Connect with ETAN
Like ETAN on Facebook Follow ETAN on Twitter ETAN on Google+ ETAN email listservs ETAN blog ETAN on LinkedIn ETAN on Pinterest ETAN on Instagram Donate to ETAN!

Subject: ETHRC REPORT - PART 1B
Date: Fri, 21 Aug 1998 10:06:44 -1000
From: ethrc <ethrc@minihub.org>

EAST TIMOR HUMAN RIGHTS CENTRE

"East Timor: No Solution Without Respect for Human Rights"
Bi-Annual Report of Human Rights Violations in East Timor
January to June, 1998 August 18, 1998 Ref: SR1/98

PART 1B

2. Overview of Human Rights Violations: January to July 1998

The period January to June 1998 saw a continuation of the patterns of human rights violations that have persisted in East Timor during the 23 years of occupation by the Indonesian military. During this six-month period, the ETHRC received reports of serious violations by Indonesian security force personnel including extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment and excessive use of force against civilians. The Centre also received some reports of disappearances, unfair trials, rape, and restrictions on freedom of expression and association. Below are the statistics for violations in the period January to June 1998:

Violations of Civil and Political Rights

Violations of Right to Life Extrajudicial Execution 23 Attempted Extrajudicial Execution 1 24

Violations of Right to Individual Liberty Arbitrary Detention 107 Enforced Disappearances 20 127

Violations of Right to Integrity and Security of Person Torture 95 Other Cruel,Inhuman or Degrading Treatment 74 Excessive Use of Force 31 Rape 4 Attempted Rape 3 207

Right to Due Process Breach of Procedural Guarantees 11 11

Violations of Political Rights Freedom of Expression About 1502 Freedom of Association 10 About 1512

Other Violations Persecution 40 40

Total 1,921

3. Greater Freedom but Violations Continue

Since the change of leadership in Jakarta, East Timorese people have been openly expressing their wishes for a future free East Timor and the Indonesian military has allowed demonstrations and public forums to take place mostly without incident - a remarkable departure from the pattern of the last 23 years, during which political dissent has not been tolerated but has been met with human rights violations. Initially, East Timorese people were unsure of their new freedom but it has now become clear that their acts of defiance have not been completely without repercussions. Tension remains high and there are widespread intimidation and pressure tactics on the part of the Indonesian military, intended to discourage the youth from expressing their views.

On 6 June, the world was astonished by a public meeting which took place in Dili to discuss the future of East Timor. The forum was attended by approximately 3,000 East Timorese people and the overwhelming message coming out of the forum was a call for self-determination, despite the presence of pro-Indonesian East Timorese. The forum also called for the release of Xanana Gusmao and other political prisoners, the withdrawal of Indonesian troops and deployment of UN peace-keeping forces in their place, and for East Timor's future to be decided by a referendum. This was an historic event at which East Timorese people were able to openly discuss options for the future of East Timor, without the interference of the Indonesian military. The success of the forum led to similar actions throughout June.

On 10 June, approximately 3,000 students held a "free-speech forum" at the University of East Timor (UNTIM) in Dili, calling for a full and free referendum. The demonstration was contained on the University campus because of pleas from Bishop Belo who anticipated a violent response from the military. "Free speech forum" is the term used by the East Timorese students for the pro-independence demonstrations they have been holding throughout East Timor, mostly peacefully and without incident. On 15 June, students held a peaceful rally at the University of East Timor (UNTIM) and on the same day a delegation of thirty students met with parliamentary leader Armindo Mariano Soares to deliver their demands. On 20 June, approximately 2,000 East Timorese students marched from UNTIM to the regional legislative building where they meet with officials and demanded a referendum to determine East Timor's future. On the same day, East Timorese prisoners at Becora prison broke through the doors and held a demonstration in the forecourt of the prison, demanding self-determination and the release of Xanana Gusmao. They only agreed to return to the prison after lengthy negotiations with the authorities.

