Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: SFChron: Indonesia has yet to hold anyone accountable

Challenges remain in East Timor Indonesia has yet to hold anyone accountable -- it's time to call for an international tribunal to do the job

Ben Terrall Thursday, September 6, 2001

©2001 San Francisco Chronicle

AFTER 24 YEARS of horrific Indonesian military occupation, East Timor, the tiny island nation located about 400 miles north of Australia, is at last free. But East Timor's historic, peaceful constituent assembly election this week was marred by the tragic reality that more than 80,000 East Timorese were unable to vote because they are still trapped in military and militia- controlled camps in Indonesian West Timor.

On August 1999, after East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence, the Indonesian armed forces and their militia proxies destroyed more than 75 percent of East Timor's infrastructure and forced 300,000 into exile in West Timor. More than 2,000 East Timorese were killed in the military organized devastation. Of those, at least 200 were killed on Sept. 6, 1999, in the town of Suai's churchyard, where three Catholic priests attempting to protect refugees under attack were also slaughtered by militiamen.

Exactly one year later, on Sept. 6, 2000, three international staff members of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in West Timor were hacked to death and set on fire by militia members as Indonesian police stood by and did nothing. An unknown number of East and West Timorese civilians were killed along with the U.N. workers.

An Indonesian court sentenced six East Timorese militiamen responsible for the killings of the U.N. workers to prison terms of a mere 16 to 20 months. Notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres served only 23 days of a six-month sentence under "house arrest," during which he traveled to the resort island of Bali. Guterres is now a youth leader in Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri's political party.

Currently, humanitarian organizations report as many as five deaths a day among children in the West Timor camps, with conditions worsening. "The refugees in the camps are suffering great hunger. They have had no support from local aid groups since January and from international agencies since September (2000)," reported Jesuit Refugee Services, the only international organization with a regular presence in the camps. Rape, sexual enslavement and other forms of violence against women are widespread. From their bases in the camps, militias continue to mount cross-border incursions, attacking U.N. peacekeepers and civilians in East Timor.

The U.N. International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor wrote in its January 2000 report: "The intimidation, terror, destruction of property, displacement and evacuation of people (in 1999) would not have been possible without the active involvement of the Indonesian army, and the knowledge and approval of the top military command," and recommended that "the United Nations should establish an international human rights tribunal."

A tribunal has not yet been established; in two years, the Indonesian government has not taken action against any officer responsible for war crimes in East Timor. Instead, many have been promoted to serve in bloody campaigns in restive regions of the archipelago where the armed forces have killed thousands of civilians. The Jakarta Post reports that President Megawati's new decree on Indonesia's "ad hoc tribunal" on atrocities committed in East Timor excludes cases involving "sexual violence and intimidation, and/or those with potentially close links to the Indonesian security apparatus."

Given the shameful role the U.S. government played in arming and training the Indonesian military during its murderous occupation of East Timor, the least the United States can do is support an international tribunal.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives should resist Bush administration efforts to ''re-engage" with the Indonesian military and instead support House Concurrent Resolution 60, which calls for ''the establishment of an international war crimes tribunal for prosecuting crimes against humanity" perpetrated in East Timor. Sen. Dianne Feinstein should also join Sen. Barbara Boxer in co-sponsoring Senate Concurrent Resolution 9, the companion legislation to the House bill. Nothing short of a tribunal is likely to end the impunity the murderous Indonesian military currently enjoys, or to help the East Timorese refugees return home safely.

Ben Terrall is coordinator of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the East Timor Action Network. He was a U.N.-accredited observer of the Aug. 30, 1999 referendum in East Timor.

©2001 San Francisco Chronicle Page A - 19

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