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Media Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: John M. Miller, 718-5967668; 
mobile: 917-690-4391

Justice for East Timor Will Not Come from Indonesia Indictments

Rights Group Urges International Tribunal Covering Entire Occupation

February 26, 2002 -- Indonesia's recent indictment of seven military officers for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor in 1999 does not alleviate concerns that Indonesian courts can provide justice for the thousands of victims of military violence in East Timor, observed an East Timorese activist and the East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN).

"The recent Indonesian indictments do not alter our view that an international tribunal is essential to hold fully accountable those most responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.

"The East Timorese are united in their desire for an international tribunal," said Filomena dos Reis of the East Timor NGO Forum. "Over two decades of first-hand experience with Indonesian justice tells us the current ad-hoc court will not be meaningful." Dos Reis, the Forum's Advocacy Director is currently on a speaking tour of the United States to build support for an international tribunal.

Last week in Jakarta, Indonesia's Attorney General filed charges against seven men for genocide and crimes against humanity for the September 6, 1999 massacre in a Suai churchyard where several hundred people were killed, including nuns and priests. The murders took place, two days after the United Nations announced that East Timor had voted overwhelmingly for independence. Three members of the U.S. Congress had visited the Suai church just a few weeks before the massacre.

On Monday, February 18, prosecutors in East Timor indicted 17 Indonesian soldiers and militia for crimes against humanity allegedly committed 1999. All of those indicted are believed to reside in Indonesia, but Indonesian officials quickly stated they would not honor any extradition requests or international warrants filed with Interpol.

"Indonesia's refusal to fulfill its obligation to turn over suspects to the serious crimes court in East Timor should leave no doubt that Indonesia's commitment to justice is half-hearted at best," Miller added. "The Indonesian indictments should not deflect pressure for extraditions or an international tribunal."

"The limited jurisdiction of the court, the continued power of the Indonesian military and the poor quality and lack of training of many of the judges reinforce our concerns about the Indonesian process. Indonesia has no witness protection program and traumatized East Timorese are unlikely to testify in Indonesian courts," said Miller. "The U.S., UN, and its member states are treading a dangerous line by giving credibility to a process that is so fatally flawed."

An April 2000 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on legal co-operation signed by the UN Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and the Indonesian Government allows for the transfer of suspects. Despite a recent Indonesian pledge to extend the MOU, the Indonesian government officials maintain that they have no obligation to extradite suspects.

Last August, the Megawati administration amended the decree establishing a special human rights court on East Timor, limiting it to selected incidents from April and September 1999 in three out of East Timor's 13 districts.

"No one will be tried for the many atrocities that occurred outside of the narrow time periods and locations. The limitations mean that the military's role in orchestrating the violence and devastation throughout 1999 will not be fully addressed. The many crimes specifically directed at women will also not be prosecuted," said Miller.

"Further, no one responsible for Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor and most of the massive crimes committed during Indonesia's 24-year occupation will be investigated, much less held accountable," he added.

Following the August 30, 1999 UN-organized referendum, the Indonesian military and their militias systematically destroyed East Timor, murdering up to 2000 East Timorese, destroying over 70 percent of the infrastructure and raping hundreds of women. Hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes.

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights, including women's rights. ETAN has 26 local chapters throughout the U.S. For additional information see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).


see ETAN's UN Press Conference with Filomena Barros dos Reis (2/26/02)

see also: Newly Appointed Indonesian Judges Will Not Provide Long-Delayed Justice for East Timor (1/15)

Indonesian ad-Hoc court news

TAPOL: Case for international tribunal overwhelming

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