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East Timor Action Network/U.S. 

For Immediate Release

Newly Appointed Indonesian Judges Will Not Provide Long-Delayed Justice for East Timor 

Rights Group Urges International Tribunal Covering Entire Occupation

Contact: John M. Miller, 718-5967668; mobile: 917-690-4391

January 15, 2002 -- The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) said today that Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri's last minute approval of judges for an ad hoc court on East Timor does not alter its view that the court will not bring to justice all, or even most of, those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor.

"The multiple delays in establishing the court, its limited jurisdiction, and the continued impunity with which the Indonesian military operates throughout the archipelago only reinforce our belief that the special Indonesian court will be a sham," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "The Indonesian military remains too powerful and the courts too corrupt. Without an international tribunal, those most responsible for Indonesia's scorched earth campaigns in East Timor will escape punishment," he added.

Over the weekend, Indonesia's chief security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Megawati had finally approved the names of judges to the court. It remains unlikely that any trials will actually begin this month as previously announced. As head of the team deciding prosecutions for crimes in East Timor, M.A. Rahman, now Attorney General, advocated only prosecuting low-ranking officers.

In September 2000, Indonesian prosecutors named 23 suspects, the highest ranking a two-star general, for violence surrounding 1999's referendum on independence. The list was later whittled down to just 19, following the murder of one militia leader and the claim by the Attorney General’s office that they could not find several others. The list of suspects, shortened from a January 2000 list issued by the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, does not reach to the highest levels of the military command implicated by United Nations and other investigations.

Last August, the Megawati administration amended the decree establishing a special human rights court on East Timor. The revised decree falls far short of fully addressing the military's role in orchestrating the violence and devastation. It only covers selected incidents from April and September 1999 in three out of East Timor's 13 districts.

"No one will be tried for the many atrocities that occurred outside of those time periods and locations, or for the coordination of the scorched-earth campaign by senior level security forces personnel. The many crimes specifically directed at women will also not be prosecuted. Many East Timorese victims and witnesses will be too afraid to travel to Indonesia and will not testify," said Miller.

"These limitations mean that the military’s role in orchestrating the violence and devastation throughout 1999 will not be fully addressed and meaningful convictions are unlikely. Further, no one responsible for Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor and most of the massive crimes committed during Indonesia’s two decades of occupation will be held accountable," he added.

On October 24 2001, a coalition of East Timorese non-governmental organizations (NGOs) wrote the United Nations, "We all must face the reality that... [Indonesian courts are] not capable of holding those responsible to account. After initial glimmers of hope, subsequent political turmoil and instability and ensuing continual revisions to the mandate and scope of any Ad Hoc Tribunal which is to be established, ha[ve] clearly demonstrated that Indonesia is both incapable and unwilling to take responsibility for prosecuting those culpable for the crimes against humanity in East Timor."

The NGOs called for an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible. The same conclusion was reached by the UN’s International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor. The NGOs said that prosecutions are "necessary for the nation building process of and reconciliation for East Timor. Instead, we are facing the dark reality of such impunity characterizing our future."

Last September, a U.S. District Court held Indonesian General Johny Lumintang liable for $66 million in damages. The judge’s decision, in a lawsuit on behalf of six East Timorese victims of military and militia violence in 1999, found Lumintang, vice chief of staff of the army at the time, "both directly and indirectly responsible for human rights violations committed against" East Timorese in 1999. Lumintang is not among the suspects to be prosecuted by Indonesia.

Following the August 30, 1999 UN-organized referendum, the Indonesian military and their militia systematically destroyed East Timor, murdering at least 1500 East Timorese, destroying over 70 percent of the infrastructure and raping hundreds of women. Hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes.

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights, including women's rights. ETAN has 28 local chapters throughout the U.S. For additional information see ETAN's web site (


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