Subject: Laks.Net: The Impossible Challenge of Timor Trials

also: Not Quite the Usual Suspects

Laksamana.Net - January 5, 2002

The Impossible Challenge of Timor Trials

A special human rights court will convene later this month to try military personnel, senior police, militiamen and a former governor accused of responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of people in East Timor during the final months of Indonesian rule in 1999.

There are many reasons to believe the trials will not be fair or independent, not least because President Megawati Sukarnoputri's administration is unlikely to risk jeopardizing its cozy relations with the military.

Supreme Court chief justice Bagir Manan said Wednesday (2/1/02) that trials for 19 suspects, including three generals, should get underway by January 15.

Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) spokesman Air Vice-Marshall Graito Usodo has pledged the military would cooperate with the trials as long as they are in line with Indonesian law.

Many observers saw his declaration of support as an indication the long-awaited legal process may merely whitewash the military's actions in the lead-up to and aftermath of East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence in the UN-sponsored referendum held on August 30, 1999.

The US and several other Western nations have made the trials a precondition for the resumption of full economic assistance and military ties with Indonesia.

But justice is unlikely to be done, given that Indonesia has one of the most corrupt judiciaries in the world, and the military and its murderous militia proxies have a history of getting away with human rights abuses.

Certainly, the top-ranking defendant appears unconcerned by his upcoming trial.

Major General Adam Damiri, who was head of the Bali-based Udayana Regional Military Command that supervised security in East Timor in 1999, said Tuesday he was confident the court would find him innocent, as he had only been following procedures and his actions had been taken in the name of defending the unity of the Indonesian state.

Other suspects include former East Timor military commanders Brigadier General Tono Suratman and Brigadier General M. Nur Muis.

Also on the list is Colonel Yayat Sudradjat, whose feared Tribuana Task Force - a secret police-style military unit - allegedly recruited, armed, trained and indoctrinated East Timor's nefarious militias.

Others due to face trial are former East Timor Police chief Brigadier General Timbul Silaen, former governor Abilio Jose Soares, and three pro-Jakarta militia leaders.

Spontaneous Scorched Earth

The House of Representatives on March 21, 2001, agreed to establish the special human rights court, in order to assuage calls by foreign and some Indonesian rights activists for the UN to set up an international war crimes tribunal, similar to ones for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

State prosecutors from the notoriously corrupt Attorney General's Office had in September 2000 originally named 23 suspects in cases of gross human rights violations in the anarchic months surrounding the independence vote.

But the list was soon trimmed to 19 because one Timorese militia leader was killed shortly after being indicted, while prosecutors claimed they could not locate three other militia leaders.

Rumor has it the missing militia leaders were slain by the military to ensure they would not make damning testimonies about the senior generals allegedly responsible for the 'scorched earth' policy in East Timor.

Pundits believe that deals have been done to ensure the remaining suspects will go free or receive light sentences in return for not implicating their superiors in the crimes.

Lawyers for the defendants will no doubt trot out the old line that troops were merely following instructions to maintain order, when "uncontrollable incidents of violence erupted spontaneously" as overzealous militiamen fought to uphold the unity of Indonesia.

Justice won't stand a chance if the trials end up like the cases of six East Timorese militiamen who were arrested following the hacking to death of three UN aid workers in Atambua, West Timor, in September 2000.

In May 2001, three of the militiamen were found guilty of the crime and sentenced to between 16 and 20 months in jail after the court dropped manslaughter charges and ruled the defendants had only fomented violence that resulted in the deaths.

Three other defendants were handed sentences of between 10 months and 15 months for inciting the attack on the UN office in Atambua.

The Indonesian justice system's lenient treatment of East Timorese thugs was also demonstrated when former militia leader Eurico Guterres was sentenced to six months in jail in April 2001 for having ordered his pro-Indonesia fighters to seize weapons that had earlier been surrendered to police in West Timor in September 2000. Having been spent almost six months on remand, he was free before the end of May 2001.

Guterres is not on the list of 19 suspects investigated by the Attorney General's Office, despite allegations that he masterminded an April 1999 massacre in which at least 12 people were killed in Dili.

Also omitted from the list were former TNI commander General Wiranto and former intelligence chief Zacky Anwar Makarim. They and other senior military leaders had been named as parties responsible for the mayhem in a report submitted to the Attorney General's Office in January 2000 by the government-appointed Commission of Investigation into Human Rights Violations in East Timor (KPP-HAM).

Lack of Evidence?

Even though the big fish - Wiranto, Zacky Anwar and company - will not be put on trial at the human rights court, many rights activists doubt the hearings of the 19 defendants will be fair or objective.

President Megawati issued a decree shortly after she became president in July 2001 authorizing the court to hear crimes that occurred in April and September 1999 in Dili, Suai and Liquica.

The crimes include massacres of refugees sheltering in churches in Liquica and Suai, and attacks on the homes of Dili Bishop Carlos Belo and pro-independence figure Manuel Carrascalao.

The Attorney-General's Office is supposed to provide strong indictments and proof so the perpetrators do not get off lightly, but what hope is there when Attorney General M.A. Rachman and Supreme Court chief Bagir Manan are both products of a graft-ridden judiciary?

These guys are unlikely to produce documentary evidence revealing that the top brass ordered their underlings to instruct the militias to kill independence supporters in East Timor.

