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Sample Letters to the Editor on Final Jakarta Verdict

To all concerned with justice for East Timor,

The final verdict of the irreparably flawed Indonesian ad hoc Court for East Timor was issued on August 5. General Adam Damiri was convicted and given a slap-on-the-wrist sentence of only three years, which he will appeal. The chances of him actually serving time are very slim. Because of his leadership of the military assault in Aceh, Damiri was too busy to be present for most of his trial. His light sentence is unlikely to deter future human rights violations. Please get ready to send in letters to the editor in response to the final verdict of the court. Below are several sample letters. Adapt, mix and match and make them your own. Let us now if you have any published (etan@etan.org).

In solidarity,

The ETAN staff

Letter #1

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

The Indonesian court was charged with trying those responsible for the 1999 post-referendum assault on East Timor in which the Indonesian military and its militias murdered thousands and raped numerous women and girls. Three-quarters of the population were displaced and the country was left in ruins.

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 prevented investigation into the planning of the atrocities and never went far up the chain-of-command. The indictments and courtroom arguments misrepresented 1999's violence as a civil conflict among East Timorese, with Indonesian soldiers valiantly trying, but ultimately failing, to stop the violence, rather than accurately portraying the Indonesian military as clearly responsible for the scorched earth policy.

Incredibly, General Damiri missed several court appearances as he helped lead preparations for the Indonesian military's current assault on Aceh, its largest military operation since the invasion of East Timor in 1975.

The only way East Timorese will ever see real justice is through the creation of an international tribunal. They deserve no less than Iraqis, Rwandans, and Bosnians. The Bush administration should take a leading role in the UN to set up an international tribunal for East Timor.

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Letter #2

Indonesia’s ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor has finished its work, ("Story Name," date), but those most responsible for planning and carrying out terror in East Timor remain free and often in powerful positions. The court was set up to try those responsible for the 1999 assault on East Timor, in which the Indonesian military and its militia murdered thousands, raped untold numbers of women, displaced three-quarters of the population, and destroyed more than 70% of the country’s infrastructure. It ignored all earlier atrocities committed since Indonesia's 1975 invasion of the territory, which killed more than 200,000 -- one-third of the population.

The UN and other observers have criticized the court's limited mandate - two months of 1999 and three of East Timor's 13 districts. The indictments did not go very far up the chain of command, hampering any discussion of responsibility at the top levels of Indonesia's military and blocking an examination of the coordinated policy behind the Indonesian military’s scorched-earth campaign in East Timor.

Prosecutors misrepresented 1999's conflict as one among East Timorese, which Indonesian soldiers were unable to stop, rather than accurately portraying the Indonesian military as clearly responsible for the mayhem. There was no acknowledgement that what occurred in East Timor in 1999 and the preceding 23 years constituted state-sanctioned genocide.

The U.S. government must reject the Indonesian trials as a sham. In January 2000, a UN commission called for an international human rights tribunal for East Timor. For justice to be done, a tribunal must be established now to cover atrocities committed in East Timor throughout the entire Indonesian occupation.

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Letter #3

The Indonesian ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor has come to an unsatisfactory end. The final conviction carrying a token three-year sentence, which most likely will never be served, cannot possibly be construed as justice. The punishment did not fit the crimes of which General Adam Damiri was accused. . ("Story Name," date). The Bush administration should respond by actively working for an international tribunal to ensure genuine justice for the East Timorese victims of Indonesian military violence.

The flawed Indonesian court was charged with trying those responsible for the 1999 assault on East Timor, in which the Indonesian military and its militia murdered thousands, raped an unknown number of women, displaced three-quarters of the population, and destroyed most of the country's infrastructure. The court clearly failed to accomplish its task.

The court's limited mandate (restricted to two months in 1999 and three of 13 districts in East Timor) prohibited any investigation into the military planning behind the atrocities. The prosecution misrepresented 1999's violence as a result of conflict between pro-independence and pro-Indonesia East Timorese rather than the highly-organized Indonesian military operation it was.

This is a recipe for continued military impunity, not accountability.

The Indonesian military has learned that lesson. Its current military assault on Aceh (the largest since the invasion of East Timor in 1975) has been characterized by the same systematic abuses. Instead of rushing to provide training and other assistance to a military guilty of serious past and continuing abuses, the Bush administration should insist on an international tribunal for East Timor to bring perpetrators to justice and prevent future violations.

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Check ETAN's Urgent Action section for additional actions you can take. If you want to host a speaker or organize an event contact John Miller (718-596-7668, etan@etan.org).

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