as soon as possible. They stressed the importance of the full participation of East Timorese at all stages of the relief and reconstruction process and of close coordination among the United Nations, International Red Cross, international governmental and non governmental organisations. They also noted that it is crucial for the democratic future of Indonesia that those responsible for war crimes in East Timor be brought to justice and therefore urge the government of Indonesia to cooperate fully with the International Commission of Inquiry set up at the Special Session of the Commission of Human Rights in Geneva from the 23 – 27 September. * including Watch Indonesia!

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