Subject: SMH/E. Timor: Getting Away with Murder

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Also: Widows' grief overshadows East Timor independence

Sydney Morning Herald May 20 2002

Getting away with murder

May 20 2002

Photographic memories ... six-year-old Lucas holds a photo of his murdered father, Victor da Conceicao. Photo: Craig Abraham

It's the world's newest republic, but it will take a long time for old sores to heal. Lindsay Murdoch and Tom Hyland explain why guilty parties on both sides will get off scot-free.

Emilia dos Santos knows the killers of her husband, Victor da Conceicao. She and five of their six children saw three pro-Jakarta militiamen and a policeman cut him down with machetes and spears outside a church in the East Timorese town of Liquica on April 6, 1999.

"He was holding my hand when he was killed," says their daughter, Natalina, who was 14 at the time. "They hit him with a machete and they speared him in his side. I cried and they hit me many times until I fainted."

Dos Santos, 37, says the killers fled to West Timor amid Indonesian military-sponsored mayhem after a majority of Timorese voted to reject Jakarta's rule in a United Nations referendum. "Those people are still on the other side of the border," she says. "They can come back here and can be forgiven. But first they must go before a court. If they don't, I can't forgive them."

One of the main challenges facing the Democratic Republic of East Timor that was today declared the world's newest state is how to bind the wounds of its deeply traumatised society.

How can there be reconciliation, as preached by the country's independence hero and first President, Xanana Gusmao, without justice?

At least 60 of up to 2000 civilians who had taken refuge in the church were killed in what has become known as the Liquica massacre, one of the worst atrocities in East Timor in 1999.

But Longuinos Monteiro, East Timor's general prosecutor, says that 21 people United Nations investigators have identified as being involved in those killings remain untouchable in Indonesia.

Indonesia's attorney-general's office has pursued charges against only three of the alleged killers in special human rights courts in Jakarta, which international observers have criticised as a sham.

Monteiro, 33, says he has offered to "open the door" to Indonesian prosecutors on atrocities involving a total of 220 people accused of committing serious crimes in East Timor in 1999, many of them soldiers up to the rank of major-general.

"We have told the Indonesian side we are willing to provide information and witnesses," says Monteiro, a former judge in the first trials held in East Timor after the Indonesians withdrew. "But the Indonesian side claims that in many of the cases it cannot act according to Indonesian law."

Many victims of the 1999 violence believe the UN - East Timor's rulers from late 1999 until a Timorese administration took over today - failed to deliver justice. Only one case of crimes against humanity has been completed.

Last December 10 Timorese were sent to jail for up to 33 years for their involvement in a massacre in the district of Lospalos. An Indonesian army officer, Syaful Anwar, was accused of ordering the killings and slitting the throat of one of the victims.

But the Indonesian Government has reneged on an agreement it reached last year with the UN to allow extraditions and the swapping of evidence and witnesses, setting a pattern that has frustrated other attempts in East Timor to prosecute alleged offenders.

Under existing UN regulations, Anwar could not be tried in absentia.

Twelve people have been convicted in East Timor for other serious crimes.

Dennis McNamara, the UN's deputy administrator in Dili, says prosecutions in East Timor "can only have their full effect if they are matched by equally serious prosecutions in Indonesia".

"Reconciliation in East Timor in the legal, political and social sense does require justice to be done in both places," McNamara says. "The population does want justice. Yes, they want reconciliation, but they want justice as well and by that they want some of the very bad people to be prosecuted."

In Jakarta, the generals who were in charge at the time of the East Timor violence are attempting to rewrite history, further fuelling international pressure for the setting up of an international court similar to those established in Bosnia and Rwanda.

The generals are portraying the killings, rapes, looting, destruction and forced relocation of up to one third of East Timor's population as the result of a civil conflict between two violent factions in which Indonesian security forces were bystanders.

According to them, the UN was also to blame for the mayhem because it rigged the referendum and failed to maintain security ahead of the vote. In fact, under a UN mandate, Indonesian security forces were solely responsible for the territory's security.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) , which did an analysis of the courts, says the military's version of events is being reinforced by prosecutors who failed to produce any evidence suggesting active involvement of high levels of the Indonesian Government in the violence.

A list of 18 army and police officers and civilians who will stand trial does not include any minister or the then armed forces chief, General Wiranto.

The ICG, led by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, warns that after the trials, the UN will still be seen in Indonesia as biased and manipulative. It warns that this will further reduce the slim chance that the UN could be an acceptable mediator in future conflicts in Indonesia.

