Subject: IHT: E Timorese Hope for Justice, but Jakarta Holds Back

International Herald Tribune Monday, December 13, 1999

East Timorese Hope for Justice, but Jakarta Holds Back

Fallout From 'Brute Force'

Inquiries Into Rights Abuses

By Michael Richardson International Herald Tribune

DILI, East Timor - On a bright sunny day recently, Jose Ramos-Horta walked through the long grass of the Santa Cruz cemetery past tightly packed headstones to find two particular graves. One marked the resting place of his elder brother, Antonio, who died in 1994; the other belonged to Sebastiao Gomes, a student activist for independence from Indonesia whose death led to a massacre by Indonesian troops that caused outrage around the world.

For Mr. Ramos-Horta, the East Timorese independence leader and Nobel peace laureate who returned home this month for the first time since the Indonesian invasion of his country in December 1975, the visit to the cemetery was both a personal and political pilgrimage.

Indeed, the threads of East Timor's recent tortured history and its future hopes seemed to come together in a place that marks physical death and spiritual liberation in the religious belief of the country's predominantly Roman Catholic population.

What remains uncertain is whether those in positions of power in Indonesia will ever be held accountable for human rights abuses in East Timor, despite two ongoing investigations - one by an Indonesian panel, the other set up by the United Nations.

Mr. Ramos-Horta and other East Timorese leaders see a continuing pattern of repressive military behavior in the world's fourth most populous nation. They worry that this is challenging the authority of the democratically elected civilian government of President Abdurrahman Wahid and fueling secessionist sentiment in Aceh and other parts of the far-flung archipelago - just as it did in East Timor.

''East Timor shows that use of brute force to address political and social conflict is disastrous,'' Mr. Ramos-Horta said in an interview. ''It is the same security approach by the Indonesian military, and in some cases the same generals from the Kopassus special forces and army intelligence, that lost East Timor and are now putting Aceh and Irian Jaya at risk.''

A return of military rule in Indonesia could upset East Timor's hopes of better relations with Jakarta and assured independence within three years. The territory is currently under United Nations administration.

Since seizing power after crushing what it claimed was a Communist coup in 1965, the Indonesian military has become accustomed to being a law unto itself. Historians estimate that as many as 500,000 people died in an anti-Communist purge instigated by the army in the late 1960s. Up to 200,000 East Timorese - nearly one third of the area's population - may have perished, mainly from hunger and lack of medicines, following the Indonesian military takeover there 24 years ago.

During the 32-year rule of former President Suharto, a retired army general, several remote provinces - among them East Timor, Aceh and Irian Jaya - were run as virtual military fiefdoms where the security forces had arbitrary powers to control local populations and resources. These areas became hunting grounds for military promotions, power and riches. They were largely closed to the outside world.

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IN THE CASE of East Timor, that changed in November 1991 when troops opened fire on unarmed protesters conducting a funeral procession for Mr. Gomes near the Santa Cruz cemetery, killing at least 180 East Timorese and injuring many more. The attack was recorded on sound tape and video by two American journalists - Alan Nairn and Amy Goodman - who were not supposed to be there.

Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Washington, was in her car in the U.S. capital listening to the radio when she heard Mr. Nairn's report.

''You could hear the guns and the screams,'' she recalled during Mr. Ramos-Horta's visit to the Santa Cruz cemetery the other day. ''The immediacy of that report was horrific. It was a kind of crucible for changing the image many Americans had of the Indonesian government and military. It made them ask why the United States was backing this kind of brutality.''

Mrs. Cuomo said that the Santa Cruz massacre was ''a turning point that put East Timor on the map'' and resulted in ''political pressure on the government in Washington.''

Indonesian human rights investigators, who are being widely praised by foreign diplomats and East Timorese leaders for their energy and courage, returned to East Timor last week to gather more evidence of abuses during the final months of Indonesian rule.

The commission of inquiry, which made its first visit to East Timor last month, said it would soon summon a number of generals. It said those to be questioned included the former military commander, General Wiranto, who is coordinating minister for political and security affairs in Mr. Wahid's government, and three others, Adam Damiri, Zacky Anwar and Sjafrie Syamsuddin. They were officers of the Kopassus special forces, which are trained to engage in undercover and clandestine operations.

General Damiri was in charge of Indonesian troops in East Timor when the former Portuguese colony voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-organized referendum Aug. 30, triggering a reprisal campaign of terror, burning, looting and forcible displacement of the population by pro-Indonesian militias and hard-line nationalists in the army.

General Anwar was a former head of military intelligence who was sent to East Timor earlier this year by General Wiranto as a security advisor to a government body overseeing the referendum. General Syamsuddin was allegedly seen at the Dili residence of the East Timor spiritual leader Bishop Carlos Belo on Sept. 6, the day it was burned down. He is also alleged by Indonesian analysts and East Timorese leaders to have been behind the Santa Cruz massacre.

Following their first visit to East Timor, two Indonesian human rights commissioners, Albert Hasibuan and Todung Mulya Lubis, said they had evidence of collusion between the militias and the Indonesian military and police in the ''brutal, blatant, gross and systematic campaign'' of rights abuses that occurred after East Timorese voted for independence Aug. 30.

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THE SEPARATE UN investigation is looking into possible violations of human rights and acts that may constitute breaches of international humanitarian law committed in East Timor since January - when the president then, B.J. Habibie, shocked and angered the military by reversing long-standing official policy and offering East Timor the choice between wide-ranging autonomy within Indonesia or separation.

The UN panel of five jurists - led by Sonia Picado, a member of the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly and vice chairman of the board of directors of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights - recently ended visits to East Timor and Indonesia. The panel will present its report and recommendations to the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, by the end of this month. Similar investigations in Africa and Europe led to the establishment of war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia.

Ms. Picado said last week, after she and her associates had heard statements from about 150 individuals, including East Timorese, UN officials and journalists who had allegedly suffered or witnessed human rights abuses, that she hoped Mr. Annan would create some kind of ''a follow-up to give the possibility of justice to East Timorese people.'' But the Indonesian foreign minister, Alwi Shihab, told the UN team shortly before it left Jakarta on Wednesday that Jakarta opposed an international court to try anyone suspected of human rights abuses in East Timor.

The Indonesian defense minister, Juwono Sudarsono, last Tuesday ruled out prosecution of any Indonesian generals for excesses committed by their troops. Mr. Juwono said only those soldiers who actually committed crimes and human rights abuses would stand trial.

''We are willing to accept that there was a misuse of power,'' he said, referring to such places as East Timor and Aceh. ''But you cannot go into the higher ranks, much less question their legitimacy, because in the formal sense the policies were legitimized through Parliament and Suharto.''


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