Subject: GLW: ET Still waiting for justice

EAST TIMOR: Still waiting for justice

Jon Lamb

Human rights and solidarity organisations are deeply concerned by the Golkar party's nomination of General Wiranto for president of Indonesia. Wiranto, the former head of the Indonesian military, was indicted in February 2003 for his role in coordinating the 1999 terror campaign in East Timor, conducted by the Indonesian military and its militia proxies.

According to the Dili Special Panel (a joint East Timor-United Nations court), Wiranto was responsible for ``the crimes against humanity of murder, deportation and persecution'' that took place before and after the August 1999 independence ballot.

In a statement released on April 21 by the US-based East Timor Action Network, spokesperson John M Miller said: ``Wiranto's rise in Indonesian politics speaks volumes about the failure of the United Nations, the US and other countries to act quickly and forcefully for justice. The cycle of impunity continues; those responsible for the devastation in East Timor are now directing similar campaigns in Aceh and Papua.''

Miller added that the UN should ``revisit the recommendation to establish an international tribunal for East Timor made by the UN's Commission of Inquiry in January 2002''. He called for the withholding of all US military assistance to Indonesia until Wiranto and other Indonesian military figures are brought to justice in a legitimate and transparent judicial process.

``It is difficult to imagine a more ruthless protege of the former dictator Suharto than General Wiranto'', Max Lane, chairperson of Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific told Green Left Weekly. ``He and other Indonesian generals and colonels have been able to get off scot-free for the crimes against humanity that they committed in East Timor ... crimes they are repeating in the towns and villages of Aceh, Papua and elsewhere'', Lane said.

In pursuit of improved ties with the Indonesian military, the US and Australian governments have refused to question or criticise the nomination of Wiranto. ``We can work with anybody that comes out from a free [election] process'', US ambassador Ralph Boyce told reporters on April 21.

Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, argued that raising concerns about the Wiranto nomination would harm relations between Canberra and Jakarta. According to the April 22 Melbourne Age, Downer said: ``If we started attacking General Wiranto, that might turn out to be a bit of an election winner for him, so we won't comment.'' Federal Labor leader Mark Latham, has likewise refused to comment.

Downer has also signalled that Wiranto and the Indonesian military have the Howard government's blessing by stating that Wiranto's nomination ``reflects a view in some parts of Indonesia that they need to get back to strength and decisiveness in government and they would see General Wiranto as a former head of the Indonesian military as that type of a person''.

Wiranto's nomination comes just days after the supreme court in Indonesia upheld charges against the last Indonesian-installed governor of East Timor, Abilio Osario Soares. Soares is the only figure of note to be sentenced by the ad hoc Human Rights Court in Indonesia for the 1999 terror campaign.

``I have been made a scapegoat and sacrificed to save the Indonesian military ... justice in the republic is only for the powerful and those with money'', Soares told reporters in Jakarta on April 16. Head of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association Hendardi said that the verdict was ``discriminatory and insidious'', and that ``justice has not been done for the East Timorese victims who have suffered arbitrary torture and death''.

A detailed report released on April 14 by Amnesty International and the Dili-based Judicial System Monitoring Program stressed that ``perpetrators of crimes against humanity and other serious crimes committed in Timor Leste in 1999 will escape justice unless the UN acts to fulfill its commitment to bring them to account''.

The report also states that ``while the UN is dragging its heels, those responsible for grave crimes in Timor Leste are free and, in many cases, are in active military or police service. It is therefore no surprise that the patterns, if not the scale, of violations witnessed in East Timor have since been repeated elsewhere in Indonesia''.

From Green Left Weekly, April 29, 2004.

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