The ICG says the courts have a limited mandate and the indictments have been drawn up and presented by the prosecution in a very weak way.

"If the judges acquit the defendants, international outrage is a certainty," the ICG says in a report released early this month. "But even if they convict, the gravity of what occurred in East Timor will remain hidden and the concept of crimes against humanity will be trivialised," it says.

In East Timor, a serious crimes unit set up by the UN has so far indicted 101 alleged perpetrators of serious crimes from 10 priority cases. But the unit has an overwhelming 650 incident reports on its files.

One case can consist of multiple incidents and perpetrators. "The ability to prosecute suspects remains slow as the number of experienced and trained judges, public defenders and prosecutors is low and support services for the courts remain limited," a UN official admits.

Monteiro, the prosecutor in charge of the unit, says that as the UN withdraws after independence, resources to pursue crimes committed in 1999 will diminish. "The Timorese people are very forgiving, thanks in part to Xanana, who is leading them in reconciliation," Monteiro says. "But forgiving doesn't mean ignoring the law. We will not release people who have committed crimes. There can be no reconciliation without justice."

The new Timorese administration has set up an independent Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in an attempt to establish the truth of what happened throughout Indonesia's occupation, to reintegrate those who have returned from West Timor camps and to reconcile opposing community groups.

While people accused of serious crimes will still go before the courts, others who confess to lesser offences such as looting, burning and minor assault are expected to stand before their victims in village hearings. In some cases people who have committed crimes are expected to perform community service. If a person admits, for instance, to having burnt a house, he may agree to help rebuild it.

People who fulfil the terms of a so-called community reconciliation agreement will be immune from any further civil or criminal liability from those acts although the commission does not, have the power to grant amnesty to the perpetrators of human rights violations.

Aniceto Guterres Lopes, the commission's chairman, says East Timor will not be rebuilt from the ashes of 1999 unless Timorese confront the truth about what happened and the role they played. He says there is a risk of mob violence erupting in the future if people do not think that justice has been served, especially when UN civilian police start to withdraw from villages and towns.

But since the return of an estimated 200,000 Timorese from West Timor revenge attacks on former militia and supporters of Indonesia's rule have not been widespread. There have been several murders, a dozen kidnappings and a few dozen cases of mistreatment. One former anti-Indonesian guerilla has been sentenced to eight years' jail for murder.

Lopes, a 33 year-old human rights activist who was the target of militia violence in 1999, says that Timorese are tired of killing and violence.

Leandro Despuouy, chairman of the UN's Human Rights Commission, recently visited villagers in East Timor. Speaker after speaker told him of torture, murders and kidnappings committed in 1999.

Relatives of victims told Despuouy they had no faith in Indonesian promises to bring offenders to trial and some even asserted that they would take justice into their own hands unless the UN acted soon.

View from the other side

"Punishment should not be just for those who lost," says Jose Estevao Soares, a member of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation. Soares, 47, the cousin of East Timor's former governor Abilio Soares, helped form the largest anti-independence party that in 1999 campaigned for East Timor to remain part of Indonesia.

He is adamant that justice should be brought to people on both sides of the conflict and warns of the imposition of only "victor justice". Certainly, some of the first cases the commission will investigate involve crimes allegedly committed by independence supporters.

In 1975, when Indonesian troops launched their bloody invasion of East Timor, Soares was forced to work as a porter carrying ammunition for Fretilin, the party that now rules the country. He tells how Fretilin rebels back then dragged about 300 people like him from a jail as the Indonesians advanced, made them dig their own graves and then killed them.

"All crimes should be punished, no matter who committed them," says Soares. "But I am confident that under the system we are introducing, justice will be fair."

Like a growing number of anti-independence supporters who have returned to East Timor from self-imposed exile in Indonesia, Soares now talks openly about how the Indonesian military ordered the destruction of the territory after the vote went for independence. He thinks it is wrong for militiamen to be jailed while Indonesians who ordered violence remain untouchable.

"In the Indonesian system, the president is the commander of the armed forces," he says. "It is easy to go after the militia. But it is not easy to punish the people who planned the action."

Additional material for this story by Jill Jolliffe


Sunday Telegraph (London) May 19, 2002

Widows' grief overshadows East Timor independence

Philip Sherwell returns to East Timor for the independence celebrations but finds that the militiamen who assaulted him during their reign of terror have also come back - and are unlikely to face any kind of justice

By Philip Sherwell

EAST Timor has not known a weekend like it. The flags of the world fluttered above Dili yesterday as workmen gave a final spruce-up to the down-at-heel waterfront capital before the arrival of dignitories from nearly 100 countries, including Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary General, for tonight's independence celebrations.

