For Immediate Release
October 4, 2001
East Timor Action Network Hails $66 Million Judgment in Rights Lawsuit
Against Indonesian General
Lumintang First Ranking Officer to Be Held Accountable for East Timor
Contact: John M. Miller,
Anthony DiCaprio, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR),
Joshua Sondheimer, Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA),
The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today hailed U.S. Federal
Court Judge Alan Kay’s order holding Indonesian General Johny Lumintang
liable for $66 million for his role in systematic human rights violations
following East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence in 1999.
The six plaintiffs or their estates were granted $10 million each in
punitive damages. Compensatory damages ranged from $750,000 to $1.75
"It has been established... that Lumintang has responsibility for
the actions against plaintiffs and a larger pattern of gross human rights
violations," wrote Judge Kay. "[H]e - along with other
high-ranking members of the Indonesian military - planned, ordered, and
instigated acts carried out by subordinates to terrorize and displace the
East Timorese population ... and to destroy East Timor's infrastructure
following the vote for independence."
Last March, Judge Kay presided over three days of hearings in
Washington, DC, during which the court heard testimony of the plaintiffs
and expert witnesses. The plaintiffs were victims of Indonesian military
and militia violence. The decision was issued last month. (The text of the
judge's findings can be found at http://www.etan.org/news/2001a/10lumjudg.htm.)
To date, the case against General Lumintang is the only one brought in
any jurisdiction against a high-level Indonesian commander for the
destruction following East Timor's August 30, 1999 UN-organized vote.
General Lumintang chose not to defend himself in court.
"This judgment sends a strong message that the Indonesian
military, police, and political leaders responsible for 1999's devastation
of East Timor must be held accountable. Indonesia clearly lacks the will
and East Timor the resources and access to defendants, to prosecute
ranking officials responsible for these crimes against humanity,” said
John M. Miller of ETAN, which supported the suit. “An international
tribunal is essential to uphold international human rights standards and
to end the impunity of the Indonesian military. While this judgment is no
substitute for an international tribunal, at least one member of the
Indonesian command has been brought to justice,” Miller added.
"The people of East Timor have been searching for justice for
nearly three decades. The overwhelming violence that took place after
August 30, 1999 vote affected nearly every person in East Timor. The
United States is distinctly and unfortunately able to empathize with this
profound suffering and it is appropriate that a U.S. court is the first in
the world to find the defendant, along with other high-ranking members of
the Indonesian military, responsible for the violence in East Timor,"
said Anthony DiCaprio of the Center for Constitutional Rights, an attorney
for the plaintiffs.
"The tragic events of September 11 have reminded us all that
attacks on innocent civilians are never justified," said Joshua
Sondheimer of Center for Justice and Accountability, an attorney for the
plaintiffs. "The court's ruling sends a message that if those
responsible for grave human rights abuses against civilians want to enter
the United States, they will be held accountable under U.S. law ."
In 1999, Lumintang, as vice chief of staff, was second in command of
the Indonesian army. Following the August 30, 1999 UN-organized
referendum, the Indonesian military and militia that operated with their
support systematically destroyed East Timor, murdering at least 2000 East
Timorese and destroying 70-80 percent of the infrastructure.
Three-quarters of the population was forced from their homes.
In his ruling, Judge Kay cited the principle of command responsibility
where "a commander may be criminally or civilly responsible for
crimes committed by subordinates." He said that Lumintang is
"both directly and indirectly responsible for human rights violations
committed against" the plaintiffs. Evidence of direct involvement
included his signature on certain key documents. He is also liable because
as a member of the TNI high command he knew or should have known that
subordinates were involved in systematic rights violations in East Timor
and he failed to act to prevent or punish the violations.
Plaintiffs who traveled to Washington to testify in the proceedings
included an East Timorese victim of Indonesian military and militia
violence, whose brother was killed and father injured in post-election
attacks. The father testified via videotape. Two other East Timorese
targeted by the Indonesian military in September 1999 during the scorched
earth campaign from Indonesia also testified: a mother whose son was
killed, and a man who was shot by Indonesian soldiers and subsequently had
his foot amputated.
The Megawati administration's recently amended decree establishing a
special human rights court on East Timor in Indonesia falls far short of
fully addressing the military's role in orchestrating the violence and
devastation. It only covers April and September 1999 in three out of
Timor's 13 districts. This excludes many atrocities that occurred outside
of those time periods and locations, as well as the systematic
coordination of the scorched-earth campaign by senior level security
forces personnel as noted by both Indonesian and UN commissions of inquiry
and, now, by Judge Kay.
“The lack of justice for the people of East Timor flies in the face
of the recent emphasis on justice and rule-of-law expressed by both
Presidents Bush and Megawati during the Indonesian president’s recent
visit to the White House. Although the Indonesian military remains above
the law, terrorizing and killing civilians throughout the archipelago, the
Bush administration seeks to reward it with prestigious military
assistance,” said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator for ETAN.
Lt. Gen. Lumintang is currently secretary general of the Ministry of
Defense. He was trained by the U.S. under the Pentagon's IMET
(International Military Education and Training) program and had been a
past commander in East Timor.
In 1992, a judgment for $14 million was issued in a similar case
against Indonesian General Sintong Panjaitan for his involvement in the
Nov. 12, 1991 Santa Cruz massacre of over 270 East Timorese.
The Lumintang lawsuit, like the Panjaitan case, is based in part on the
Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 which allows non-citizens to sue for acts
committed outside the United States "in violation of the law of
nations or a treaty of the United States." The 1991 Torture Victim
Protection Act reaffirms the 1789 law and gives U.S. courts jurisdiction
over claims by citizens involving torture and extra-judicial killing
occurring anywhere. Lawsuits can only go forward if the defendant is
served legal papers while in the U.S.
Lumintang was personally served notice of the civil suit on March 30,
2000, while visiting the Washington, DC area. After he failed to answer
the charges, including crimes against humanity, summary execution and
torture, a judge declared Lumintang in default.
Counsel for the case are the Center for Constitutional Rights in New
York, the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability and
the Washington, DC law firm of Patton, Boggs.
For the text of Judge Kay's "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of
Law" and more information about the Lumintang and Panjaitan cases,
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