Subject: JP: War against terrorism deals a blow to Indon rights campaign

The Jakarta Post December 3, 2002

War against terrorism deals a blow to rights campaign

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Observers have said the U.S.-led war against terrorism had caused a setback in the promotion of human rights, which was demonstrated in the continuing impunity among security officers charged with atrocities in East Timor.

Rights activist Todung Mulya Lubis said on Monday that a number of countries that had initially talked tough on crime against humanity in East Timor three years ago had failed to put pressure on Indonesia to continue upholding human rights, after the war against terrorism became the common concern among the world's nations.

"The war against terrorism as the current hottest issue is prone to the violation of one's rights, including in Indonesia. The antiterrorism campaign has paved the way for the omnipresence of intelligence bodies, which reach the regional level.

"These, of course, will hurt people's freedom as their basic right," Todung told The Jakarta Post.

Meanwhile, Hikmahanto Juwono, a senior lecturer at the University of Indonesia, warned the Indonesian Military (TNI) to restrain itself from supporting foreign countries' antiterrorism policies at the expense of human rights.

"Once they finish with the human rights issue, they (foreign countries) will just leave us on our own to face worldwide condemnation," he said.

Hikmahanto was referring to the U.S., which had initially supported the TNI to annex the former country's province of East Timor in 1976.

Later on, the administration of former president Bill Clinton made human rights issues a top priority, bringing about various consequences, including international pressure for the establishment of the Human Rights Tribunal in Indonesia as well as the trial against security officers charged with perpetrating gross human rights violations in the former Indonesian province.

"Now we can see that upholding human rights was not the main goal of the U.S.. Human rights was just a political toy for certain governments (in the U.S.)," Hikmahanto said.

On Friday, the ad hoc human rights tribunal acquitted four military and police officers being tried for crimes against humanity, bringing the number of officers found not guilty in the case to nine.

So far only two civilians of East Timorese origin -- former East Timor governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares and former militia leader Eurico Guterres -- were found guilty of human rights violations in East Timor.

So far, the U.S., Australia and other human rights campaigners have been apathetic in their responses to the verdict.

In the wake of the war against terrorism, the U.S. had planned to restore the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program for TNI officers, which had been suspended following a series of rights violations blamed on the military in East Timor.

Many believe that the U.S. insists on reviving military ties with Indonesia at any cost, including the neglect of human rights issues on the grounds that "it needs local military partners to fight terrorism".

Rights activist Daniel Panjaitan of the Legal Aid Institute (LBH) who is in charge of monitoring the human rights trial, said that the recent human rights court's verdict would set a bad precedent for other rights cases in the country, which include the Tanjung Priok bloodshed in 1984.

"The Americans apparently realize that only TNI has the ability to assist them in combating terrorism. It is also supported by a government regulation in lieu of law on antiterrorism issued in October, which is prone to rights abuse.

"This has reopened the way for the military to be involved in the investigation process, which originally came under the police's auspices," Daniel said. 

Back to December Menu

Main Postings Menu

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