Subject: JP Editorial: Timor CTF: All Clear? [+US support, Guterres release 'face-saving']

also: JP: U.S. support, Guterres' release 'face-saving:' Expert [University of Indonesia international relations expert Hariyadi Wirawan]

The Jakarta Post

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


All Clear?

No one is guilty for the 1999 mayhem in the then Indonesian province of East Timor. This is the conclusion of all the cases tried at Indonesia's ad hoc human rights court. And on Friday, the Supreme Court cleared former pro-Indonesia militia leader Eurico Guterres of rights violations. In doing so, the court overturned its own earlier decision to uphold the 10-year prison sentence given Eurico by the rights court.

The Supreme Court has wisely decided, a jubilant Eurico said, "that I am not the one responsible" for all the violence before and after the referendum that led to East Timor's independence.

So who was responsible?

Eurico could be likened to a mere foot soldier if indeed he took part in the violence. If the generals were cleared of charges, how could he be responsible? Estimates of those killed during the spasm of violence in East Timor reach the thousands, with survivors fleeing from towns and villages to areas in Indonesia and abroad.

But Eurico and all the other defendants have been acquitted. These defendants include former East Timor governor Abilio Jose Soares and high-ranking military and police officers who served in former East Timor.

The answer as to who was responsible is unlikely to be clear from the soon-to-be released final report of the Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission on Truth and Friendship.

Commission leaders have reiterated their mandate is not to prosecute or declare anyone guilty; the commission will simply name an "institution" responsible for the violence.

The only parties who have owned up to their actions were bit players -- militias either supporting the cause of East Timor's independence or those who fought to stay with Indonesia. Among those tried in Timorese courts was the former leader of the Alfa militia group, Johny Marques, who is serving 33 years in jail for his role in the murder of priests and nuns in 1999 in the town of Los Palos.

At a commission hearing, he said, "For the sake of friendship between the two nations, why should it be only Alfa members like myself who are singled out for accountability?"

He testified how Indonesian police and military commanders recruited and trained him and his men, but he wondered aloud why they were not being questioned and tried.

Even though the big fish still bask in impunity, a degree of accountability has been shown -- yet only in Timorese fora. Marques and others were convicted in a Dili court. Public confessions have also been released by Timor Leste's own commission for truth and reconciliation.

Indonesia, Timor Leste's boastful big neighbor, has not managed to come up with a single verdict that shows that at least one institution, or one individual, was responsible for the widespread arson and destruction, the loss of life during the 1999 referendum.

The Supreme Court decision to free Eurico was not surprising; it merely marked the day Indonesia returned to square one regarding investigations into what happened in its former 27th province.

If no one in Indonesia is responsible, does popular reference to an international conspiracy have some truth?

Many found with relief that declassified documents from the United States revealed that at least the United States and Australia gave tacit support for Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor.

Another conclusion that can be arrived at from the fact that everyone here is apparently innocent is that impunity reigns. This is a setback, past even square one, despite our years of "reform".

The Commission on Truth and Friendship emphasizes the "friendship" between Indonesia and Timor Leste, and is thus in no way a substitute for real court verdicts on the violence.

Commissioners have said their report could be used as a basis for both countries in the event that either decided to take up further investigations that could lead to prosecution.

Timor Leste has done its part in trying to heal wounds, both through reconciliation and also through legal means. The onus now is on Indonesia to act.

The world waits -- because this "pebble in our shoe", as our foreign minister used to say, just won't go away.


The Jakarta Post

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

U.S. support, Guterres' release called 'face-saving'

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

U.S. support for the final report of the Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) and the release of a former Timor Leste militia leader are face-saving efforts, says an expert.

University of Indonesia international relations expert Hariyadi Wirawan said Indonesia and the United States apparently wanted to say there were no gross human rights violations before and after the 1999 referendum in the then Indonesian province of East Timor, and all incidents from 1975 onward were not by design but by default.

"These are face-saving efforts of Indonesia and the United States. By saying the incidents were by default, they mean to say 'There's no one to blame, so let's just forget it and move on,'" he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill met last Friday with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his tour of Southeast Asia, which included stops in Indonesia and Timor Leste.

After the meeting, he said the United States would accept the findings of the commission probing killings by Indonesian troops during Timor Leste's break from Jakarta, despite a boycott of the process by the United Nations and criticism by rights groups.

"If it's good enough for East Timor and Indonesia, it should be good enough for us. What we want to see is reconciliation between Indonesia and East Timor. This is the way to go. If you look at East Timor's future, it needs a good relationship with Indonesia," Hill said.

After months of delay, the CTF is expected to present its final report to the presidents of both Indonesia and Timor Leste next week.

Presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal confirmed that Timor Leste was one of the topics, besides North Korea, Myanmar and the Middle East, discussed by the President and Hill. However, he stressed the independence of the CTF, saying the commission's work was an effort to seek truth so the two countries could work together in the future.

"The long delay of the commission to issue its final report shows there is genuine debate among its members. It shows they are independent," he said.

Hariyadi, however, questioned the coincidence of Hill's visit to Jakarta and Dili and the release of Eurico Guterres ahead of the release of the CTF's final report.

The Supreme Court cleared Guterres, the only person jailed over the violence surrounding East Timor's 1999 vote for independence, after it found he was not proven to have structural command to coordinate attacks.

"I think the events are all connected. If it is true, then the CTF's final credibility is under question as many will see there has been general pre-negotiation between the United States and Indonesia on the results," he said.

Hariyadi said the United States had an interest in speeding up the commission's work as many have accused it of pushing Soeharto to invade East Timor to stop the spread of communism in Southeast Asia after it couldn't prevent the fall of Vietnam to communism in 1975.

Many observers have suggested the United States would not allow the lack of justice over past rights abuses to hurt its growing ties with Indonesia, a nation seen as a counterbalance to China's growing clout in Asia.

"I am afraid the CTF final report will be designed to just make everybody happy," Hariyadi said.

International law expert at the University of Indonesia Hikmahanto Juwana said the CTF's final report would determine the fate of the human rights cases and future Indonesia-Timor Leste relations.

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