November 6, 2014
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:
We write to bring the case of Dr. Stacey Addison of Portland to your attention as a real example of how the Senate’s failure to confirm qualified diplomatic nominees limits our ability to help Americans abroad. When the Senate returns on November 12, we urge you to schedule votes on the many qualified ambassadorial nominees who have been waiting, including the nomination of Karen Stanton to be the U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste.
Dr. Stacey Addison is languishing in an Indonesian prison, not charged with a crime, but being detained because a stranger crawled into her cab – with drugs on him. He was arrested. She was not. Yet by virtue of being in the same cab, authorities are holding her until a year long investigation is conducted.
Dr. Addison is a resident of Portland, Oregon and a veterinarian who decided to spend a year traveling the world and volunteering. In early September, she crossed from Indonesia into Timor-Leste and split a private taxi to Dili, Timor’s capital. The taxi already had a passenger, which press reports say is common for Timor-Leste. When the driver stopped to allow the other passenger to pick up a package, Timorese police raided the car and arrested everybody. Dr. Addison learned only later that the package contained illicit drugs.
The Timorese authorities initially jailed Dr. Addison for five days and, though she was not charged with any crime, they confiscated her passport upon releasing her. Without her passport, she has remained effectively imprisoned in Timor-Leste awaiting an investigation that could take a year or more. Worse, in a dramatic and unexpected turn of events, Timorese authorities rearrested Dr. Addison last week and committed her to the women’s prison at Gleno, where she remains. We have been told that she could remain there, held without charge, for the duration of the Timorese government’s investigation.
The U.S. Embassy’s ability to speak directly to the most senior foreign officials is limited in the absence of a U.S. Ambassador. What Dr. Addison’s case needs now is strong leadership in Timor-Leste. As Secretary of State John Kerry wrote in July, “we simply cannot lead if we are not represented.”
In July 2013, the President nominated Karen Stanton to serve as America’s Ambassador to Timor-Leste. Ms. Stanton’s nomination is neither controversial nor partisan; she has served her country honorably for more than 25 years, in places like Beijing and Islamabad, and as director of the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. She was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 15, 2014, without any objection. Despite all of this, her nomination has been pending for more than 460 days (due squabbling between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate).
We hope you share our belief that the entire country suffers when partisan or ideological disagreement prevents the Senate from confirming qualified, noncontroversial nominees. Dr. Addison’s case highlights the real costs of our inability to confirm ambassadorial nominees and we urge you to schedule votes on Ms. Stanton’s nomination and on the other qualified nominees awaiting their turn.
Jeffrey A. Merkley Ron Wyden
United States Senator United States Senator