|Subject: SMH: Indonesian general accused of
[note: this news item was not sent out at the time it was published]
Sydney Morning Herald Indonesian general accused of rape By MARK DODD DILI Saturday 10 February 2001
UN war crimes investigators are examining allegations that the former Indonesian military commander in East Timor raped the wife of a prominent East Timorese independence leader.
The allegation has been denied by the officer, Brigadier-General Tono Suratman, who is based in Jakarta, where he is deputy spokesman for the Indonesian armed forces.
The allegations were first made late last year in an oral statement to James Dunn, a former Australian consul in Dili, now working for the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor as an expert on crimes against humanity. They were subsequently passed to the UN serious crimes unit.
In a faxed reply to questions sent by The Age, Brigadier-General Suratman this week denied wrongdoing and said he had not been contacted by UN investigators about the allegations.
A senior UN official familiar with the case confirmed that the serious crimes unit was investigating allegations of sexual assault and other unspecified crimes committed while then Colonel Suratman was military commander in East Timor from June 10, 1998, until August 13, 1999.
"There were many crimes committed when he was military commander here," said the official, who asked not to be identified.
Last September General Suratman was included in a list, issued by the Indonesian Attorney-General's office, of 19 military and militia figures named as formal suspects in the 1999 violence in East Timor.
In the latest allegation, the woman, who cannot be identified, said she was raped by General Suratman after February, 1999.
"She came to Indonesian military headquarters in Dili asking about her husband, who had been brought in for questioning," said a senior diplomat who has been briefed on the allegations.
"She was told to wait and eventually Suratman came out from the mandi (bathroom) with only a towel wrapped round him and raped her on the spot. He said if she told anybody, she was dead and so was her husband."
On Tuesday, UN authorities in Dili announced the first indictments for sex crimes involving the military, with warrants issued for the arrest of an Indonesian lieutenant and two militiamen over abduction and rape in May and July, 1999.
UN police investigators have files filled with allegations of rape by the militias and the army committed between January and September 1999. Patrick Burgess, the head of the UN human rights department, believes the number of victims may run into the hundreds.
Police working with the serious crimes unit are investigating several other war crimes cases involving rape and sexual violence committed by senior military officials in Bobonaro. Arrest warrants are expected to be issued.
East Timorese human rights groups allege sexual violence was widely used by the Indonesian military as part of a strategy to crush resistance to its rule between 1975 and 1999.
"It was a deliberate policy by the Indonesians and the militias. It was used by the pro-Indonesians as a strategy against East Timorese women from top (senior officers) to bottom," said Laura Abrantes, education and training officer in East Timor's biggest women's group, known as Fokupers.
Fokupers is gathering a "rape database" on sex crimes committed by the military.
Ms Abrantes said testimony of victims revealed the existence of a network of "rape houses" where women were abducted and held as virtual sex slaves.
Ms Abrantes said rape houses existed in, among other places, Suai, Bobonaro, Lolotoe, and Gleno, as well as the Aitarak militia headquarters at the former Tropical Motel in Dili.
One of the biggest difficulties in this conservative Catholic society is to encourage rape victims to speak out. For most young women, the publicity means shame and humiliation. "Our culture does not allow women to speak out. For some it is very, very difficult. They feel great shame, they are shy and cry," said Ms Abrantes. "We tell them, if we can't talk about it, how can we pursue the case."
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