Subject: EAST TIMORESE POLITICAL PRISONERS Progress Report
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998 12:10:11 +1000 (EST)
From: ETHRC <firstname.lastname@example.org>
EAST TIMOR HUMAN RIGHTS CENTRE 124 Napier St Fitzroy 3065 Australia PO BOX 1413 Collingwood 3066 Australia Tel: +61 3 9415 8225 Fax: +61 3 9415 8218 E-mail: email@example.com Director: Ms Maria Brett Chair: Bishop Hilton Deakin
EAST TIMORESE POLITICAL PRISONERS Progress Report
15 October 1998
When Yusuf Habibie assumed the leadership of Indonesia in May 1998, he acknowledged that political reform must include the release of political prisoners. Consistent with his commitment to reform, President Habibie has ordered the release of some East Timorese prisoners: fifteen were released on 10 June(1) and another ten were released in connection with Indonesia's 17 August Independence Day.(2) While the ETHRC welcomes the latest releases, it remains concerned that the Habibie government has not demonstrated a genuine commitment to expediting the release of other East Timorese political prisoners. The actual number of East Timorese prisoners who have been released by President Habibie is still limited, and the releases have not been carried out promptly or systematically. Moreover, there has not been a noticeable reduction in the number of East Timorese political prisoners as new political prisoners are still being detained. At present estimates, there are at least 131 East Timorese political prisoners detained in Indonesian prisons in East Timor and Indonesia, including Xanana Gusmao, leader of the East Timorese resistance.
The Habibie government has taken a piecemeal approach to the release of East Timorese political prisoners, quite selectively and strategically releasing some prisoners, while refusing to release Xanana Gusmao. There are also five known East Timorese prisoners of conscience who remain in detention, even though they are all clear cases of East Timorese people who have been convicted solely for the non-violent expression of their political views.(3) The ETHRC believes they should be released immediately and unconditionally, as should Xanana Gusmao, to enable him to participate in the dialogue on East Timor's future. These steps are absolutely essential in order to demonstrate the Indonesian government's commitment to expediting the release of political prisoners and to building confidence in the peace process.
There must also be an immediate improvement in the human rights situation on the ground in East Timor. Sadly, the recent releases of East Timorese political prisoners do not reflect any substantial improvement in the human rights situation in the territory. While greater political freedom has been noticeable in East Timor, there has been a continuation of the pattern of imprisoning East Timorese people who are opposed to Indonesian rule in East Timor or suspected of collaboration with the Clandestine Resistance. Arbitrary detention remains common, and does not appear to have abated following Habibie's ascension to the Presidency. In fact, the ETHRC received reports of sixty-nine East Timorese people being arbitrarily detained in the month of July alone.(4) More recently, there have been reports of an increase in the Indonesian military presence in East Timor, contrary to claims by the government of Indonesia that troop numbers were being reduced.(5) With the renewed intensive military operations in the territory, the ETHRC holds grave fears that there may be an escalation in human rights violations against the East Timorese.
In light of the violations continuing in East Timor, and the failure of the Habibie government to release Xanana Gusmao and other East Timorese political prisoners, the ETHRC has serious doubts about the sincerity of the Habibie government's commitment to political reform in East Timor, and to finding an internationally acceptable solution to the conflict.
Both the UN Secretary General and the international community have repeatedly called on the government of Indonesia to immediately and unconditionally release Xanana Gusmao, a step which is considered essential to enable him to participate in the dialogue to determine East Timor's future and build confidence in the peace process. The importance of East Timorese participation in the dialogue was acknowledged by Indonesia at the August 1998 round of Tripartite Talks between Portugal and Indonesia under UN auspices, where it was agreed to include the East Timorese more closely in the search for a solution.(6) Meanwhile, Indonesia has steadfastly refused to free Xanana Gusmao, even though there can be no effective East Timorese participation in the dialogue for a solution without the release of Xanana and his participation in the Tripartite Talks.
In a recent statement, Justice Minister Muladi said "There will be no special treatment for Xanana because he was convicted of a crime."(7) Muladi added, however, that the solution to Xanana's case could be part of an overall agreement over East Timor. The government of Indonesia appears to be standing firm in its position of insisting that any "special status" for East Timor must include acceptance of "integration" of East Timor into Indonesia, whereas the vast majority of East Timorese are calling instead for a UN-supervised referendum to determine their political future. The ETHRC believes Habibie's continued insistence on conditions prior to releasing Xanana, only serves to undermine Indonesia's commitment to resolving the conflict through peaceful dialogue. To demonstrate its commitment and build confidence in the peace process, the Indonesian government should immediately and unconditionally release Xanana Gusmao and all other East Timorese political prisoners.
