Vol. 6, No. 1
|We Can't Stop Here
Atrocity Investigations in East Timor and the Possibilities for a tribunalby John M. Miller
also Indonesian General Sued in
The Indonesian government, however, insists that an international tribunal is unnecessary and that the world should wait while Indonesia prosecutes its own. The UN Security Council -- which must approve any international tribunal, like those dealing with Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia -- has set aside the UN inquiry's recommendation for a similar East Timor tribunal, pending the outcome of Indonesian efforts.
As Indonesia's Attorney General Marzuki Darusman builds his case, many uncertainties remain. The Indonesian parliament is now setting up a human rights court, but its mandate will not be retroactive. Past crimes, like those committed prior to January 1,1999 in East Timor, would be left to an ad hoc court. How this would work and if it will meet international standards is unclear. There are uncertainties about the independence, quality and ability of Indonesia's judges. Indonesia's democratic government has yet to show that it can fully control or hold its military to account. Despite repeated pledges by Indonesia's civilian leadership, the Indonesian military and its militia allies continue to threaten East Timor and refugees trapped in Indonesian West Timor. Indonesia did arrest militia commander Laurentino "Moko" Soares, who orchestrated recent attacks on East Timor's Oecussi enclave, but he is only charged with weapons violations, not the murder of at least 40 people. And President Wahid has promised to pardon General Wiranto should he be found guilty.
Successful prosecution and punishment of those responsible would help efforts to break the Indonesian military's hold on Indonesian politics. But justice for East Timor must also be a priority: atrocities committed against the people of East Timor rise to the level of crimes against humanity.
ETAN prefers a joint Indonesian, East Timorese and international tribunal as recommended by the UN inquiry. ETAN and East Timorese leaders are urging the UN to be prepared to step in should Indonesia's efforts falter or fail to meet international standards. In the meantime, the UN and East Timorese leaders intend to share information with Indonesia. "We have hundreds of thousands of witnesses, if the Indonesian republic has the political will to bring to trial those who are named," José Ramos-Horta has said. East Timor's nascent justice system will try captured militia leaders and members who fall directly into their jurisdiction.
ETAN is further urging that any investigations focus on atrocities and rights violations committed during the entire period of Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor. Both the UN and Indonesian efforts were limited to events that took place after January 1999.
The U.S. government (and other UN members) can support these investigations by releasing all relevant files and intelligence information. While Indonesia bears the greatest responsibility for the past 24 years of terror in East Timor, governments - including the U.S. - which supported Indonesia's occupation by providing weapons, training and other assistance, must publicly examine their own complicity.
(Additional information, including a copy of the complaint, new coverage and ETAN's media release, can be found at http://etan.org/news/2000a/11suit.htm.)
The suit was filed on behalf of several East Timorese who were injured, lost family members, had property destroyed or were forced from their homes in the aftermath of last August's vote on East Timor's independence. The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA).
The lawsuit cites a telegram signed by Lumintang and sent to the regional military commanders just hours before the agreement to conduct the plebiscite was signed at the United Nations on May 5. The telegram ordered the commanders to plan a crackdown should the East Timorese vote in favor of independence.
The suit also cites a June 1999 army manual, also signed by Lumintang, which states that Kopassus intelligence operatives were to be trained in propaganda, kidnapping, terror, sabotage, undercover operations and psychological operations. Kopassus operatives were involved in the kidnapping of East Timorese independence activists prior to and after the independence vote. Kopassus, the notorious special operations branch of the army, has been accused of severe rights abuses throughout Indonesia and East Timor.
Lumintang threw the papers on the floor after being handed them.