Where Is the Justice?
UN, U.S. Must Break the Silence on Crimes in East Timor Since
Impunity Encourages Violations in Indonesia;
Uncertainty in East Timor
For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller,
On the December 7 anniversary of Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of
East Timor, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) urged United
Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the U.S. government to
forcefully act for justice for the people of East Timor.
“While standing in a churchyard in Liquica in 2000, site of one
of the worst massacres in 1999 in East Timor, Annan called for
‘justice to prevail over impunity,’” said John M. Miller,
spokesperson for ETAN. “It has been four months since Indonesia’s
sham ad-hoc court issued its final verdict, and still the
Secretary-General remains silent about the next steps needed to
fulfill his pledge of justice for the East Timorese. Justice delayed
is clearly justice denied,” he added.
“Justice delayed also translates into continuing human rights
violations in Indonesia. Powerful rights violators can only be
celebrating the UN’s silence. Continued impunity no doubt emboldens
generals and militia leaders alike.”
”The next step should be to establish an international tribunal,”
Last summer, the East Timor National Alliance for an
International Tribunal wrote, “The reality is that Indonesia has not
demonstrated its commitment to conduct prosecutions in Indonesia or
to cooperate with the court in Timor-Leste.
The Alliance of Timor-Leste therefore
calls on the international community to establish an international
tribunal in order that those responsible for the violations in Timor-Leste
will finally face justice.”
“People in the U.S., East Timor, and Indonesia are mindful of
the U.S. role in backing Indonesia’s attack on this anniversary of
the December 7 invasion and propping up the Suharto dictatorship for
decades,” said Miller. “The U.S. government must come clean on its
role in the suffering of the East Timorese people and back a process
of genuine justice. It should begin by releasing the documents
requested by East
Timor’s truth commission, so they can fulfill their mandate to
give a full accounting of the occupation.”
East Timor’s President Xanana Gusmao recently expressed concerns
about militia incursions from West Timor, especially when UN
peacekeepers withdraw next spring. “If militia and military leaders
did not enjoy impunity, this substantial threat to East Timor’s
peace and security would not exist,” said Miller.
Many senior officials who directed crimes against humanity in
East Timor remain active in Indonesia.
During its illegal occupation of the island nation from 1975 to
1999, the Indonesian military was responsible for the deaths of more
than 200,000 people, one-third of the population. The U.S. supplied
over $1 billion in weapons and training from the invasion through
1991 and more since.
After the East Timorese people voted for independence in 1999,
the Indonesian military retaliated by killing more than 1300 people,
raping hundreds and destroying most of the country's infrastructure.
In the months following 1999's devastation, two UN bodies called for
the establishment of an international tribunal. Instead, Indonesia
promised to try its own and eventually established the Ad Hoc Human
Rights Court for East Timor. The court issued its final verdict on
August 5. Of the 18 people tried, 12 were acquitted. All but one of
those convicted received less than the legal minimum sentence, and
all remain free pending appeal.
East Timorese leaders, stressing the need to establish good
relations with their powerful neighbor, have repeatedly urged the
international community to take the lead on issues of accountability
for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Sergio de Mello
reported to the 59th session of the Human Rights Commission
criticized "the limited geographical and temporal jurisdiction of
the Court; the lack of experienced prosecutors and judges; the
intimidating and, at times, hostile, courtroom treatment of Timorese
witnesses by some judges, prosecutors and defense counsel; the
causes and consequences of non-attendance of Timorese witnesses at
the proceedings; and the lightness of the sentences imposed, which
bear no reasonable relationship to the gravity of the offences
committed." He added "the failure to put before the court evidence
that portrays the killings and other human rights violations as part
of a widespread or systematic pattern of violence seriously
undermines the strength of the prosecution's case and jeopardizes
the integrity and credibility of the trial process."
The joint UN-East Timor Serious Crimes Unit in Dili has indicted
a number of high-ranking Indonesian officials, including General
Wiranto, who was commander in chief of Indonesia’s armed forces in
1999. 280 of the 367 persons indicted are outside East Timor, but
Indonesia refuses to extradite anyone to East Timor.
General Wiranto and
Prabowo Subianto are considered credible candidates for
president in the Indonesian election to be held next year. Prabowo
served several tours in East Timor. From 1995-98 he was commander of
Kopassus, the most notorious army unit. He is now reported to be
working with East Timorese militia in West Timor.
A number of other senior military officials are active in
Indonesia’s martial law operation in Aceh, including Major General
who was convicted by the ad hoc court. General Timbul Silaen was
recently appointed police commander in Papua. Silaen was police
commander in East Timor in 1999 during its independence ballot. He
was acquitted by Indonesia’s ad hoc court. East Timorese militia
leader Eurico Guterres, sentenced to ten years in prison by the ad
hoc court but free on appeal, is reported to be forming similar
militia groups in Papua. Damiri,
Guterres and Silaen are under indictment in the UN-East Timor
Serious Crimes Unit.
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