No Commitment to the Release of East Timorese Political Prisoners
The government of Indonesia confirmed its commitment to expediting the release of East Timorese political prisoners at the 5 August 1998 round of Tripartite Talks.(8) There have also been persistent reports that more East Timorese political prisoners will be released,(9) however, progress on releases has been slow and piecemeal. After the initial 10 June release of fifteen prisoners, there was a long delay, with the next group of ten East Timorese prisoners not being released until August when another ten East Timorese political prisoners were released.(10) Six of the ten prisoners released were given amnesty(11) while the other four were granted absolution.(12) While the ETHRC welcomes these latest releases, it must be noted that they have coincided with Indonesia's Independence Day, traditionally a time when releases and remissions are announced. Furthermore, since the August releases took place, no further action has been taken by the Habibie government to release other East Timorese political prisoners.
Also of concern is the fact that some of the releases do not actually represent significant gestures on the part of the Habibie government. One the prisoners given absolution, David Dias Ximenes, was not even in detention. Ximenes had been released in June after the court dismissed the case against him due to insufficient evidence, but he was facing an appeal against the court's decision by Indonesia's Attorney-General. Two of the prisoners given amnesty, Marcelino Fraga, 22, and Moises Freitas Morreira, aged only 15, who had been convicted for their alleged involvement in the June 1996 disturbances in Baucau, were given amnesty in August but it appears they were in fact already overdue for release.(13) It is believed that several of the prisoners released on June 10 were also overdue for release.(14)
Aside from the 25 releases announced by President Habibie, there have also been other East Timorese political prisoners released since Habibie came to power(15) but these releases appear to be part of the ordinary course of events in East Timor, rather than being related to any action taken by the Habibie government. While many East Timorese people are convicted for politically- motivated acts, others are routinely arrested, charged, but later released due to insufficient evidence. In this way the authorities are able to extract information from detainees about the East Timorese Resistance, and curtail the activities of individuals opposed to Indonesian rule in East Timor.
East Timorese continue to be detained for political reasons
The recent release of some political prisoners does not signify an improvement in respect for human rights in East Timor. While some East Timorese political prisoners have been released, others have been detained for opposing Indonesian rule in East Timor so that overall, the number of East Timorese political prisoners remains high. At a conservative estimate, there are still at least 131 East Timorese political prisoners,(16) although the actual numbers are probably higher. It is impossible to obtain the names of all East Timorese political prisoners because access to East Timor for international human rights monitors is still prohibited and restrictions are also placed on local organisations monitoring violations.
The Indonesian government cannot claim to have made any significant progress on the release of East Timorese political prisoners while East Timorese civilians continue to be detained for political reasons. It must also be noted that political imprisonment is continuing in the context of other serious human rights violations. Political detainees are still being subjected to torture and ill-treatment in order to extract information. They are frequently convicted at unfair trials, often they do not have full, unrestricted access to lawyers of their own choice and information extracted under torture is often used as evidence against them in court. The fact that these human rights violations, which characterised political imprisonment under the Soeharto regime, are continuing, demonstrates that from the point of view of the East Timorese people, very little progress has in fact been made.
The ETHRC is particularly concerned that the practice of arbitrary detention is still so prevalent in East Timor. While some political detainees are charged and eventually convicted under provisions of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) or under other archaic and repressive provisions which are used to suppress dissent in East Timor, others are detained arbitrarily and later released, usually after information about the East Timroese resistance has been extracted.
The alarming rates of arbitrary detention which are continuing in East Timor underscore the need for the government of Indonesia to comply with the commitment it made at the April 1998 session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) to invite the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit East Timor and impartially investigate all allegations of arbitrary detention. The ETHRC urges the Indonesian government to ensure that the visit takes place before the end of this year to enable the working group to report back to the 1999 session of the UNCHR.
Political reform in East Timor requires greater respect for freedom of expression and association so that the East Timorese can express their views without fear of harassment, arbitrary arrest, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, and torture and ill-treatment. It is also essential that the government of Indonesia repeals the repressive laws, regulations and decrees which are used to suppress the peaceful and legitimate expression of dissent. The ETHRC believes that as long as these repressive laws are still in place, human rights violations will continue. Finally, there is a need for reform of the Indonesian judicial system to ensure a truly independent judiciary, and greater respect for the "rule of law". This will ensure that while the Indonesian judicial system continues to be imposed in East Timor, East Timorese people will at least be given trials which are fair according to international standards.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE GOVERNMENT OF INDONESIA
Prisoners of conscience and political prisoners
1. Immediately and unconditionally release Xanana Gusmao to enable him, as President of the CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance, the united political front of the East 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 and any other East Timorese people who have been convicted or are awaiting trial, solely for the non-violent expression of their views.
3. As a confidence-building measure, and in order to show the government of Indonesia's commitment to resolving the East Timor conflict through dialogue, immediately and unconditionally release all other East Timorese political prisoners, convicted or awaiting trial for their politically- motivated acts.
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, arbitrary detention, imprisonment, torture or ill-treatment.
Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners
5. Ensure that all East Timorese in police or military custody are treated humanely and in accordance with international standards.
6. Immediately conduct full and impartial investigations into allegations of torture by members of the Indonesian security forces, prosecuting those found responsible to the fullest extent of the law.
7. Prohibit explicitly by law all forms of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and ensure that all such acts are recognised as criminal offences, punishable by penalties which reflect the seriousness of the crimes.
Arbitrary detention and incommunicado detention
8. Stop the practices of arbitrary and incommunicado detention of individuals. Ensure that detainees have prompt access to lawyers of their own choice and adequate medical treatment.
9. 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.
10. 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).
11. Repeal all repressive laws, regulations and decrees which are used to suppress the peaceful and legitimate expression of dissent, including: * The "hate-sowing" articles and the "insulting the President" and "incitement to violence" articles contained in the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP); * The Anti-Subversion law; and * Recent decree by President Habibie restricting the conduct of demonstrations.
12. Ratify the following international conventions: * The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), in accordance with commitments undertaken at the 1998 UN Commission on Human Rights; * The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its Optional Protocols; and * The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
13. Ensure that the Indonesian judicial system is reformed in order to bring about a judiciary which is truly independent and impartial.
International human rights monitoring
13. Invite the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit East Timor, in accordance with commitments 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.
14. Allow regular and unhindered access to East Timor for international human rights organisations, including the East Timor Human Rights Centre, for the purpose of human rights monitoring.
REQUEST FOR ACTION:
Please send faxes/telegrams/e-mails/airmail letters in English, Bahasa Indonesia or your own language, requesting the government of Indonesia to implement the above recommendations.
SEND APPEALS TO:
1. PRESIDENT YUSUF HABIBIE President of the Republic of Indonesia Istana Negara Gedung Binagraha Jl. Veteran Jakarta Pusat INDONESIA Faxes: +62 21 345 7782 =20 Telegrams: President Habibie, Jakarta, Indonesia E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. MINISTER PROF. DR. MULADI, SH Minister of Justice Menteri Kehakiman Jl H.R. Rasuna Said Blok X VI Kav. 4-5 Kuningan Jakarta Selatan INDONESIA Faxes: +62 21 525 3095 Telegrams: Justice Minister Muladi, Jakarta, Indonesia=20
3. MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS Ali Alatas S.H Menteri Luar Negeri Jl. Medan Taman Pejambon No. 6 Jakarta INDONESIA Faxes: +62 21 360 541 / 360 517 / 380 5511 / 345 7782 / 724 5354
Please also send appeals to: * Diplomatic representatives of Indonesia in your country * Parliamentarians and the Foreign Ministry in your country
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY
1. See East Timor Human Rights Centre, East Timorese Political Prisoners, SPR 1/98, Melbourne, 23 June 1998, for details.
2. See Appendix A for details of the 10 prisoners recently released.
3. See ETHRC report, East Timorese Political Prisoners, op. cit., for details of the five known East Timorese prisoners of conscience.
4. Of these, 50 were released after short-term detention and 19 may still be in detention, although their current status is unconfirmed. See Appendix C for details.
5. See ETHRC report, East Timor: No Solution Without Respect for Human Rights, SR 1/98, Melbourne, August 18, 1998, for details of Indonesian government claims that troop have been withdrawn - claims which are no longer credible.
6. UN communiqu=E9, New York, 5 August, 1998.
7. Lusa, 27 August, 1998.
8. UN communiqu=E9, New York, 5 August, 1998.
9. On 26 May Justice Minister Muladi announced that a further 10 to 15 prisoners may be released while in late August Suara Timor Timur, the Indonesian newspaper in East Timor, reported that to 83 prisoners may be released.
10. See Appendix A for names and details.
11. Amnesty is given to someone who has been convicted and no further legal proceedings are pending.
12. David Dias Ximenes, Gaspar da Silva, Salvador da Silva and Bobby Xavier we granted absolution. Under Indonesian law, abolisi or absolution is where the legal process is continuing in respect of a defendant but all proceedings are discontinued.
13. It is believed Moises Freitas Morreira was due for release in June 1997 and Marcelino Fraga in January 1998.
14. Bendito Amaral, Cancio Antonio Henrique Guterres, Hermenegildo da Costa and Tomas Augusto Correia, who were convicted for their involvement in the Mahkota hotel demonstration, were given amnesty on 10 June 1998 but it is believed they were due for release on 24 March 1998.
15. Four East Timorese were released after the Semarang court handed down a not-guilty verdict on 1 June 1998. Another 10 people (including David Dias Ximenes) were released on 13 June 1998 when the court dropped all charges against them. It is believed they were all prisoners of conscience. See ETHRC, East Timorese Political Prisoners, op. cit., for details.
16. See Appendices B, C and D, E and F for details.
FOR COPIES OF THE APPENDICES, PLEASE CONTACT THE ETHRC.