Subject: TAPOL: Justice for East Timor still unlikely under Megawati

TAPOL press release


8 August 2001 - President Megawati of Indonesia last week issued an amended decree on the establishment of an ad hoc human rights court for crimes committed in East Timor. It is unlikely that this will result in those ultimately responsible for the violence and destruction in East Timor being brought to justice. TAPOL is therefore repeating its call for an international criminal tribunal for East Timor.

Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL says:

"President Megawati appears to be continuing a pattern established by the Wahid administration, which involved doing just enough to prevent the establishment of an international tribunal without making any real attempt to institute a genuine national process of justice. She is likely to keep a tight rein on what can be investigated and tried so that the whole truth about the East Timor tragedy does not come out. Without the prospect of credible trials in Indonesia, international justice must now take its course."

Last week's decree amended a controversial decree issued by former President Wahid in April this year, which limited the jurisdiction of the court to crimes committed after the August 1999 popular consultation in East Timor. The new decree is equally restrictive and confines the jurisdiction of the court to crimes committed in Liquica, Dili, and Suai in the months of April and September 1999.

Although this means the court will now have jurisdiction over two of the worst atrocities - at Liquica Church on 6 April 1999 when more than 50 were killed and at the house of independence leader, Manuel Carrascalao, in Dili on 17 April 1999 when at least 12 were killed - it does not allow for the exposure of the systematic and widespread nature of the violence committed throughout 1999. That would require the court to have jurisdiction over the whole year at least. In particular, the Indonesian army's organisation of militia forces in preparation for the consultation, which began in early 1999, will not fall within the court's remit. Neither will crimes, such as those involving sexual violence, committed against East Timorese refugees in West Timor after September 1999.

There are no plans to prosecute those in the highest positions of command responsibility for the East Timor campaign. Reports indicate that the Attorney General's office has prepared 12 dossiers on 18 suspects from four incidents. In addition to the two April atrocities, they include the 6 September attack on the Dili home of Bishop Belo and the September massacre of refugees in the Suai church compound, which left dozens dead.

The 18 suspects do not include former armed forces commander-in-chief, General Wiranto and intelligence chief, Zacky Anwar Makarim. Both are named in the January 2000 report of the Indonesian Commission for Human Rights Violations in East Timor (KPP-HAM), which confirmed military involvement in and responsibility for crimes against humanity.

Some of the suspects named by the Attorney General have been promoted. The top-ranking suspect - Major General Adam Damiri was recently appointed operations chief-of-staff of the Indonesian army and is now responsible for controversial troop deployments to the violence-racked Indonesian province of Aceh.

The decision to issue the latest decree may have been prompted by pressure from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, whose office suspended its technical co-operation programme with Indonesia following the Wahid decree. It is also likely to have been aimed at avoiding excessive international media attention to the issue of justice during next week's visit to Jakarta of Australian prime minister, John Howard.

However, the decree fails to meet a commitment Indonesia made at this year's session of the UN Commission on Human Rights to ensure accountability for crimes committed in East Timor during the whole of 1999. Furthermore, no attempt has been made to revise the Constitutional amendment, passed in August 2000, which incorporated the principle of non-retroactivity into Indonesian law and provided suspects with an absolute defence to charges relating to the East Timor violence.

Suspects would also appear to have a defence based on the Attorney General's failure to bring the cases to trial before a deadline set out in Indonesia's Law on Human Rights Courts. That law is in itself flawed and falls short of international standards, particularly those relating to judicial independence and impartiality. Very few current judges can be regarded as independent and untainted by judicial corruption. Procedural and institutional safeguards for the rights of defendants fall far short of accepted human rights standards and there is no adequate protection for traumatised victims and witnesses.

The fact that these critical issues are not being properly addressed means that credible human rights trials in Indonesia will not be possible for a very long time.

Gross and massive violations of human rights were committed in East Timor following Indonesia's illegal invasion in 1975. Military-backed violence intensified from January 1999 onwards when then President Habibie of Indonesia announced that the East Timorese people would be allowed to decide their future status. After the overwhelming vote in favour of independence on 30 August 1999, a wave of violence and destruction was unleashed by militia groups trained and supported by the Indonesian military. Many hundreds were killed and around 250,000 East Tmiorese were forcibly deported to Indonesian West Timor. Many of the crimes committed amounted to crimes against humanity in view of the systematic and planned nature of the violence.

A UN Commission of Inquiry found evidence of "a pattern of serious violations of fundamental human rights" in relation to the 1999 atrocities and recommended the establishment of an international tribunal when it reported in January 2000.


For more information, contact: Paul Barber 01420 80153 or Carmel Budiardjo 020 8771 204.

Paul Barber TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 01420 80153 Email: Internet: Defending victims of oppression in Indonesia and East Timor, 1973-2000

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