Subject: Japan Times: Letter A U.N. Tribunal for East Timor

The Japan Times, 17 August 2003, Sun Letter to the Editor A U.N. tribunal for East Timor

The Indonesian ad hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor has handed out its final verdict -- to Gen. Adam Damiri, the highest-ranking officer prosecuted. He received a token sentence of only three years, and is unlikely to serve time in jail.

The court was set up to try rights-abuse suspects in the 1999 assault on East Timor, where the Indonesian military and its militia were accused of murdering thousands, raping untold numbers of women, displacing three-quarters of the population and destroying most of the country's infrastructure. The court ignored allegations of earlier atrocities committed since Indonesia's 1975 invasion of the territory, which led to the deaths of more than 200,000 -- one-third of the population.

Despite a few token convictions with extremely lenient sentences, now on appeal, these trials have in no way demonstrated reform of the notoriously abusive Indonesian military. The court's limited mandate (covering April-September 1999 and three of 13 districts) prevented investigation into the planning of the atrocities and never went far up the chain of command. The indictments misrepresented 1999's violence as a civil conflict among East Timorese, with Indonesian soldiers trying, but failing, to stop the violence. This sharply contradicts evidence that the Indonesian military was responsible for the scorched-earth policy. Incredibly, Damiri missed several court appearances as he helped lead preparations for the Indonesian military's current assault on Aceh.

The only way East Timorese will ever see real justice is through the creation of an international tribunal. To prosecute those responsible in the Indonesian Army would also contribute to the democratization and demilitarization of Indonesia itself. The Koizumi government, being the largest donor to Indonesia, should take a leading role in the United Nations to set up an international tribunal for East Timor.


NOTE: "covering April-September 1999" was originally "April and September 1999" but somehow modified incorrectly by the editor.

Kyo Kageura

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