Don't expect much either from Justice and Human Rights Minister Yusril Izha Mahendra. This former speechwriter of disgraced ex-president Suharto achieved little in cleaning up the judiciary or resolving cases of past abuses when he held the same position in the administration of former president Abdurrahman Wahid.

Think Twice

Conspiracy theorists, as well as plenty of levelheaded observers, have linked the July 2001 assassination of Supreme Court justice Syafiuddin Kartasasmita to the upcoming trials.

The last position Syafiuddin held until his untimely death was chairman of the committee responsible for setting up the special human rights court.

Some observers say certain generals may have masterminded the killing in order to send a strong warning to judges to think twice before sentencing any military personnel for human rights violations.

The theory alleges that the generals ensured that police would blame the assassination on Tommy Suharto, who had been sentenced to jail for corruption Syafiuddin in September 2000.

How Many Judges?

Syafiuddin's replacement as chairman of the committee was respected Supreme Court judge Benjamin Mangkudilaga, who had been Wahid's choice to lead the nation's top judicial institution.

Back in August 2001, Mangkudilaga had been confident the human rights trials would start in December despite difficulties in finding judges for the special court.

He said the court would have 40 serving judges and several so-called 'ad hoc' judges, the latter being legal experts who did not normally serve as judges.

There were difficulties in recruiting ad hoc judges because the law requires them to quit all other work while they serve on the human rights court for five years.

The law on the special court requires that each trial be presided over by two serving judges and three ad hoc judges. But this has since been disputed by some officials.

Koran Tempo newspaper on Thursday quoted Bagir Manan as saying the Supreme Court had assigned only 17 judges to preside over the East Timor trials.

But on the same day, Reuters news agency quoted Mangkudilaga as saying that 30 judges had been selected to sit on the tribunal.

He said 12 of the judges would be career justices, while the other 28 would be ad hoc judges - most of them academics who had been given human rights training.

The conflicting statements on the number of judges and the lengthy delays in getting the trials underway are seen as evidence that political and military bargaining are behind the selection of the judges.

Mangkudilaga admitted that Megawati was yet to approve the list of judges - something that has to be done before the hearings can commence.

After the East Timor trials, the human rights court will be due to try suspects in the massacre of dozens of Islamic protesters at Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, in 1984.

Dili Style

A Dili court on December 11, 2001, handed down heavy sentences on 10 members of the pro-Jakarta Alfa Team militia group found guilty of crimes against humanity, including a massacre of a group of nuns and the murder of an Indonesian journalist.

The court heard that Alfa Team took its orders from the Army's elite Special Forces (Kopassus), specifically from Lieutenant Syaful Anwar, who was deputy commander of the unit's base in Lautem from March to September 1999.

Indonesia refused to send Anwar to Dili for trial and has not even included him among the list of 19 suspects.

The court said that "widespread and systematic" violence and destruction against East Timorese civilians were "for the most part" directed by Indonesian security forces and supported by Indonesian authorities.

The military-backed militias killed an estimated 1,000 people during the orgy of destruction after the overwhelming 78.5% vote for independence was announced in early September 1999.

The militias forced about 250,000 people across the border into West Timor shortly before a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping force arrived in the territory to restore order.

East Timor's hopes for the masterminds of the destruction to be brought to justice will be dashed if Indonesia's new human rights court proves incapable of conducting fair trials. And judging by the circumstances, there is little reason for any hope.


Laksamana.Net - January 5, 2002

Not Quite the Usual Suspects

The list of the 19 suspects scheduled to go on trial in Jakarta starting January 15 for human rights violations committed in East Timor between April and September 1999. Just don't expect to come across names such as Wiranto, Eurico Guterres, Hendropriyono or Zacky Anwar Makarim.

Major General Adam Damiri: Former chief of the Bali-based IV/Udayana Regional Military Area Command that supervised security in East Timor. A two-star general, Damiri is the highest-ranking officer on the list of suspects.

Brigadier General Tono Suratman: Former chief of East Timor's 154/Wiradharma Provincial Military Command until three weeks before the August 30, 1999, referendum on independence.

Colonel M. Nur Muis: As Tono Suratman's replacement, Muis was provincial military chief in East Timor at the time of the referendum.

Brigadier General Timbul Silaen: Former East Timor Police chief.

Abilio Soares: Former Jakarta-appointed governor of East Timor.

Colonel Yayat Sudradjat: Former chief of the Indonesian Army's special Tribuana Task Force for East Timor. His unit allegedly recruited, armed, trained and indoctrinated East Timor's nefarious militias

Lieutenant Colonel Gulman Gultom: Former police chief of Dili, the capital of East Timor.

Lieutenant Colonel Sudjarwo: Former commander of the Dili District Military Command.

Leoneto Martin: Former chief administrative officer (bupati) of Liquica district in western East Timor.

Lieutenant Colonel Asep Kuswandi: Former commander of the Liquica District Military Command.

Lieutenant Colonel A. Palopa: Former chief of Liquica Police.

Lieutenant Colonel Erman Sudjono: Former head of Covalima district in southwestern East Timor.

Lieutenant Colonel Gatot Subiaktoro: Former police chief of Suai, located near the border with West Timor.

Lieutenant Colonel Lili Kusardiyanto: Former commander of the Suai District Military Command.

Captain Ahmad Syamsudin: Former chief-of-staff of Suai District Military Command.

Lieutenant Sugito: Former commander of Suai Military Sector Command.

Izidio Manek: Militia fighter.

Alisio Mau: Militia fighter.

Martinus Bere: Militia fighter.


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