Subject: U.S. Slams Indonesian Court Decision, Seeks Action on Timor Abuse
U.S. Slams Indonesian Court Decision, Seeks Action on Timor Abuse
The United States sharply criticized an Indonesian court decision acquitting four security officials convicted over 1999 atrocities in East Timor and said it was seeking international action to bring to justice those behind the appalling violence.
Jakarta announced last week that the four, including Major General Adam Damiri, the most senior military officer to face trial for the bloodshed during East Timor's UN-backed independence vote, were cleared by an appeal court on July 29.
A 10-year jail term imposed on a pro-Jakarta militiaman who oversaw the murder and torture of independence supporters was also slashed.
No reasons were given for the decisions, which had been condemned by human rights groups crying for justice for the estimated 1,400 people killed when Indonesian troops and their local militia proxies waged a savage intimidation campaign.
"We are dismayed by this decision, and we are profoundly disappointed with the performance and record of the Indonesian ad hoc tribunal," Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman of the State Department, told reporters.
All four security officials had been earlier found guilty of crimes against humanity by the ad hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta, which Indonesia created in an attempt to shield itself from calls for an international tribunal.
"In our view, as a result of this appeals decision, only two of the 18 defendants have been convicted, and both individuals are ethnic Timorese and received sentences below the 10-year minimum set by law," he said.
"We think that the overall process was seriously flawed and lacked credibility."
Asked whether the department had conveyed its views to Jakarta, Ereli said: "We are consulting with the governments concerned and international organizations on how to ensure a credible level of justice for these abuses."
US-based rights groups have charged that the courts in Indonesia are not independent, calling for a UN inquiry to punish those behind the murderous rampage across East Timor.
Brad Adams, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division, said on Friday the United Nations should help create a judicial process over the atrocities.
He said support from the United States, Japan, Australia, and European Union countries for such a UN effort was essential.
In a recent letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups urged the world body to immediately establish a Commission of Experts "to resolve the impunity gap created by the Indonesian ad hoc Court in Jakarta."
The East Timor Action Network (ETAN), which had been calling for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity in East Timor since 1975, also sought UN intervention.
ETAN spokesman John Miller urged the US administration and Congress to strengthen restrictions on assistance to the Indonesian military "until there is meaningful justice."
East Timor, which won full autonomy in 2002, has downplayed the importance of the trials, insisting that forging good ties with Indonesia is a greater priority.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in December 1975, shortly after Dili declared independence from centuries of Portuguese colonial rule.
Voice of America August 9, 2004
U.S. 'Dismayed' Over Indonesian Court Decision on East Timor
David Gollust State Department
The United States Monday expressed dismay over an Indonesian appeals court ruling overturning convictions of security officials for crimes against humanity in the 1999 violence in East Timor. The State Department called the Indonesian legal process "seriously flawed."
U.S. officials have been monitoring Indonesian court cases stemming from the 1999 East Timor violence with concern, and they are criticizing in strong terms the appeals court decision that overturned the convictions of four senior security officials, and cut in half the prison term of another figure in the violence.
The appeals court decisions, made two weeks ago but only revealed publicly last Friday, reversed the convictions of three senior army officers who were posted in East Timor along with that of the former police chief of the regional capital, Dili.
All had been convicted of crimes against humanity in the East Timor violence in which local paramilitary forces, backed by elements of the Indonesian military, killed at least a thousand people and displaced hundreds of thousands in a campaign against local independence efforts.
The appeals court also reduced, from 10 years to five, the prison sentence of the most prominent paramilitary chieftain.
State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli made clear U.S. disappointment over the appeals court ruling:
"We are dismayed by this decision, and we are profoundly disappointed with the performance and record of the Indonesian ad hoc tribunal," he said. "In our view, as a result of this appeals decision, only two of the 18 defendants have been convicted, and both individuals are ethnic-Timorese, and both received sentences below the 10-year minimum set by law. We think the overall process was seriously flawed and lacked credibility."
Mr. Ereli said the United States is consulting with the governments concerned, implicitly those of Indonesia and East Timor, and with international organizations on how to insure what he termed "a credible level of justice" for the 1999 abuses.
The paramilitaries had tried to derail a U.N.-supervised election for East Timorese independence, which went ahead despite the violence and led to the territory becoming an independent state in 2002.
Much of the country's infrastructure was destroyed in the fighting and a third of its population of about 800,000 were forced into camps in West Timor.
Indonesia established the tribunal, under international pressure, to try those responsible for the destruction, but its work has been widely criticized by diplomats and human rights groups.
The New York-based group Human Rights Watch said the appeals court decision shows that Indonesian courts are simply not independent and are incapable of rendering justice for what it termed the "atrocities" committed in East Timor.
Human Rights Watch, along with some Indonesian rights advocates, called on the United Nations to establish an international tribunal.
However, East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta was quoted as saying Monday that such a tribunal would not help the fledgling government in Dili, and that East Timorese officials would not lobby for it.
Mr. Ramos-Horta told the Reuters news agency a U.N. tribunal might be politically destabilizing, and that his government would prefer to see an international truth and reconciliation commission set up to examine the 1999 events.
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman Washington, DC August 9, 2004
[Excerpt on East Timor verdicts]:
QUESTION: Different subject. It came out late last week that a appeals court in Indonesia overturned the convictions of several people who had been convicted of offenses for East Timor, and practically no one now in Indonesia is doing any time or being punished for East Timor. I wonder if you have a reflection on that.
MR. ERELI: An appeals court overturned convictions of all Indonesian military and police officers who are charged with crimes against humanity for their role in the violence and destruction in East Timor in 1999. We are dismayed by this decision, and we are profoundly disappointed with the performance and record of the Indonesian ad hoc tribunal.
In our view, as a result of this appeals decision, only two of the 18 defendants have been convicted and both individuals are ethnic Timoris and received sentences below the 10-year minimum set by law. We think that the overall process was seriously flawed and lacked credibility.
QUESTION: Has this been communicated to them in any special way?
MR. ERELI: We are consulting with the governments concerned and international organizations on how to ensure a credible level of justice for these abuses.
-end of excerpt on Indonesia/East Timor-
Support ETAN, make a secure financial contribution at etan.org/etan/donate.htm