Other protests resulted in violence, however, very often because of excessive force used by Indonesian military personnel. On 12 June, approximately 1,500 East Timorese students staged a peaceful demonstration at the Indonesian Foreign Ministry in Jakarta. The demonstration was met with a violent response from Indonesian security force personnel who broke up the demonstration. Indonesian soldiers and police armed with guns, rattan sticks and riot shields violently removed the protesters from the site and transported them to the Cibubur military camp outside Jakarta. They were detained for questioning and allowed to leave the following day. It is believed at least fourteen people were injured including three women who were hospitalised for treatment. (See case 3.3.1 for details).

On 16 June, an East Timorese youth, Herman das Dores Soares, was arbitrarily killed in Manatuto by Indonesian security personnel who suspected him and his cousin of stealing wood. An Indonesian military investigation into the killing found that the Indonesian soldier, Agus Medi, had used unnecessary force, and the Indonesian military took the extraordinary step of apologising for the killing. Agus Medi of the Indonesian Territorial Battalion 315 was later tried at a military tribunal and found guilty of murder and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. (See case 1.1.8 below for details). In response to Herman's death, thousands participated in protests over the following days. On 17 June, 3000 East Timorese marched through the streets of Dili to the office of Governor Abilio Soares and there was little military presence at the protest. Then on 18 June, in an increased show of force, approximately 10,000 marched through the streets of Dili in the peaceful funeral procession for the victim and there was no violence by the military. The rally continued on to the military headquarters and later to the local Parliament building.

On 27 June, 21-year-old Manuel Marques Soares was shot dead when the military shot indiscriminately into a crowd to quell a clash between pro-independence and pro-Indonesian groups in Manatuto. Another six East Timorese were injured, some with gunshot wounds. (See case 3.3.2 for details). The killing sparked a protest march by up to 10,000 East Timorese through the streets of Dili. Again, there were clashes with the military who used excessive force against the crowd and some injuries were reported. (See case 3.3.3 for details). Two days later, during the visit of the European Union Troika of Ambassadors, violence erupted in Baucau, resulting in the death of Orlando Marcelino da Costa who was shot dead when Indonesian security personnel fired into a crowd of people. Another seven civilians were seriously injured. (See case 3.3.4 for details).

That these tragic events occurred shortly after President Habibie came to power in Indonesia highlights the fact that despite the new President's gestures towards improving human rights in East Timor, the human rights situation remains fundamentally unchanged.

4. Towards a Solution Based on Respect for Human Rights

If East Timor is to move towards peace, all attempts to find a solution to the conflict must take place in the context of a comprehensive programme to promote and protect human rights. As this report illustrates, there is no solution without respect for human rights. Initially, this means there must be immediate measures taken to build confidence in the peace process and to improve the human rights situation in the territory. After 23 years of serious human rights violations, significant measures will be required, including the release of Xanana Gusmao and all other East Timorese political prisoners, and a substantial reduction in the Indonesian military presence, preferably with UN supervision of the troop withdrawals. The ETHRC believes most of the Indonesian troops currently stationed in East Timor should be withdrawn. Jose Ramos-Horta has suggested that:

"troops should be withdrawn to the level in East Timor in 1974 which never exceeded 1000. Indonesia's remaining troops should be confined to their barracks and the East Timorese Resistance fighters should observe a cease-fire."(16)

Despite the apparent greater freedom of speech in East Timor, there are still many restrictions placed on East Timorese people expressing their views. On 25 July, President Habibie issued a new presidential decree limiting when and where demonstrations can be held. Police permission is required three days ahead of street demonstrations of more than fifty people.(17) The new law has been widely criticised as being obviously contrary to Habibie's promises for political reform and the ETHRC has recommended the immediate repeal of this repressive law. East Timorese people should be free to express their views without fear of harassment, arbitrary detention and torture.

Greater international scrutiny of the situation in the territory is also required. While access to East Timor for journalists has improved, access for international human rights organisations is still not allowed. There is no permanent UN presence in East Timor, while visits by representatives of the UN are infrequent and depend on the cooperation of the Indonesian government. Access to East Timor for international human rights organisations, including the ETHRC, should be allowed and actively encouraged. Options for a permanent UN presence in East Timor could also be explored, in the context of the Tripartite Talks, which will continue later in the year.

