For Immediate Release
Contact John M. Miller
Indonesian Court's Final East Timor Sentence "A
East Timor Action Network Urges International Tribunal
August 5 - Calling the sentence in Jakarta's last trial on East
Timor "a joke," the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today
urged the United States and United Nations to guarantee real justice
for East Timor by establishing an international tribunal.
"The punishment does not fit the crime," said John M. Miller,
spokesperson for ETAN. "Today's 3-year sentence for General Damiri
is a joke and has done nothing to boost the laughable credibility of
Indonesia’s court. The international community has been taken for a
ride. The question is 'What is it going to do about it?'"
"An international tribunal is needed if the many victims of war
crimes and crimes against humanity in East Timor are to see genuine
justice. The East Timorese deserve no less than Iraqis, Rwandans,
and Bosnians. The Bush administration must work to create an
international tribunal for East Timor," added Miller.
Indonesia's Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor convicted
Major General Adam Damiri and sentenced him to three years in prison
for failing to control his troops in 1999, when he was commander of
the region which included East Timor. The prosecutors, who had
consistently presented weak and misleading cases, last month urged
that charges against Damiri be dropped. The widely-criticized court
had delayed its verdict after Damiri missed several court
appearances. Damiri said he was busy with preparations for the
current military (TNI) assault on Aceh, the largest operation since
the 1975 invasion of East Timor.
In late February, the joint UN-East Timor
Serious Crimes Unit indicted Damiri for
crimes against humanity for murder, deportation and persecution. He
and other Indonesian officers are accused of funding, arming,
training and directing the militia in the systematic campaign of
violence in 1999.
Indonesia set up the court to deflect calls in early 2000 for an
international tribunal. The United Nations said at the time that the
Indonesian judicial process must be credible and that it
would revisit the question of justice at the end of the Jakarta
Spokespeople for ETAN are available for interviews.
ETAN works with civil society in East Timor and Indonesia in
calling for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against
humanity that took place in East Timor since 1975 (see
Of the 18 people tried by the ad hoc court, all but 6 were
acquitted. All but one of those convicted received less than the
legal minimum sentence, and all remain free pending appeal.
During its illegal occupation of the island nation from 1975 to
1999, the Indonesian military was responsible for the deaths of more
than one-third of the population (200,000 people). After the East
Timorese people voted for independence in 1999, the Indonesian
military retaliated by killing more than one thousand people, raping
hundreds of women and girls and destroying most of the country's
infrastructure. In the months following 1999's devastation, two UN
bodies called for the establishment of an international tribunal.
Instead, Indonesia promised to try its own and eventually
established the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor.
The Indonesian court
criticized for its 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 the many atrocities that occurred outside of these
very narrow time periods and locations.
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
None of the top-ranking officers and officials named by
Indonesia's own human rights commission in January 2000 was
seriously investigated, much less indicted. Powerful military
officers routinely attended the court in an effort to intimidate.
Fearing for their safety, most East Timorese witnesses called to
testify refused. Those who did were harassed. The prosecution failed
to make use of vast amounts of UN documentation available to them as
The joint UN-East Timor Serious Crimes Unit has indicted a number
of high-ranking Indonesian officials, including General Wiranto, the
commander-in-chief and defense minister in 1999. However, Indonesia
refuses to extradite anyone to East Timor called
the Indonesian court "corrupt."
Earlier this year, former Indonesian President Abdurrahman
called the Indonesian court "corrupt." He said it "has no rigor
or influence. Everything can be bought and while things are like
this it will not be possible to achieve justice for Timor."
passed last month, the U.S. House of Representatives said
Indonesia's ad hoc court had "inadequately brought to justice the
perpetrators" of crimes in 1999 and called on the State Department
"to push for a comprehensive United Nations review" of the ad hoc
court on East Timor and "to consider alternative mechanisms of
justice for East Timor, including the establishment of an ad hoc
In late June, 14
said that "the international community has a responsibility to
ensure justice" for East Timor. They wrote Secretary of State Colin
Powell to urge "the administration to work towards the establishment
of an international tribunal..." The letter stated that the United
States "should not abrogate international responsibility to the
just-born East Timorese government, with its limited political,
economic, and human resources... [and] should clearly communicate to
East Timor's government and the UN Secretary-General that it
supports justice and opposes immunity in these cases" dating back to
In late May, 90 U.S.-based religious
leaders and organizations issued a similar call.
Rights, Accountability and Justice pages
Damiri in Masters of Terror database
ETAN's Action Alert