Rights Group Praises New Indictment of Indonesian Officials
Calls on International Community to Strongly Support Joint UN/East
Timor Serious Crimes Court
Contact: John M. Miller,
For Immediate Release
April 9, 2003 - Following yesterday's indictment of Indonesian military
and police officials, the East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) today
urged the United States and United Nations to fully support the
prosecution of Indonesian officials accused of committing crimes against
humanity in East Timor by the joint UN/East Timor Serious Crimes Unit.
"We urge the U.S. and the UN to actively pursue the extradition
and prosecution of all those indicted by the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU)
currently residing in Indonesia. The Bush administration must use all
diplomatic resources at its disposal to ensure Indonesian authorities
honor the indictments issued and comply with extradition requests,"
said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "There must be concrete
repercussions for Indonesia's complete failure to cooperate with the SCU."
"The serious nature of the crimes committed, the inability of the
new nation of East Timor to seek justice on its own, and the extreme
violence aimed at a UN Security Council-mandated mission all necessitate
international involvement," added Miller.
Indonesia has publicly refused to extradite anyone to East Timor for
trial. Of the 227 suspects previously indicted by the SCU, nearly
two-thirds reside in Indonesia.
In an effort to avoid an international court process, Indonesia
established its own ad hoc court on East Timor, considered a sham by
nearly all observers. The Indonesian court is expected to announce its
last verdicts this month. So far, the court has acquitted 11 of 14
Indonesian defendants before it.
The SCU indictment
accuses 16 persons, including nine Indonesian military (TNI) officers and
the former Indonesian District Chief of Police, of crimes against humanity
committed against the civilian population of Covalima district in 1999.
Among incidents involved is the notorious September 1999 massacre at the
Suai church, where scores of women, men, and children were killed,
including three priests.
"East Timorese officials have expressed concern about the impact
of the SCU indictments on relations with Indonesia, but East Timor's civil
society has repeatedly called the pursuit of justice fundamental for
stability and stated that the East Timorese people are crying out for
justice," said Miller.
East Timor's National
Alliance for an International Tribunal, praising February's indictment
of the former head of the Indonesian military General Wiranto and other
high-ranking officials, wrote to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Sergio de Mello, "East Timorese victims have complained that [earlier
SCU] indictments only charged lower-ranking Indonesian military and police
personnel as well as militia members, but failed to address the primary
perpetrators. The people of East Timor, who since 1975 have lived under
Indonesian military occupation… are well aware that the violence in 1999
was part of an ongoing systematic and planned use of violence against our
"The U.S. and UN must ensure that the SCU and its courts have
sufficient resources to finish investigations and conduct effective
trials," added Miller. "The current May 2004 deadline for the
SCU must be extended by the Security Council. Otherwise, justice will
become just one more broken international promise to the people of East
"UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council must
further establish an international tribunal to investigate and try war
crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed throughout the
illegal Indonesian occupation of East Timor, from 1975 to 1999."
The April 8 indictment charges eight TNI District and Sub-District
Commanders, the former Indonesian District Civilian Administrator (also a
TNI Officer), the former Indonesian District Chief of Police and six East
Timorese TNI soldiers with 31 counts of crimes against humanity, including
murder, extermination, enforced disappearance, torture, deportation and
persecution committed against the civilian population of Covalima district
between 27 January 1999 and 25 October 1999.
The indictment includes the September 6 massacre of refugees who sought
refuge inside the Suai Church compound. Last August, the ad hoc court in
Jakarta found five of those named in the SCU indictment not guilty of the
The SCU has now issued a total of 59 indictments against 243 persons.
Most of those indicted remain at large, likely in Indonesia.
The United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET)
established the SCU under authority granted by UN Security Council
Resolution 1272 (25 October 1999) to set up a system to administer justice
in East Timor. The SCU has focused on investigating serious crimes that
took place during 1999 and prosecuting those responsible. The UN also
created a hybrid international-East Timorese Special Panel of the Dili
District Court to hear serious crimes cases.
East Timor gained independence in May 2002, but the UN retained
authority to investigate and prosecute serious crimes committed through
1999 in the post-independence UN support mission UNMISET through Security
Council Resolution 1410.
Indonesia's ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor has acquitted 11 of
14 Indonesian defendants tried thus far, in addition to two convictions
for the only East Timorese on trial. The five sentences handed down were
not commensurate with the crimes committed; four defendants received less
than the legal minimum under Indonesian law. All remain free pending
appeal. Few of the top architects of the terror in East Timor were even
named as suspects, much less brought to trial. Other serious shortcomings
of the Indonesian court include an extremely unprofessional courtroom
environment packed with high-ranking military and militia; inadequate
witness protection; and a prosecution that has presented weak and
inaccurate indictments and arguments, painted a false picture of the
conflict in 1999, and failed to present the overwhelming amount of
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. supports human dignity for the
people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, economic justice and
human rights, including women's rights. Additional background can be found
Rights & Justice pages