The government of Indonesia should also show its willingness to cooperate with the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) and its mechanisms, in particular by implementing the recommendations made by UN experts(18)and the High Commissioner on Human Rights(19)following their visits to East Timor. These recommendations have mostly not been implemented. The government of Indonesia has also largely ignored the recommendations contained in the various resolutions adopted by the UNCHR(20)and failed to implement specific commitments made to the UNCHR, as contained in statements by the Chair of the Commission.(21) The government of Indonesia should, as a matter of priority, implement it commitments to invite the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention(22)and the Special Rapporteur on Torture(23)to visit East Timor. The visits should take place in 1998 to enable them to report to the UNCHR in March 1999.

More wide-ranging reforms will also be required to promote and protect human rights and to address the structures in the Indonesian system which make violations in East Timor possible. These structures were highlighted by Amnesty International for the UN Decolonization Committee:

"Prominent among the structures which facilitate the violations of human rights is a judiciary which lacks independence both in law and practice, legislation which allows for the arrest and imprisonment of prisoners of conscience; protections for detainees and defendants under the criminal procedure law which are in some cases inadequate and in others ignored; the lack of an independent body with either the powers or resources to carry out prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into reports of human rights violations; and the absence of systems which guarantee that the security forces are held accountable for their actions."(24)

While East Timor remains under the tight control of Indonesia, and while the Indonesian military presence in East Timor remains high, the recommendations made by Amnesty International for reform would go a long way towards promoting and protecting human rights in East Timor. In particular, there is the need for urgent legislative and judicial reform and for an end to the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of violations in East Timor. The lack of an independent judicial system combined with the use of repressive and archaic laws, has enabled the Indonesian government to effectively suppress dissent and imprison East Timorese people opposed to Indonesian rule in East Timor. The ETHRC has recommended that the government of Indonesia repeal all repressive laws, regulations and decrees, used to suppress the peaceful and legitimate expression of dissent.

The ETHRC believes a solution to the conflict in East Timor will only be possible if it is based on respect for human rights. Immediate measures are required to build confidence in the peace process and to reduce the human rights violations which are continuing in the territory. The ETHRC has recommended the immediate and unconditional release of Xanana Gusmao and other political prisoners, a substantial reduction (preferably under UN supervision) of the Indonesian military presence in the territory, continued efforts to improve respect for freedoms of speech and association, and access for international human rights organisations. More wide-ranging reforms will also be required to address the structures in the Indonesian system which make human rights violations possible.

Throughout the process it is absolutely fundamental that the wishes of the East Timorese people are considered. Discussions about East Timor's future, including the question of East Timor's status, will only arrive at a lasting and internationally acceptable solution if the East Timorese people are consulted. This means engaging the recognised East Timorese leaders, including Xanana Gusmao, in dialogue but ultimately, it means direct consultation with the East Timorese people through a fair and free referendum.

B. RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Recommendations to the Indonesian Government

Immediate confidence-building measures

The ETHRC urges the government of Indonesia to take the following steps immediately in order to demonstrate its commitment to reducing violations and bringing about peace in East Timor:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Xanana Gusmao to enable him, as President of the CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance), to participate in the dialogue for a peaceful settlement to the East Timor conflict.

2. Immediately and unconditionally release all East Timorese prisoners of conscience, detained or convicted solely for the non-violent expression of their views, and any other East Timorese prisoners, detained or convicted for political reasons.

3. Reduce the numbers of Indonesian troops in East Timor to the absolute minimum required, ensuring that there is UN or other independent monitoring of the withdrawals to enable validation of the withdrawal process.

4. Stop the practice of arbitrarily arresting individuals for their non-violent political activities and ensure that all East Timorese people have the right to freedom of expression and association, without fear of harassment, arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, torture and ill-treatment.

5. Issue strict orders to members of the security forces to abide by international standards on the appropriate use of force, particularly firearms, and ensure that those who breach these standards face criminal charges for their actions.

6. Immediately cease the practice of using military forces to arrest and interrogate suspects, as these are functions of the police under Indonesia's Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP).

7. Put an end to the practices of arbitrary and incommunicado detention of individuals. Immediately release all those in detention who have not been charged with a recognisable offence under Indonesian law and ensure that detainees have prompt access to lawyers of their own choice.

8. Establish a central register of all detainees in East Timor and require all members of the military and police to report the names of detainees immediately so that family members can be notified of the detention.

9. Ensure that all East Timorese in police or military custody are treated humanely and in accordance with international standards.

