Subject: IPS: Going After Indonesia's Generals


By Sonny Inbaraj

DILI, East Timor, Feb 1 (IPS) - While an Indonesian commission Monday singled out the role of Indonesian generals in East Timor's violence, the real test for the Wahid government after rejecting a call for an international tribunal, will be how they will be prosecuted.

UN investigators have also implicated, in a separate report also released Monday, Indonesia's military command in what they called ''widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations'' in East Timor and proposed the establishment of an international human rights tribunal.

But Indonesia promptly rejected that proposal, saying only its national laws are applicable in this matter.

Among the generals implicated in the report by the Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations in East Timor (KPP-HAM), was former Indonesian military (TNI) chief General Wiranto, who commission officias say knew of the violence but did nothing to stop it.

''General Wiranto is implicated in the KPP-HAM report for failing as commander in chief of the Indonesian armed forces, to stop the mayhem that resulted in many atrocities and the scorched earth policy that left East Timor a devastated country,'' said Carmel Budiardjo, director of the Britain-based human rights group Tapol.

The KPP-HAM report recommended further investigation of six generals, who face possible prosecution for the mass violence in East Timor last month.

Indonesian military-supported militias terrorised East Timor after the Aug 30 UN-supported independence referendum, killing an untold number and causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee to neighbouring West Timor.Militia members continue to intimidate the refugees, using scare tactics to prevent them from returning to East Timor, UN officials say.

''If the KPP-HAM recommendations are acted upon by the Attorney General, it will mean that Wiranto will face charges of 'command responsibility' under international humanitarian law,'' she added.

The principle of 'command responsibility', under Article 28 of the International Criminal Court Statute, makes senior officers liable to prosecution for criminal acts committed by their subordinates.

Explained Budiardjo: ''Command responsibility would clearly make it unacceptable for General Wiranto to argue in a court of law that he was unable to halt the crimes being committed in East Timor on the grounds they were motivated by 'psychological factors' making it impossible for him to intervene to bring those guilty to court.''

Responding to the KPP-HAM report, President Abdurrahman Wahid told reporters in Davos, Switzerland, he would dismiss Wiranto from his Cabinet post if the general was linked to the East Timor mayhem. ''We have to uphold human rights in Indonesia, whatever the course,'' Wahid was quoted as saying while attending the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in the Alpine town.

Asked if this meant he would dismiss Wiranto, the President said: ''Oh yes, of course. I will ask him, to use a polite word, ask him to resign.''

But in East Timor's capital Dili, independence leaders said they had no faith in the Indonesian judicial system prosecuting those responsible for crimes against humanity in the territory.

''It is yet to be seen in Indonesia whether human rights will be put ahead of national interests. To have a credible outcome of the inquiry it is necessary to have international participation,'' said National Council of Timorese Resistance vice-president Joao Carrascalao.

Indonesian Professor Arief Budiman of Melbourne University agreed with Carrascalao, saying: ''I don't think they (the generals) will be charged as criminals in a civilian court.''

Budiman believes powerful forces will work against any criminal prosecution of senior military figures and said junior officers will be offered up by the military as scapegoats for the crimes in East Timor.

''The court make the lower-raking as scapegoats -- they are the people who are going to be punished severely while the top-ranking generals will turn around and say they didn't give instructions for the killing -- they just gave the broad instructions and that was misinterpreted by the lower-ranking. And that's why the lower-ranking will get the punishment.''

But KPP-HAM secretary Asmara Nababan is confident action will be taken because the consequences of nothing being done will be far ''less palatable'' to the Indonesian people.

''I will say that the international community should give time for Indonesia to do their best to serve justice,'' he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Jakarta.

Nabageena said he expected the move to lead to prosecutions. ''Judging from the commitment of the president and the attorney-general I am confident there will be a follow-up, prosecution.''

Just before the release of the Indonesian report, armed forces lawyers contended there was no evidence on Wiranto and that the implicated generals should be given a ''fair hearing''.

But in Dili, Sidney Jones, the human rights chief of the United Nations Transition Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) argued for an international tribunal to remind the world community of what happened in the territory.

''I think the need for an international human rights tribunal is enormous because only with an international tribunal will people really get an appreciation of the gravity and systematic nature of the human rights abuses that took place in East Timor,'' she said.

Jones is also overseeing the gruesome task of investigating what she believes will be up to 2,000 murders in the period leading to the Aug 30 ballot and after that. But she admitted there was yet to be evidence admissible in an international court.

''What we don't have yet is the kind of evidence of a broad and systematic pattern that would hold up in a court of law,'' she said.

Explained Jones: ''We've got lots of descriptive material and we've got lots of witness testimonies -- no question about that -- but actually preparing cases against individuals that would hold up in a local court, let alone an international court, is something which needs a bit more time.''

Meanwhile in Jakarta an Indonesian human rights group, Solidamor, has called for an international tribunal to be convened in either Indonesia or East Timor.

''The court which should try crimes against humanity should not be a national human rights court but an International Tribunal that is held in Indonesia or in East Timor and should as far as possible include judges, prosecutors and legal counsel from Indonesia and East Timor,'' said the Solidamor statement.

Solidamor said the conduct of such an international tribunal in Indonesia or East Timor would not in any way damage Jakarta's international standing.

''On the contrary such a court would restore the reputation of the Indonesian state and nation which has been so badly damaged as the result of the actions by a handful of our generals in East Timor,'' it pointed out. (END/IPS/ap-ip/si/js/00)

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