Sample Letters to the Editor on Initial Verdicts of Indonesia's Ad-Hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor
(Please note we plan to update these letters as verdicts are issued. The first are expected in mid-August 2002)
As the Indonesian ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor begins to hand out sentences ("Story Name," date), the Bush administration is likely to use these verdicts to strengthen its argument for re-establishing ties with the Indonesian military.
The Indonesian court is charged with trying those responsible for the 1999 post-referendum assault on East Timor in which the Indonesian military and its militias murdered some 2,000 people, raped untold numbers of women, displaced three-quarters of the population, and destroyed more than 70% of the infrastructure. But it is manipulative and wrong to say these trials demonstrate or will encourage reform of the notoriously abusive Indonesian military. Only 18 military, police and government officials and militia leaders are on trial. The court's limited mandate (two months in 1999 and three of 13 districts in East Timor) disallows any investigation into the planning of the atrocities and chain-of-command responsibility, trivializing the concept of crimes against humanity. Military officers regularly pack the courtroom to intimidate judges. Indictments and courtroom arguments misrepresent 1999's violence as a civil conflict between pro-independence and pro-Indonesia East Timorese. This is a recipe for continued military impunity, not accountability.
A few weak verdicts from a deeply flawed court neither serve justice nor demonstrate reform. Instead of rushing to train a military guilty of heinous past and continuing abuses, the U.S. should insist on an international tribunal for East Timor.
Indonesia¹s ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor has begun to hand out sentences ("Story Name," date), but those most responsible for planning and carrying out terror in East Timor remain free. The court is supposed to try those responsible for the 1999 assault on East Timor, in which the Indonesian military and its militias murdered some 2,000 people, raped untold numbers of women, displaced three-quarters of the population, and destroyed more than 70% of the infrastructure. This does not even include earlier atrocities committed following the 1975 Indonesian invasion, which killed more than 200,000 -- one-third of the population.
During his recent visit to Indonesia, UN Special Rapporteur Cumaraswamy expressed concern at the apparent "selectivism" used to indict only 18 in the East Timor trials. These indictments did not go very far up the chain of command, and the court's limited mandate two months of 1999 and three of East Timor's 13 districts further hampers discussion of responsibility.
Prosecutors also misrepresented 1999's violence as a conflict between pro-independence and pro-Indonesia East Timorese. There is no acknowledgement that what occurred in East Timor in 1999 and the preceding 23 years constitutes state-sanctioned genocide.
The international community must not accept the Indonesian trials. In January 2000, a UN commission called for an international human rights tribunal for East Timor. For justice to be done, a tribunal must be established now to cover atrocities committed in East Timor throughout the entire Indonesian occupation
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