Subject: Evidence damns Indonesians: UN refuses to publish Timor report

The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec)

April 7, 2004 Wednesday Final Edition

News; Pg. A16

Evidence damns Indonesians: UN refuses to publish Timor report. Quest for justice against leaders in Jakarta might fall victim to U.S. war on terrorism



A human rights expert has called for new charges to be laid against senior Indonesian leaders, based on war crimes evidence salvaged from smouldering barracks during their army's 1999 retreat from East Timor.

The call was made in a report by Canadian Geoffrey Robinson, an assistant history professor at the University of California. It is the most damning and rigorous assessment to date of the violence accompanying the UN referendum in which East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to end over two decades of Indonesian occupation.

About 1,500 people were murdered, most of the country's infrastructure was torched, and a quarter of a million citizens were deported during Indonesia's scorched-earth withdrawal from the territory. Much of the violence was committed by Timorese militia groups, who Indonesian commanders claimed were outside their control.

The report was contracted in 2002 by the Geneva-based UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, but the UN has refused to release it publicly since completion in July 2003.

Robinson called for charges against 75 Indonesian officers and politicians, including figures not previously implicated. These include three members of the 1999 cabinet and the present minister for National Security in the Megawati government, retired general A.M. Hendropryono.

The author said evidence he examined also supported charges laid by the UN-backed Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) in Dili against former defence chief Wiranto, who is running for presidential office in July. The SCU is seeking an arrest warrant against the retired general.

The author said his conclusions did not rest on "a smoking gun," but rather on "careful examination and analysis of the now substantial documentary and testimonial record." This included the "secret internal reports, memoranda and orders originating with Indonesian military, police and civilian authorities" retrieved from Indonesian barracks.

He had free access to internal UN documents, and also drew on the Indonesian material, held in the Dili archive of Yayasan Hak, a human rights organization.

Yayasan Hak spokesperson Jose Luis Oliveira said he and other activists had salvaged the documents from abandoned Indonesian barracks. "They fled without burning all their documents," he said, "and we recovered them after a search of the Korem and Kodim (regional and district military command) buildings."

They included payroll documents and military cables, which Robinson used to demolish the idea Indonesian army "rogue elements" were responsible for organizing the violence. He instead described a perfectly articulated chain of command, "conceived, created, and authorized by Indonesian authorities."

"Support for the militias was not provided simply by a handful of 'rogue elements' in the TNI [Indonesian army]," he wrote, "but constituted official policy, and had the backing of some of the highest ranking and most powerful officials in the country."

He traces the command chain to the office of President P.J. Habibie, but said his guilt was conditioned by his lack of authority over the army.

Hendropryono is accused of using his role as transmigration minister in 1998-99 to bankroll militia activities, and playing a close organizational role in the violence. Two other 1999 cabinet members are accused on similar grounds. They are Lt.-Gen. (retired) Feisal Tanjung, then co-ordinating minister for Political and Security Affairs, and former Information minister Mohamad Yunus Yosfiah. In 2000, Yosfiah was accused by UN investigators of involvement in the deaths of five Australian-based journalists in Timor in 1975, although no charges were laid.

All three men are veterans of Indonesia's military campaigns in East Timor, and the Canadian scholar said there was a pattern of involvement by veterans in the 1999 atrocities. Wiranto also served in Timor as a young officer, in the 1980s.

Others accused in the assessment include Maj.-Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsuddin, Maj.-Gen. Kiki Syahnakri, Maj.-Gen. Zacky Anwar Makarim, Maj.-Gen. Adam Damiri and Brig.-Gen. Mahidin Simbolon.

The report was restricted to UN circles until last week, when the original document was given to the UN-backed Reception, Reconciliation and Truth Commission in Dili after arriving by diplomatic pouch from Geneva. It bore a nonconfidential classification, won by champions of its release after long discussion, but "due discretion" was urged in its distribution. This path guaranteed continuing secrecy. Reconciliation chairperson Aniceto Guterres said it would be treated confidentially, like all its submissions, and released only after the commission finishes work in October. He refused an interview request, saying he might "accidentally reveal details."

The leaking of its contents is embarrassing to the UN, given its role in East Timor is seen as almost finished. Personnel will be cut drastically in May, with expectation war crimes prosecutions might also be concluded soon (the SCU's mandate is likely to be extended by a year).

The author chides the UN for its failure to bring justice to East Timor, saying that in terms of a 1999 Security Council resolution pledging to bring perpetrators to justice, it has a "solemn duty" to set up an international tribunal, given the failure of the present system.

The resolution set up a two-tiered system of prosecutions. In Jakarta, the Ad Hoc Tribunal, which concluded its work last year, allowed Jakarta to try its own culprits. Of the small group indicted, most were either acquitted or given light sentences. Some are now directing military operations anew, against insurgents in Aceh and West Papua.

In Dili, the SCU issued its own indictments, prepared by UN investigators, against East Timorese militiamen and Indonesian soldiers alike. However, the Indonesian government has refused to extradite any of its accused, with the result only Timorese have been jailed, while their former commanders walk free.

Decisions over the future of prosecutions will be made in coming weeks, as the current UN mission draws to a close, but analysts are acutely aware East Timor's quest for justice may fall victim to the war against terrorism.

In the present atmosphere of realpolitik, satisfying Indonesia, the world's largest Islamic country, has priority over the grievances of citizens of one of the world's tiniest and poorest nations.

GRAPHIC: Color Photo: DAVID GUTTENFELDER, AP; An East Timorese refugee sits in the remains of her home after walking for two days from a camp in West Timor in October 1999. The refugee crisis and murder of 1,500 was precipitated by an independence referendum and the take-no-hostages withdrawal of Indonesian forces.; Color Photo: AP; Arrest warrant sought against presidential candidate Wiranto.

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