ISSN #1088-8136

Vol. 10, No. 1
Spring 2004


Spring 2004 Home

Australia Continues to Steal East Timor’s Sea Resources

More Pressure Needed to Stop U.S.-TNI Ties

Justice . . . When?

Announcing ETAN Lobby Days June 6-8, 2004, Washington, DC

About East Timor and ETAN

back issues

ETAN Home Page


Justice... When

by John M. Miller

As Indonesia’s election season heated up, Indonesian General Wiranto’s presidential campaign brought renewed attention to his status as an indicted human rights violator in East Timor. ETAN’s statement demanding that Wiranto stand trial, not stand for office, was widely reported after he became the nominee of the Golkar Party. Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department leaked that it had placed Wiranto and seven other officials on a visa watch list. The joint UN-East Timor Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) in Dili had indicted all of them for crimes against humanity on February 24, 2003.

Prosecutors in East Timor, frustrated by delays, went to the Special Panels court to press for arrest warrants for Wiranto and others in Indonesia. The prosecutors even issued a public brief outlining their case against the general-turned-politician. The damning accumulation of evidence gave lie to his and other top officials’ denial of knowledge and involvement in the pre- and post-referendum terror in 1999.

"It wasn't me," Wiranto. Nicholson of "The Australian" newspaper

Starting in January, Indonesia’s Supreme Court began reporting its rulings on appeals from prosecutors and defendants in Jakarta’s widely-criticized Ad Hoc Human Rights Court. The court upheld the acquittals of former East Timor police chief Timbul Silaen and Kopassus Colonel Yayat Sudrajat.

By a three-to-two margin, the Indonesian justices also upheld the acquittals of four military officers and one police official for their roles in the Suai church massacre, the worst single atrocity of 1999. One dissenting justice called the five guilty of “acts of omission.”

“They knew there was killing in the church,” he said. “They were outside the church.” He called the attack “a crime against humanity,” and a “part of the broadly based and systematic attack which happened in East Timor.”

The high court did uphold a three-year sentence against East Timor native José Abilio Osorio Soares, the last Indonesian-appointed governor of East Timor. The appeals concerning 10 others remain pending.

International Actors

In March, international backing for Indonesia’s invasion and occupation received attention when East Timor’s truth commission (CAVR) held a three day Public Hearing on Self-Determination and the International Community. CAVR chair Aniceto Guterres Lopes said, “Positions taken by international institutions during the 24 years of the conflict were central to what happened in Timor-Leste throughout this time and the ultimate outcome.”

Long-time ETAN activist Brad Simpson, working with the Washington D.C.-based National Security Archive, has been obtaining documents through the Freedom of Information Act. These will help illuminate U.S. policy during the occupation and should prove useful to the CAVR in completing its report, which is due out this fall.

In early April, press reports revealed that a still-suppressed UN report by human rights expert Geoffrey Robinson accused the U.S. and Australia of pressuring the UN “not to push too hard on the security issue” before the August 1999 referendum. He argued that the two countries, valuing close relations with Jakarta, “actually facilitated the occupation and violence” through “overt support, inaction, and silence” for abuses until 1999. In the report, completed in June 2003, Robinson reportedly “chided the UN for failing to bring perpetrators to justice” and called for a special international court to try up to 75 senior Indonesian officials, including Wiranto.

In Australia, a new spy scandal focuses on whether pro-Jakarta sentiment in the Australian government led it to bury predictions that the TNI would incite militia violence in East Timor after the 1999 ballot. Army intelligence analyst Lieutenant-Colonel Lance Collins has called on the prime minister to create a royal commission to investigate.

As additional evidence accumulates and the failures and limitations of existing legal proceedings become increasingly evident, East Timorese NGOs, ETAN and international human rights groups continue to press for an international tribunal as the best way to insure that high-ranking Indonesian officials do not escape justice. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to soon recommend continuing steps to pursue justice. The likeliest proposal is to create an expert panel to examine the Jakarta trials and serious crimes process, and from that recommend additional mechanisms. Only intense pressure will ensure that genuine justice is on the panel’s agenda.

For more information see