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