Subject: DPA: Former Indonesian general denies rights violations in East Timor

Former Indonesian general denies rights violations in East Timor

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 09:31:08 GMT


Jakarta - A former Indonesian army commander in East Timor denied Wednesday that gross human rights violations took place in the territory after it voted for independence in 1999. "There were no crimes against humanity in East Timor," retired lieutenant general Kiki Syahnakri told a special panel investigating more than 1,000 murders, mass rapes, and the razing of entire towns by the Indonesian armed forces following the vote.

Mimicking the testimonies of several other Indonesian military and civilian officials to the Indonesia-East Timor Truth and Friendship Commission (CTF), Syahnakri blamed the United Nations for the carnage and implied the overwhelming vote for independence by Timorese citizens was rigged.

"The post-referendum violence was a combined result of widespread cheating from the UN Administration Mission for East Timor [UNAMET] and the early announcement" of the results, he said.

"Indonesian military policy in East Timor was neutral and pro-peace," he said, repeatedly adding that carnage was an "International conspiracy."

Indonesian army units and their pro-integration Timorese militia proxies ran wild after the UN, which organised the August 30, 1999 referendum, announced a few days later that nearly 80 per cent of the population voted for independence from 24 years of Indonesian rule.

Soldiers and militiamen gunned down unarmed civilians, burned thousands of buildings and infrastructure, and forced more than 250,000 people at gunpoint into neighbouring West Timor, which remains an Indonesian province.

Indonesia and East Timor, which is now an independent nation, set up the commission in 2006 to head off calls for a UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The commission, which is comprised of officials from both nations, began its sixth round of hearings on Wednesday.

During previous hearings on Bali, Jakarta, and in Dili, East Timor, witnesses testified to seeing Indonesian army soldiers and Timorese militiamen killing scores of unarmed civilians before and after the referendum.

However, senior Indonesian army commanders denied organizing the violence, claimed only 100 people were killed, and blamed the violence on the UN for announcing the referendum results three days ahead of schedule.

No Indonesian army officers or police have been convicted in connection with the Timor violence, and criminal trials under Indonesia's own judicial system were viewed as shams.

International human rights groups have also dismissed the truth commission as a sham. Unlike a similar one in South Africa, the CTF has no decision-making power and cannot prosecute anyone. The commission can only make recommendations to parliaments from both countries.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon has banned UN employees from giving testimony unless the commission reverses its policy of recommending amnesties for those agree to cooperate and testify.

Not that anyone from Indonesia's security forces has admitted guilt. In earlier testimony Wednesday, army Colonel Aris Martono denied accounts that soldiers carried out a mass rape of 300 pro-independence Timorese women, saying the accusation was a lie, baseless, and a slander of the Indonesian military.

East Timor, a half-island territory that used to be a Portuguese colony, became an independent nation in 2002 after being administered by the UN for more than two years.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and began a brutal occupation that lasted 24 years. As many as 200,000 civilians are estimated to have died during that period, but Jakarta denies committing any atrocities during the occupation.

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