Subject: IPS: Massacre Mastermind Gets Slap on Wrist in Indonesia

Also Antara: Damiri sentenced

Massacre Mastermind Gets Slap on Wrist in Indonesia

Jim Lobe, OneWorld US/ IPS

Washington, Aug 6 (OneWorld) -- International human rights groups have denounced as inadequate the three-year prison sentence announced Tuesday in Jakarta against the most senior military officer indicted by Indonesian prosecutors for serious abuses committed against East Timorese civilians in connection with the 1999 plebiscite on independence.

Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, who was in charge of all military operations in the former Portuguese colony and is now the senior military officer responsible for prosecuting a major counter-insurgency war in Aceh province in northern Sumatra, was found guilty by a special human rights court for what Judge Marmi Mustafa described as "gross human rights violations."

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International said Damiri should be immediately removed from his position in Aceh, and called on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) to convene a group of experts to determine whether there were other mechanisms, including an ad hoc UN tribunal, that could be used to try those responsible for the 1999 abuses, which included murder, arson, rape, and the forced expulsion of as many as half a million people.

"Indonesia's failure to heed the warnings and to respond adequately to demands to improve the process (of trying the perpetrators) means that the UN must now take it upon itself to follow through on its demands for justice," said Amnesty.

Damiri was the last of 18 people tried by the Indonesian court which has sentenced a total of six defendants, none of whom has actually had any jail time. Of the 18, the governor of East Timor (news - web sites), a civilian, received the longest sentence--10 years.

The verdict caught some observers, apparently including Damiri himself, by surprise, particularly because the prosecutor, in a widely criticized move, had asked for his acquittal due to lack of evidence. But most analysts said it was unlikely that the sentence would ever be carried out.

"Damiri is the poster child for impunity in Indonesia," said Brad Adams, director of HRW's Asia division in New York. "Even the prosecution asked for an acquittal. It's clear that there is no interest in holding senior military officials accountable for their actions, no matter how heinous."

"Today's verdict is surprising," said Amnesty in London. "But it does not diminish the fact that deliberate efforts to subvert the course of justice and shield senior officials from being held fully to account have taken place."

Even the State Department, which last week announced it intended to resume training of Indonesian military officers, expressed disappointment with the outcome. "The light sentencing of this highest-ranking defendant and others when they were found guilty, we think, has been disappointing," said spokesman Philip Reeker.

"The court has convicted only six defendants and handed only one convict a sentence that meets the country's minimum standards. The court has also permitted all of those convicted to remain free pending their appeals, and we have noted that on numerous occasions the Indonesian Government failed to take full advantage of many opportunities to hold human rights violators fully accountable for their crimes in East Timor," he noted.

Damiri was also the subject of a separate indictment by the UN-created Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor, which finally gained its formal independence last May. But Indonesia has refused to turn any of its citizens over for trial in East Timor.

Indonesia invaded and subsequently annexed East Timor in late 1975. The occupation and counter-insurgency campaign that followed the invasion is believed to have wiped out-- through violence, disease and malnutrition--about one-third of the territory's pre-war population by the early 1980s. Jakarta failed to completely crush the resistance, however, and, after President Soeharto was ousted in 1998, the population was for the first time given an opportunity to vote on its preference in a UN-backed referendum.

During the referendum campaign, however, the Indonesian military organized and armed gangs and militias that launched a reign of terror against the population. When the vote results were made public--80 percent of E. Timorese voted for independence--the militias went on a rampage with the backing of the military. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people were killed, much of the territory's infrastructure and buildings were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes or crossed over into West Timor.

Damiri was charged with responsibility for the actions of his subordinates with respect to two infamous massacres and attacks on specific houses in the capital, Dili, between April and early September, 1999. East Timor's Serious Crimes Unit also indicted him for five counts of crimes against humanity for murder, persecution, and deportation. Nonetheless, he remained on active duty and was actually promoted to the position of operational assistant to the armed forces chief of staff in Jakarta in December 1999, a post where he remains to this day.

His trial was deemed farcical by a number of international observers, even before the prosecutor asked for his acquittal two months ago. On at least four occasions, Damiri did not show up at the court, citing his responsibilities in organizing the counter-insurgency campaign in Aceh, launched in mid-May.

That campaign has so far resulted in at least 500 killed, rising levels of malnutrition, and the displacement of tens of thousands of people, according to recent reports. Military officers who were initially predicting rapid victory over secessionist rebels in Aceh have revised their estimates in recent weeks, suggesting that the conflict could last much longer. Both the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon (news - web sites) have told both sides that a military solution is not possible and urged them to resume negotiations.

"Damiri must be removed from his position in Aceh immediately," said HRW's Adams. "A convicted human rights abuser must not be involved in conducting a war. His role in Aceh is not only an embarrassment to Indonesia but causes grave concern that the tactics used in East Timor may also be used in Aceh."

The East Timor Action Network (ETAN), which supported independence for East Timor through the 1990s, also denounced Tuesday's sentence. "The punishment does not fit the crime," said John Miller, an ETAN spokesman. He called the sentence a "joke (that) has done nothing to boost the laughable credibility of Indonesia's court. The international community has been taken for a ride, and the question is: What is it going to do about it?"

He challenged the Bush administration, which considers the Indonesian military a key ally in the war on terrorism, to work to create an international tribunal for East Timor.



August 5, 2003 9:28pm


Jakarta, Aug 5 (ANTARA) - The Central Jakarta Court on Tuesday sentenced former commander of the Udayana Military Command Maj Gen Adam Damiri to three years in jail for harsh human rights violation in East Timor.

Judge Marni Mustafa, who presided over the trial said Adam was found guilty of violating harsh human rights in East Timor, formerly Indonesia's 27th province before it seceded from the country following UN-administered ballot in August 1999.

The sentence is heavier than that sought by public prosecutor S Ozzie in last week's trial.

Ozzie demanded that Adam be set free as he was not proven guilty of committing harsh human rights violation in the territory.

Adam and his lawyers, Ruhut Sitompul and Hotma Sitompul, said they will appeal to the higher court against the sentence.

"I am disappointed (at the decision) but I will always abide by the panel of judge's ruling and I will appeal to the higher court," he said.

Adam is the last of the 18 officials tried for their involvement in the violence which broke out during and after the people ballot in August 1999 in which the majority of East Timorese opted for independence from Indonesia.


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