10.Ensure that all trials in East Timor are conducted in accordance with international standards.

11.Clarify immediately the whereabouts of all people documented as "disappeared" in this report.

12.Conduct full and impartial investigations of the violations documented in this report, in particular reports of extrajudicial executions and torture by members of the Indonesian military. The perpetrators should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and if found guilty, given sentences which reflect the seriousness of the crimes.

13.Allow local human rights monitors to undertake their work unhindered and without harassment.

14.Allow regular and unhindered access to East Timor for international human rights organisations, including the ETHRC, for the purpose of human rights monitoring.

Continuing Dialogue

15.Fully consult the East Timorese people about options for a solution to the East Timor conflict. Allow and encourage representatives of the East Timorese Resistance, including Xanana Gusmao, to participate in the Tripartite Talks taking place under UN auspices, and in the All-inclusive Intra-East Timorese Dialogue (AIETD), also under UN auspices.

16.Encourage the governments of Indonesia and Portugal to adopt, in the Tripartite Talks, meaningful confidence-building measures for monitoring, protecting and promoting human rights in East Timor. Encourage the rigorous discussion of such options in the AIETD.

17.Explore in good faith, with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and through the Tripartite Talks under UN auspices, other possibilities for protecting and promoting human rights in East Timor, including options for deploying UN human rights presence on the ground in the future.

Co-operation with the United Nations

18.Invite the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit East Timor, in accordance with commitment undertaken at the 1998 UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). The visit, which will enable an impartial investigation of allegations of arbitrary detention, should take place before the end of 1998 to enable the working group to prepare a report in time for the 1999 session of the UNCHR.

19.Invite the Special Rapporteur on torture to visit East Timor, also in 1998, to comply with the recommendation contained in the 1997 resolution of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

20.Ratify the following international conventions at the earliest possible opportunity:

* The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), in accordance with commitments undertaken at the UNCHR in 1998; * The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its Optional Protocols; and * The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

Legislative reform

21.Repeal all repressive laws, regulations and decrees, used to suppress the peaceful and legitimate expression of dissent, including: * The Anti-Subversion law; * The "hate-sowing" articles and the "insulting the President" and "incitement to violence" articles contained in the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP); and * The decree recently enacted by President Habibie to restrict the conduct of demonstrations.

22.Prohibit explicitly under the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Ensure that these offences are punishable by penalties which reflect the seriousness of the crimes.

23.Remove the judiciary from the control of the Ministry of Justice, strengthen the powers of the Supreme Court and establish a judiciary which is truly independent and impartial.

2. Recommendations to the International Community

1. Express its concern over persistent human rights violations in East Timor, including arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment, extrajudicial executions, disappearances, restrictions on freedom of expression and association and unfair trials.

2. Provide material and diplomatic support for the efforts of local human rights NGOs to protect and promote human rights on the ground in East Timor.

3. Encourage the Indonesian government to release all East Timorese prisoners detained solely for their political activities, including CNRT President Xanana Gusmao, as a sign of its commitment to reaching a just and internationally acceptable settlement to the East Timor conflict through dialogue with the East Timorese people.

4. Encourage the government of Indonesia to reduce the numbers of Indonesian troops in East Timor to the absolute minimum required, and to allow UN or other independent monitoring of the withdrawals for verification purposes.

5. Encourage the governments of Indonesia and Portugal to fully consult the East Timorese people about options for a solution to the East Timor conflict. Support calls for recognised representatives of the East Timorese Resistance, including Xanana Gusmao, to be invited to participate in the Tripartite Talks taking place under UN auspices, and in the All-inclusive Intra-East Timorese Dialogue, also under UN auspices.

6. Encourage the governments of Indonesia and Portugal to adopt, in the Tripartite Talks under UN auspices, meaningful confidence-building measures for monitoring, protecting and promoting the human rights of the East Timorese people. Support efforts by the All-inclusive Intra-East Timorese Dialogue to consider and propose similar confidence-building measures in the field of human rights.

7. Support efforts by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights or other bodies, to explore how the UN could contribute to the search for peace by deploying an effective on-site human rights presence inside East Timor.

Report continued

Back to August Menu
Back to Main Postings Menu