On Anniversary of East Timor Church Massacre
UN Must Take Responsibility for Justice
Contact: John M. Miller,
718-596-7668; 917-690-4391 (cell)
For Immediate Release
April 6, 2005 - On the sixth anniversary of the massacres at the
Catholic Church in Liquica, East Timor, the East Timor Action
Network (ETAN) urged the international community to heed East
Timorese cries for justice.
"The international community must keep its commitment to the
victims of this and other horrific crimes committed in East Timor,"
said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "We must continue to
pursue accountability for crimes against humanity, war crimes and
genocide committed during Indonesia's illegal occupation of East
Timor between 1975 and 1999."
The anniversary comes as the
of Experts (COE) is visiting now independent East Timor to
evaluate existing judicial processes and propose next steps to hold
accountable those responsible for serious crimes in East Timor in
1999. The Commission is to evaluate temporary courts set up in both
Indonesia and East Timor to try serious crimes committed in East
Timor 1999, neither of which has been able to hold any higher-level
perpetrators accountable. The government of
Indonesia is refusing to allow the COE to enter Indonesia.
"We urge the COE to listen carefully to the victims and explore
all possibilities, including an international criminal tribunal. In
February 2000, UN Secretary-General stood in the Liquiça church yard
and called for 'justice to prevail over impunity.' The COE must find
ways to fulfill that pledge,” Miller said.
"The UN must not tolerate a double standard of justice, where
only low-level East Timorese militia members are convicted and their
Indonesian masters escape with impunity, going on to organize
similar crimes in Aceh, West Papua and elsewhere," he added.
Several Indonesian officers accused of failing to prevent the
Liquica massacre were tried in Jakarta but acquitted.
Only one East Timorese has been convicted in East Timor’s
Special Panels court for his involvement in the massacre; many other
Indonesian and East Timorese indicted for this massacre and other
crimes remain free in Indonesia.
"Indonesia and East Timor recently established a
Truth and Friendship, which is intended to preempt the work of
the Commission of Experts and block any effective steps toward
accountability and justice. The truth of what happened in 1999 is
well-established: Indonesian officials - working with militia they
created, funded and directed - committed heinous crimes, including
more than a thousand murders, in a systematic campaign to terrorize
and destroy East Timor. The organizers and perpetrators of the
violence are well-known," said Miller.
On April 6, 1999, hundreds of East Timorese and Indonesian
militia, soldiers and police attacked several thousand refugees
sheltering in the Catholic church in Liquiça, after slaughtering
several civilians nearby the day before. According to an unpublished
report commissioned by the United Nations Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights, the attack left up to 60 people dead,
although the precise death toll is still unknown. The refugees had
sought shelter in the churchyard from earlier militia attacks.
According to the report, "The systematic disposal of corpses... [t]ogether
with the substantial evidence of TNI [Indonesian military] and
Police involvement in the massacre itself, the presence of key
officials at the scene of the crime, and the responsibility of those
officials for creating and coordinating the BMP [militia],... makes
it a virtual certainty that the Liquica church massacre was planned
by high-ranking TNI and civilian authorities."
All of the security officials tried in Indonesia's Ad Hoc Human
Rights Court for their involvement in the massacre and other crimes
were acquitted either at trial or
including police chief Timbul Silaen, regional military commander
General Adam Damiri and East Timor military commander Tono Suratman.
In November 2001, the UN-funded
Serious Crimes Unit indicted nine Indonesian officers and 12 local
militia for the massacre. All are believed to be in
Indonesia, and INTERPOL has issued arrest warrants for them. The
massacre is also cited in a wide ranging
issued in 2003 accusing General Wiranto, former Indonesian
defence minister, and other senior officials of crimes against
humanity throughout East Timor in 1999. The SCU in Dili convicted
and jailed one militia member, who had been indicted separately of
three murders, including one during the massacre.
Last month, the governments of Indonesia and East Timor agreed to
establish a Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF). The Commission
will include people from both countries and is to establish a
"shared historical record" of the violations of human rights before
and after East Timor's independence ballot in 1999, recommend
amnesty for those who "cooperate fully," and propose
people-to-people reconciliation efforts.
Indonesian and East Timorese NGOs and international human rights
groups have strongly criticized the CTF, fearing that it will
institutionalize impunity and is not capable of identifying
perpetrators. The NGOs charged that the two governments have
"disregarded demands for justice made by victims of serious human
rights violations that occurred in East Timor in 1999" and called
the CTF's terms of reference "appalling."
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and brutally occupied the
territory until October 1999. The international community never
recognized Indonesia’s claim, and approximately 200,000 East
Timorese were killed as a result of the Indonesian occupation.
In 1999, Indonesia agreed to a UN-administered referendum on East
Timor's political status. After the referendum, in which East
Timorese people voted overwhelmingly for independence, Indonesian
security forces and the militia they controlled laid waste to the
territory, displacing three-quarters of the population, murdering
approximately 1400 civilians, and destroying more than 75% of the
buildings and infrastructure.
The Security Council established the
Unit in Dili to conduct investigations and prepare indictments
to assist in bringing to justice those responsible for crimes
against humanity and other serious crimes committed in East Timor in
1999. It also created hybrid Timorese-international Special Panel
courts to try these cases. The SCU filed its final indictments late
last year. Approximately 76% of the nearly 400 people indicted by
the SCU are living free in Indonesia, which has refused to honor its
promise to cooperate with the Serious Crimes process.
No judicial process has yet been established to investigate and
prosecute those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes
against humanity prior to 1999, when more than 99% of the deaths
resulting from the Indonesian military occupation took place.
ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East
Timor and Indonesia.
See also Human
Rights & Justice page
JSMP has an
archive of Serious Crimes Unit indictments and Special Panel