May 20, 2003 - On the first anniversary of the new country's independence, the International Federation for East Timor (IFET) urged the UN Security Council to establish an international tribunal to try the masterminds of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the territory from 1975 to 1999.
In an open letter to council members, IFET called a tribunal "essential to punish past violence and deter future violence against the people of East Timor and Indonesia and against UN personnel."
Indonesia has established an Ad Hoc Court on Human Rights for East Timor, and verdicts in its last trials are due shortly. in order to deflect moves to establish an international tribunal. But Indonesia has failed to "overcome [the court's] inherent flaws," IFET wrote, citing numerous criticisms by UN officials of the ad hoc court. East Timor's leaders have urged the international community to take primary responsibility for judging crimes against humanity committed in East Timor.
Moreover, noted IFET, "[a]n international tribunal is not only a matter of justice for the people of East Timor." The letter pointed out that Indonesian security forces committed the crimes as Indonesia defied multiple UN resolutions and, in 1999, sought to undermine a UN operation.
"Many of those accused of abuses continue to occupy positions of responsibility in Indonesia," IFET wrote. The letter cited the example of Major General Adam Damiri, who missed a recent session of his trial before Indonesia's ad hoc court because he was involved in preparing military operations in Aceh. On Monday, Indonesia launched a military assault against the war-torn province. It was the largest attack by Indonesia since the 1975 invasion of East Timor.
The letter concluded that East Timor's "[r]econciliation with Indonesia is ... hampered by the failure to bring to justice the Indonesian military, political, and police leaders who planned, organized and commanded the terror campaign in 1999 and who ordered the invasion, occupation and destruction in East Timor."
Finally, IFET called on the Security Council to extend the mandate of the Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (SCU) and its special courts. IFET said the "work of the SCU would serve as a solid basis for an ad hoc international tribunal." The SCU has issued several indictments of ranking Indonesian officials for crimes committed in 1999, Among those indcted are General Wiranto, the former Defense Minister, and two-thirds of those indicted by the SCU are believed to reside in Indonesia, which refuses to extradite anyone to East Timor.
The full text of IFET's letter is available at www.etan.org/ifet.
IFET was formed in 1991 to support East Timor at the United Nations. It has 35 member groups from 20 countries.
International Federation for East Timor (IFET)
Secretariat: Charles Scheiner
P.O. Box 88 Dili, East Timor
via Darwin, Australia
U.N. Representative: John M. Miller
48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA
Return to IFET's Main Page
Go to ETAN homepage