Subject: The Independent on Indon general sued for war crimes

The Independent 1 April 2000

General to be sued for East Timor war crimes

By Richard Lloyd Parry in Jakarta

A senior Indonesian general is being sued for crimes against humanity, after The Independent revealed a document implicating him in his army's murderous rampage in East Timor last September.

In the first concrete step towards legal redress for victims of last year's bloodshed, Major-General Johny Lumintang was served notice of the lawsuit late on Thursday as he stepped off a flight from Washington DC. The lawsuit has been brought by American human rights groups on behalf of three victims of the Indonesian military, which embarked on a two-week campaign of murder and destruction after East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia last year.

The complaint, filed in the District of Columbia, alleges that General Lumintang, as the army's deputy chief of staff, "directed, planned, instigated, conspired, aided, abetted, incited and failed to prevent and/or is otherwise responsible for the campaign of crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights law ... in East Timor". The East Timorese plaintiffs are demanding damages for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment including torture and a summary execution by troops acting under the general's authority.

The principal evidence cited in the complaint is a document published in The Independent in February, which was discovered by a local human rights group in a deserted military headquarters in the East Timorese capital, Dili. Dated 5 May, and signed by General Lumintang, the secret letter is addressed to Colonel Tono Suratman, the military commander in Dili, and copied to senior military figures. It consists of an order to implement "repressive/coercive measures" and a plan to "move to the rear/evacuate if the second option [independence] is chosen".

The plaintiffs in the case, who remain unidentified for fear of reprisals, are three East Timorese who were active in the struggle against Indonesian occupation. One is the mother of a man who died after being shot in his home. The second is a man whose foot had to be amputated after he was beaten up and shot by Indonesian soldiers. The third is a man whose brother was killed and father injured as they tried to hide from marauding soldiers and proIndonesian militiamen.

Major-General Lumintang is one of a number of senior Indonesian officers to have been trained in the United States under the Pentagon's International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. Yayasan Hak, the East Timorese organisation that uncovered the letter, also found a secret commando training manual, bearing the general's name, advising the use of terror, kidnapping and sabotage.

In January, a UN Commission of Inquiry and an Indonesian government investigation found that senior Indonesian officers orchestrated systematic human rights violations after the 30 August referendum, in which almost 80 per cent of Timorese voted for independence. A number of East Timorese militiamen are being held pending trials in Dili, but no charges have yet been brought against senior officers.

Six years ago, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, one of the groups behind the current case, successfully sued another Indonesian general for his role in a massacre in Dili in 1991 in which as many as 270 people died. Major-General Sintong Panjaitan was ordered to pay $14m in damages to the mother of a New Zealand student who was killed, although none of the award has been paid.

Both cases are based on the US Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, which allows anyone to sue for acts committed outside the US "in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States". Even if the case is successful, it will not send General Lumintang to jail. But it may make visits to America more difficult for him and other officers implicated in the East Timor violence.

Back to March Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from