Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: PNS: Fight Against Terror Must Include Justice for East Timor

Fight Against Terror Must Include Justice for East Timor Commentary, Manuela Leong Pereira, Pacific News Service, Aug 15, 2003

Editor's Note: As Indonesian authorities struggle to capture those responsible for terror bombings in Jakarta, Indonesia's own military officers remain free from prosecution for their crimes against humanity in East Timor. Indonesia's powerful ally the United States, the writer says, must support an international war crimes tribunal for East Timor.

DILI, East Timor--Indonesian police are scrambling to capture those responsible for the recent Marriott Hotel blast in Jakarta, and Indonesian courts are harshly sentencing those convicted in last October's deadly nightclub bombings in Bali. But when it comes to decades of crimes committed here in East Timor by the Indonesian military, the guilty still get off pretty much scot-free.

On Aug. 5, Indonesia's ad hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor announced its final act. The court sentenced former Indonesian military regional commander Major General Adam Damiri to a mere three years for his role in war crimes and crimes against humanity in East Timor.

In behavior befitting of a set of trials that Amnesty International characterized as not "truthful, honest or fair," the prosecutor in the Damiri trial failed to introduce damning evidence uncovered by the government's own human rights commission, and ended by recommending that the judge acquit Damiri for lack of sufficient proof. Although the judge convicted him anyway, Damiri's light sentence trivializes the crimes he participated in.

As a woman who has seen firsthand the effects of Indonesian military (TNI) brutality in my homeland of East Timor, I fear that the Marriott bombing and other terror attacks by Islamic fundamentalists may be used by the United States as an excuse to strengthen ties with the TNI. Instead, Washington should help end military impunity by supporting calls for an international tribunal to support justice, human rights and the rule of law in East Timor and Indonesia.

From the time of its December 1975 invasion through almost 24 years of occupation, the TNI was responsible for the deaths of well over 200,000 East Timorese -- about one-third of the pre-invasion population. The U.S.-backed military tortured countless people and raped and sterilized thousands of women and girls. As a parting blow, after East Timorese voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence in a U.N.-run vote, the TNI and its militias killed more than 1,000, displaced three-quarters of the population and left much of my country smoldering rubble in September 1999.

In the months following the 1999 devastation, two U.N. bodies called for the establishment of an international tribunal, one calling it "fundamental for the future social and political stability of East Timor." Instead, the United Nations gave Indonesia the chance to prosecute its own. Jakarta responded by establishing a court that focused only on crimes committed during April and September 1999 and in three of East Timor's 13 regions, prosecuting only 18 individuals and convicting only five -- two of whom were East Timorese collaborators. None received a sentence of more than 10 years, and all remain free pending appeal.

The United Nations also established a hybrid international-East Timorese court in the former Portuguese colony. Known as the Serious Crimes Unit, the SCU has indicted some 250 people for crimes committed in 1999, including then-head of the Indonesian armed forces and Defense Minister General Wiranto. But Jakarta has refused to cooperate with the internationally mandated body, thus ensuring impunity for the vast majority of those indicted who reside in Indonesia.

During the Indonesian occupation, I was part of a group that founded FOKUPERS, the Communication Forum for East Timorese Women, to document abuses against women and to support survivors of sexual violence. We continue this work today, addressing the full range of violence against women, including domestic violence. But the need for legal justice for Indonesia's crimes hangs constantly over the lives of women here. As one widow asked me, "How can we heal if not through justice? We hear our children crying at night, remembering the violence, but there is no justice."

Women were certainly not the only victims of Indonesia's state terrorism, but the TNI specifically targeted them. At a recent hearing of East Timor's truth and reconciliation commission, a former governor of East Timor testified that the TNI raped the wives of pro-independence leaders as part of "a systematic and organized effort to crush [and] dominate" the country.

East Timor must help these women rebuild their lives. But this requires that the international community meet its responsibility to ensure justice for these crimes. East Timor is the world's newest country and one of the poorest. We cannot achieve justice on our own.

The TNI's record of attacks on unarmed civilians stretches far longer than those of the Islamic fundamentalists suspected in the recent Jakarta bombings. The United States, which has long provided diplomatic, economic and military support to Indonesia, must work with other Security Council members to establish an international tribunal without delay. To do otherwise sets a dangerous precedent and once again denies the humanity of the women and men of East Timor.

PNS contributor Manuela Leong Pereira is executive director of Fokupers (Women's Communication Forum Timor Lorosae), East Timor's main women's organization.

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