Subject: JP editorial: Now Milosevic. Next?

Also: JP: Milosevic's handover a precedent for RI

The Jakarta Post June 30, 2001


Now Milosevic. Next?

Indonesia should take heed of the way Belgrade succumbed to international pressure and delivered former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic to the United Nations to face war crime charges.

The real message this story sends out is that the world community has become more determined than ever to ensure that those who have committed crimes against humanity will be punished.

Belgrade had no choice but to deliver Milosevic to the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. The United States and its European allies withheld aid that Belgrade so badly needs until it complied with their demand.

The present government in Belgrade, which beat Milosevic's regime in a democratic election in October 2000, had been reluctant to hand over the man who was indicted by the tribunal in 1999 for the mass killings and expulsion of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Many in Belgrade have argued that, for all the horrible things that Milosevic was supposed to have done, he is a Serbian citizen who must be protected by the constitution. If a trial had to be held, they wanted it held in a local court in accordance with the law of the land. To send him to The Hague has not only brought shame on the man and his regime, but also the entire nation. It will leave a stigma that will be hard to erase for years to come.

Milosevic became the first head of state to face an international court for war crimes committed while in office. Prosecutors also plan to charge him with war crimes committed in Bosnia and Croatia. As we wait for the process to unfold in the next few days, there are already many valuable lessons for Indonesia to learn from the way the international community, or more precisely the Western powers, pressured Belgrade.

Like Serbia, Indonesia has been facing international demands to prosecute and punish officials in the government and military for their alleged roles in the campaign of terror and destruction in East Timor, before and after the people in the territory voted for independence in October 1999.

Like Serbia, Indonesia is heavily dependent on the support of the West to resuscitate its ailing economy. Already, Indonesia's economy is virtually being managed by the International Monetary Fund, with three successive governments holding power since 1997 practically having little say over policy. From an economic standpoint alone, Indonesia is already far more vulnerable to international pressure than Serbia.

Unlike Serbia, however, no Indonesian official or general has been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal. But don't bet that it won't happen here. Patience has its limits, and, judging by statements from Australian and New Zealand officials during President Abdurrahman Wahid's visit there this week, the international community's patience may soon run out.

The United Nations has so far given the benefit of the doubt to Indonesian authorities, who have said that they would prosecute and punish errant officials involved in the East Timor debacle in accordance with the crimes they committed. That was the position in late 1999, when Indonesia promised that justice would be upheld.

It is now nearly two years since that promise was made. Since the initial investigations of officials in the government and the military, which attracted massive publicity, progress has been painfully slow. Not a single one of those investigated has been brought to court, let alone convicted.

In the intervening years, questions about the progress of the investigation have arisen on various occasions, like in Canberra and Wellington this week. Each time the question came up, Indonesia made new promises to pursue the matter.

How long do we think can we play this game without testing the patience of the international community? The Milosevic case should serve as a warning that the government had better get its act together and prosecute those responsible for the East Timor debacle before the matter is taken over by the United Nations, putting the entire nation to shame, similar to what Serbia is going through now.

Indonesia should stop pursuing this narrow brand of patriotism, protecting a handful of its own people, particularly if they brought shame on the entire nation through their actions in East Timor two years ago. These officials should be punished accordingly. By continually shielding them from the law, the government and present military leadership are further risking the nation's reputation and honor.

The Jakarta Post June 30, 2001

Milosevic's handover a precedent for RI

By Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak

JAKARTA (JP): Observers warned that the extradition of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic could set a precedent for the prosecution of Indonesians accused of human rights abuses, if the government here fails to bring legal proceedings against them.

Noted human rights lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis pointed out Friday that while Jakarta had not ratified the statute of the International Criminal Court, the international community could still endeavor to bring the perpetrators of rights abuses before it.

The government, therefore, said Todung, should accelerate the establishment of its own tribunal.

"We don't recognize the international court's jurisdiction nor universal principles which allow the extradition of our nationals who allegedly abuse human rights. But it doesn't mean we're beyond foreign intervention in these cases," Todung, who is executive director of the Center for Human Rights Studies (Yapusham), told The Jakarta Post.

"It depends on our own rights tribunal. If it is considered that it has failed to try rights cases, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that there would be pressure from the world community to convene an international court to try these cases," he added.

Indonesia has been in the spotlight in this regard, particularly concerning alleged rights abuses in relation to the events which transpired in East Timor in 1999.

The government has pledged to establish a tribunal to try these cases. The Attorney General's Office has prepared indictments against 18 suspects allegedly involved in human rights crimes.

Although the law on the human rights tribunal was passed late last year, the government has yet to establish one.

The issue of the tribunal has attracted new attention following the news that Milosevic was handed over by his government on Thursday to face a war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

He is charged with perpetrating crimes against humanity and is accused of being responsible for mass killings and the expulsions of ethnic groups during his term as president before being toppled last October.

Secretary-general of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas Ham) Asmara Nababan said, however, that while the possibility of an international tribunal for Indonesians allegedly responsible for rights crimes existed, it was still very distant.

"Our tribunal should go ahead first, then we'll talk about such a possibility," he told the Post.

But political observer Dewi Fortuna Anwar was doubtful that Indonesia could withstand the momentum of an international tribunal if one were to be convened.

Dewi noted that Indonesia remained vulnerable to foreign pressure due to its economic dependence on the international community for aid.

She argued that the principle of national sovereignty by itself was no longer a powerful argument to deter such an international court.

"For countries which have lots of bargaining chips, they would not be easily bluffed," she told the Post by telephone.

Dewi pointed as an example to a U.S. bill which forbids military exchanges and the supply of weapons to the Indonesia Army if rights perpetrators were not brought to justice.

"Because Indonesia is still in the transition to democracy and is considered strategic, the government may still get support from developed countries, but not for the military.

"Therefore, Indonesia has to prove its commitment because it could eventually hamper military professionalism which later could also affect the democratization process," she said.

"Even if we have good relations with the Bush administration, it's difficult for them to revoke the bill, especially with the weak position of the governing party as it is not the majority in the legislature," she argued.

Warning of how serious the matter was, Dewi urged the government to realize the dangerous impact of ignoring such cases for the nation as a whole, and not to only protect a few from legal proceedings.

"Anyway, it's far better for us to punish the perpetrators than the international court," she said.

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