For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668
East Timor Commemorates Tragic Anniversary as Indonesian Court Acquits
Rights Group Calls For International Tribunal
On the December 7 anniversary of Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East
Timor, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) calls on the United Nations to
establish an international tribunal for East Timor. Last week's acquittal
by an Indonesian court of four officials accused of committing crimes
against humanity in East Timor mocks East Timorese demands for justice and
betrays the international community's misplaced trust in Indonesia's
Indonesia's Ad Hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor has now acquitted a
total of 10 Indonesian officials, despite substantial evidence against
them. Only two defendants, both East Timorese, have been convicted.
We take no comfort in the results thus far. While those found guilty
are responsible for grave human rights abuses, their convictions --
coupled with the many acquittals -- reinforce the Indonesian military myth
that the violence in East Timor resulted from intra-Timorese conflict
rather than orchestration by the Indonesian occupiers. The prosecution,
whether by incompetence or design, presented this very argument with all
too predictable results.
In East Timor, church and community leaders, widows and rights
activists have persistently called for justice. To move forward, they
demand accountability for past abuses. We urge the UN to answer these
cries by establishing an international tribunal for East Timor.
We call on the UN Secretary-General to report to the Security Council
that Indonesia is incapable of holding its own accountable. The Security
Council should then take the necessary steps to convene an international
tribunal to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed
against the people of East Timor since the 1975 invasion.
We urge the U.S. Congress and administration to continue to make
credible prosecution of Indonesian military, police and political
officials a condition of renewed military assistance to Indonesia and to
work actively to create an international tribunal. The U.S. must also
increase its support for the reconstruction of East Timor, especially the
new nationís justice system. The recent violence in Dili and Baucau
tragically illustrates the trauma, frustrations and harsh conditions faced
by the people of East Timor. The U.S. must help address these problems
with programs designed and carried out in consultation with local groups.
The systematic terrorization of the East Timorese people over the
course of 24 years by the Indonesian military must not go unpunished,
allowing those most responsible for orchestrating East Timorís
destruction to remain free to wreak havoc throughout Indonesia.
The Indonesian military launched its 1975
invasion just hours after then President Ford and Secretary of State
Henry Kissinger gave their explicit permission to go ahead. The legacy of
that illegal and destructive act lives on in the tears of families who
continue to mourn the more than 200,000 dead, in the deep poverty and
massive unemployment of the vast majority of the East Timorese and in the
cries for justice which have gone unanswered by the international
The recent appointment of Henry Kissinger to head the commission on the
September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon
demonstrates the continued need to hold U.S. officials accountable.
Kissinger, whose persistent lies about his role in the invasion of East
Timor are contradicted by well-documented evidence, should never have been
appointed to any body whose mission is to uncover the truth. His
appointment is a stark reminder that U.S. officialdom has yet to absorb
the lessons of Kissinger's secret and destructive policies in East Timor
The Indonesian Ad Hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor has been
seriously flawed from its inception. It operates under a severely limited
mandate, with jurisdiction over only three of East Timor's 13 districts
during just two months (April and September 1999) of a 24-year military
occupation. Indonesia will not try anyone for ordering or carrying out the
many atrocities that occurred outside of these very narrow time periods
The defendants were primarily accused of failing to prevent the actions
of others rather than for acts they may have directly committed. The
prosecution repeatedly described the violence in 1999 as the result of
conflict among East Timorese factions and portrayed the UN administration
of the referendum as biased and anti-Indonesian. As of now, ten defendants
have been acquitted, two convicted and six remain on trial.
None of the top-ranking officers and officials named by Indonesia's own
human rights commission in January 2000 were seriously investigated, much
less indicted. Powerful military officers routinely attend the court in an
effort to intimidate. Fearing for their safety, most East Timorese
witnesses called to testify refused, and those who did were harassed. The
prosecution failed to make use of vast amounts of UN documentation
available to them as evidence.
More than 200,000 East Timorese--about one-third of the pre-1975
population--lost their lives from war and forced starvation as a result of
Indonesia's invasion and 24-year occupation.
Following the August 30, 1999 UN-organized referendum on independence,
the Indonesian military and its militias systematically destroyed East
Timor, murdering up to 2000 people, destroying over 70 percent of the
infrastructure and raping hundreds of women. Hundreds of thousands were
forced from their homes.
In January 2000. the UN International Commission of Inquiry reported to
the UN Human Rights Commission that "a pattern of serious violations
of fundamental human rights" had taken place in East Timor in 1999
and took "the view that ultimately the Indonesian Army was
responsible for the intimidation, terror, killings, and other acts of
violence." The commission recommended the establishment of an ad-hoc
international human rights tribunal to cover crimes committed in 1999.
However, the UN Security Council accepted Jakarta's demand that Indonesia
first have the chance to prosecute the accused within its own court
Indonesia's presence in East Timor violated numerous UN Security
Council resolutions and international law. Moreover, Indonesia's 1999
rampage violated Jakarta's pledge to provide "a secure
environment" during the UN-run ballot process.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. 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. For additional information see ETAN's web site
see also Human Rights