The impoverished territory will become the first new nation of the millennium at midnight after nearly two-and-a-half years of UN administration, 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation and more than three centuries as a Portuguese colonial backwater. Up to a third of the population of 700,000 are expected to turn out to watch the celebrations.

Even Megawati Sukarnoputri, the Indonesian president, is expected to fly in for the ceremony, although her visit was overshadowed by a row between the state-in-waiting and its former occupiers yesterday. East Timor protested to Jakarta over the entry of six Indonesian navy vessels into its waters, nominally to protect Ms Megawati's delegation.

Teresina Cardoso and Joana dos Santos are not in party mood, however. Tomorrow they will be back at work in the ramshackle market building in the border town of Maliana where they formed a widows co-operative, "The Group of 99", with nearly 50 other women whose husbands were murdered in September 1999 by rampaging pro-Indonesian militia.

They struggle to earn a living there making dresses and blouses on an ancient sewing machine and selling a few basic foodstuffs and household goods in the former militia stronghold.

To their distress and anger, recent weeks have seen the return to the streets around the market of former members of the gang that abducted and killed their menfolk after the territory voted overwhelmingly for independence.

"I see these people walking free and I feel hate," says Mrs Cardoso. Despite repeatedly searching the fields and forests around Maliana, where she lives with her two young daughters, she has found no trace of her husband, Albino.

"I just want to ask them where they left his body," the 30-year-old says, placing a hand on the shoulder of her oldest child, Saturnina, 11. "I have never been able to bury him because I never found him. Just a bone would do. Something, anything."

Ahead of independence, many former militiamen have been coming home from the refugee camps in the neighbouring Indonesian province of West Timor to which they fled after their murderous rampage. Across the border they maintained their reign of terror over more than 100,000 civilians forced out of East Timor at the same time - as I discovered when I was attacked and beaten up in one camp in early 2000 by pro-Jakarta thugs who blamed the Western world and its media for the territory's breakaway from Indonesia.

The senior militia leaders who were responsible for organising the killing sprees are unlikely to return from Indonesia. Thousands of their men are returning, however, and are likely to remain free, for now at least. They have good reason to believe that UN prosecutors and the embryonic state's pitifully ill-funded courts will only have the resources to try senior militia leaders and those accused of the worst atrocities. Xanana Gusmao, the former guerrilla leader and political prisoner who becomes the first president of East Timor tomorrow, is taking a high-risk gamble, making reconciliation the cornerstone of his new administration and indicating that he will issue pardons for the few militiamen who come before the courts.

"We have to break the cycle of violence for the next generation," he says. "We still feel the pain of our suffering and sacrifices and losses. But we must look for justice not revenge."

The urbane and amiable ex-rebel commander, who says he would rather be a pumpkin farmer than a president, is pinning his hopes for maintaining peace on a policy of "reconciliation with justice".

Most militiamen will be dealt with by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which his government is establishing, rather than the courts. Although the UN serious crimes unit is investigating 10 so-called "priority cases" against the former militia, it has only successfully prosecuted one so far.

Since the chaos and carnage of September 1999, when an estimated 1,500 people were killed, East Timor has made impressive strides towards statehood under UN supervision. Calm was restored by international peacekeepers and an army, police force and civil servants have been trained by foreign advisers.

There are growing fears, however, that the handover from UN control to the new government could be followed by bloody revenge attacks against militiamen by East Timorese who lost relatives two-and-a-half years ago and are frustrated by the slow pace of justice. "I don't support popular justice or lynch mobs," says Mrs Cardoso. "But if these people don't appear before the courts or the government issues an amnesty, then people will take justice into their own hands."

The last time I visited Maliana, shortly before the independence plebiscite in late-August 1999, I was repeatedly threatened by militiamen armed with home-made muskets, spears and machetes, draped in the red and white of the Indonesian flag and fuelled by amphetamines and alcohol.

Orlando Lopes, who was a member of that militia, has just returned from West Timor to the brick and mud hut where his family lives. The small and rather timid man insists that he was dragooned into the militia and witnessed no killing. He was not always so diffident, however, and admits that he was part of a mob that looted and burnt homes.

Asked how he feels about the declaration of nationhood that his militia so violently opposed, he says: "I'm happy that Xanana will become our president as he is like a big brother to us. But my life has not changed dramatically. I was a peasant then and I am a peasant now."

Mrs Cardoso only wishes that her husband could say the same. 

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