Subject: ABC: Indonesian occupation likened to Cambodian genocide

TIMOR: Indonesian occupation likened to Cambodian genocide 04/08/2003 11:43:02 | Asia Pacific Programs

An expert on the genocide in Cambodia has drawn parallels with Indonesia's policies in East Timor. History Professor Ben Kiernan says both Cambodia and East Timor suffered civil war -- then genocidal policies from 1975 to 1980 --- and ultimately intervention by the United Nations.


KIERNAN: "The genocides were proportionately comparable, much larger in absolute numbers in Cambodia, but a similar proportion of the population of East Timor and Cambodia perished, about 20 per cent or so in the two countries and the experience of the populations as genocide was also comparable in the sense that ethnic groups were targetted. The ethnic Chinese in both East Timor and Cambodia suffered enormous losses. The other ethnic groups in Cambodia like the Chou Muslims and the Vietnamese minority were targetted and there are victims in both cases who fit the normal definition of genocide, even the legal definition applies in some cases to both Cambodia and East Timor."

DOBELL: Can you make the case that Indonesia was following deliberate government policies in the same way that the Khmer Rouge was in Cambodia?

KIERNAN: "Well I think in both cases there were war crimes as well as genocide and also other crimes against humanity which wouldn't be described as genocide, such as a mass murder of political groups and of course the Genocide Convention defines the crime as involving the intent to destroy an ethnic, national, racial or religious group in whole or in part."

"And so the destruction of the Chinese community in East Timor by Indonesian forces would be probably described in a court as genocide, but perhaps not the destruction of political groups like FRETILIN, which were subjected to mass murder by Indonesian military forces. But the definition of FRETILIN, including relatives of FRETILIN supporters, their children and grandchildren exterminating FRETILIN down to the fourth generation was at one point annunciated as Indonesian policy. That borders on describing FRETILIN in fact as not a political group, but a multi-generational kinship group almost which borders more on the targetting of them as an ethnic group as well as a political group."

DOBELL: Given the difficulties that the United Nations has had in negotiating with Hun Sen's government in Cambodia about bringing war crimes, genocide crimes to court. How do you think those experiences could be applied in some negotiation with Indonesia?

KIERNAN: "I think it's much more difficult given that Indonesia is a neighbour of the newly independent East Timor and therefore East Timor needs to maintain good relations with Indonesia. So it's more difficult for East Timor than Cambodia to push for justice for the victims of the genocide in that case."

"But the unsatisfactory trials that have been held in Jakarta with only a minority of convictions and small sentences and suspicions about the legal process in the Indonesian trials I think will put more pressure on the United Nations to resort to the last resort which would be an international tribunal or in the Cambodian case a mixed national and international tribunal."

"Although there've been great difficulties, the Cambodian-UN negotiations do seem to have resulted in the formation of a tribunal process to try the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders and the length of time it's taken is inordinate, but I think in East Timor there's reason to hope that justice will come for the victims there as well."

DOBELL: If Timor has to focus on good relations with Indonesia, what should other states being saying to Indonesia about the actions of its military leadership and its political leadership in East Timor?

KIERNAN: "Other states need to remind Indonesia of its obligations under international criminal law and indeed the Security Council of the United Nations has shelved, but has not dismissed the possibility of an international tribunal and while Indonesia is obliged to carry out trials and is in fact the 'locus of first resort' has the opportunity to do that first, but if it does not come up with a fair trial for the major surviving perpetrators, then I think it's encumbent on the international community, especially because East Timor is a small state on Indonesia's border, which needs to maintain relations and can't argue or provoke Indonesia easily, that it's encumbent on the rest of the international community to take up their obligations to ensure that those who commited crimes against humanity be prosecuted."

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