East Timor Action Network/U.S.
For Immediate Release
Newly Appointed Indonesian Judges Will Not Provide Long-Delayed
Justice for East Timor
Rights Group Urges International Tribunal Covering Entire Occupation
Contact: John M. Miller,
718-5967668; mobile: 917-690-4391
January 15, 2002 -- The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) said
today that Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri's last minute
approval of judges for an ad hoc court on East Timor does not alter its
view that the court will not bring to justice all, or even most of, those
responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East
"The multiple delays in establishing the court, its limited
jurisdiction, and the continued impunity with which the Indonesian
military operates throughout the archipelago only reinforce our belief
that the special Indonesian court will be a sham," said John M.
Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "The Indonesian military remains too
powerful and the courts too corrupt. Without an international tribunal,
those most responsible for Indonesia's scorched earth campaigns in East
Timor will escape punishment," he added.
Over the weekend, Indonesia's chief security minister Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono said Megawati had finally approved the names of judges to the
court. It remains unlikely that any trials will actually begin this month
as previously announced. As head of the team deciding prosecutions for
crimes in East Timor, M.A. Rahman, now Attorney General, advocated only
prosecuting low-ranking officers.
In September 2000, Indonesian prosecutors named 23 suspects, the
highest ranking a two-star general, for violence surrounding 1999's
referendum on independence. The list was later whittled down to just 19,
following the murder of one militia leader and the claim by the Attorney
General’s office that they could not find several others. The list of
suspects, shortened from a January 2000 list
issued by the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, does not reach to
the highest levels of the military command implicated by United Nations
and other investigations.
Last August, the Megawati administration amended the decree
establishing a special human rights court on East Timor. The revised
decree falls far short of fully addressing the military's role in
orchestrating the violence and devastation. It only covers selected
incidents from April and September 1999 in three out of East Timor's 13
"No one will be tried for the many atrocities that occurred
outside of those time periods and locations, or for the coordination of
the scorched-earth campaign by senior level security forces personnel. The
many crimes specifically directed at women will also not be prosecuted.
Many East Timorese victims and witnesses will be too afraid to travel to
Indonesia and will not testify," said Miller.
"These limitations mean that the military’s role in
orchestrating the violence and devastation throughout 1999 will not be
fully addressed and meaningful convictions are unlikely. Further, no one
responsible for Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor and most of the
massive crimes committed during Indonesia’s two decades of occupation
will be held accountable," he added.
On October 24 2001, a coalition of
Timorese non-governmental organizations (NGOs) wrote the United
Nations, "We all must face the reality that... [Indonesian courts
are] not capable of holding those responsible to account. After initial
glimmers of hope, subsequent political turmoil and instability and ensuing
continual revisions to the mandate and scope of any Ad Hoc Tribunal which
is to be established, ha[ve] clearly demonstrated that Indonesia is both
incapable and unwilling to take responsibility for prosecuting those
culpable for the crimes against humanity in East Timor."
The NGOs called for an international tribunal to prosecute those
responsible. The same conclusion was reached by the UN’s
International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor. The NGOs said that
prosecutions are "necessary for the nation building process of and
reconciliation for East Timor. Instead, we are facing the dark reality of
such impunity characterizing our future."
Last September, a U.S. District Court
held Indonesian General Johny Lumintang liable for $66 million in
damages. The judge’s decision, in a lawsuit on behalf of six East
Timorese victims of military and militia violence in 1999, found
Lumintang, vice chief of staff of the army at the time, "both
directly and indirectly responsible for human rights violations committed
against" East Timorese in 1999. Lumintang is not among the suspects
to be prosecuted by Indonesia.
Following the August 30, 1999 UN-organized referendum, the Indonesian
military and their militia systematically destroyed East Timor, murdering
at least 1500 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 28 local chapters throughout the U.S.
For additional information see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).
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