Subject: SMH Investigation: Jakarta's war crimes in E.Timor revealed

also: How the Timor massacres were planned

Sydney Morning Herald April 28, 2001

Architects of mass murder

Photo: General Wiranto

By Hamish McDonald, Foreign Editor

A secret report for the Indonesian Government makes it clear that its military directed the militia violence against East Timor's independence vote and that top generals approved of some of the worst atrocities.

The 41-page report, by the Commission of Investigation into Human Rights Violations, sheets home ultimate responsibility to the then armed forces commander and defence minister, General Wiranto.

The report, marked "Secret" and "Only for the Investigation Purposes of the Attorney-General's Department", has been obtained by the Herald.

It details how the militias were trained, paid from government budgets, given modern firearms, allowed to use military bases and transport, and how the militias then worked closely with army and police units to track down, torture and kill independence supporters. Among examples detailed are:

The massacre of unarmed refugees in the church grounds at Suai on September 6, 1999 which, it says, was directed by the local bupati (administration chief) Colonel Herman Sedyono, and local military commander First Lieutenant Sugito.

The reprisal execution of six independence supporters, including three school teachers, at Bobonaro on April 13, 1999 by militias directed on the spot by district military commander Lieutenant-Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian and a senior militia leader, Joao Tavares.

The massacre of at least 50 civilians in the Liquica church on April 6 by Besi Merah Putih militias, who fraternised with local army and police before and after the killings. A Police Mobile Brigade platoon stood by as the massacre took place. Army personnel helped hide the bodies.

The operational commander of the systematic militia campaign was Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim, ostensibly in East Timor to liaise with the United Nations mission running the ballot.

The inquiry also cites:

Reports sent by General Wiranto and the Bali-based regional commander, Major-General Adam Damiri, to the then security co-ordinating minister, General Feisal Tanjung, as indicating full awareness of the militia strategy.

General Damiri is quoted telling General Tanjung that the Liquica massacre had made pro-independence youth "unable to act". He had told him a similar rampage by Aitarak militia at the Dili house of independence figure Manuel Carrascalao, whose son was among 15 killed, had made East Timorese "love the Red and White [Indonesian flag]" and realise that continued integration "had many supporters".

It is believed only a few copies of the report are being closely held by the Indonesian Attorney-General, Mr Marzuki Darusman.

On General Wiranto's role, the report does not include him on the list of 32 army and police personnel, civilian officials and militia members listed as suspects in crimes against humanity, including generals Damiri and Zacky Anwar.

But it concludes that the "whole range" of wide and organised violations of human rights before and after the ballot was "fully known to and realised by the armed forces commander General Wiranto", who was also in charge of the Indonesian police at the time.

"All the crimes against humanity in East Timor, direct or indirect, took place because of the failure of the armed forces commander to guarantee the security of the implementation of the two options [the ballot] proclaimed by the government," it says.

Sydney Morning Herald April 28, 2001

Masters of terror

Photo: Death on the streets ... a victim of the massacre in Becora, a suburb of Dili, in August 1999, and other carnage. Photos: Jason South

The Timor massacres were planned in detail: the guns, the trucks, the burial sites. Hamish McDonald has Jakarta's secret report which details the callous and calculating part played by senior Indonesian army and police officers.

On the morning of Saturday, September 4, 1999, it was announced that East Timor's people had voted to separate from Indonesia. From that point on, First Lieutenant Sugito of the Indonesian Army seemed to have no doubts about his duties as local military commander of the town of Suai. Nor did his colleagues in Suai's military, police and civilian government.

At 10am, the United Nations revealed the 78.5 per cent vote for independence. Just four hours later, armed police and militias of the pro-Indonesian Laksaur group attacked the hamlet of Debos, shooting wildly and burning houses.

One high school student was shot dead and his body taken away in a police truck. Villagers fled into the grounds of Nossa Senhora de Fatima Church in the centre of Suai, joining hundreds of others camped there. The following day, the Laksaur were joined by members of another militia group called Mahidi, and they began threatening the refugees inside the church compound.

That Sunday night, Lieutenant Sugito (his only name) took part as soldiers and Laksaur militia roved around Suai, setting fire to all its buildings.

At 2.30 on the afternoon of Monday, September 6, army and police, together with the two militia groups, directly attacked the civilians inside the church grounds. The attack was supervised on the spot by Sugito, and by retired army colonel Herman Sedyono, the administrative head (bupati) of the Covalina region which includes Suai. Both were wearing jungle-green uniforms and carrying rifles. Witnesses heard Sugito and Sedyono say that all priests, men and women would be killed.

A Laksaur militiaman called Igidio Manek shot one of Suai's Catholic priests, Father Hilario Madeira, and trod on his body. Another Laksaur militiaman, named Americo, stabbed and slashed Father Francisco Soares, while unidentified militiamen killed Father Tarcisius Dewanto.

As the killing went on, regular policemen, members of the police mobile brigade and army soldiers, stood outside the fence of the church compound, shooting refugees trying to flee.

After the shooting, a number of survivors, including many women and children, were taken away by truck to the military district headquarters. At 5pm, three army trucks came to carry at least 50 bodies from the compound to the west of Suai.

Laying the blame

East Timor January-September 1999

Crime: Through the organisation, training, arming, financing and direction of armed militia groups, the commission of "a criminal act on a wide, massive, intensive and collective scale" involving mass killings, torture and maltreatment, disappearances, sexual violence and enforced population movement.

Suspects: Major-Generals Adam Damiri and Zacky Anwar Makarim; Brigadier-Generals Tono Suratman and Timbul Silaen; Colonel Nur Muis. Ultimate responsibility through failure to carry out the Government's pledge of security for the ballot: Armed Forces Commander and Defence Minister General Wiranto.

SUAI, September 6, 1999:

Crime: Laksaur and Mahidi militia massacre of at least 50 people including three priests sheltering inside church compound. Local army and civil officials direct operation. Soldiers and police shoot refugees trying to run away. Bodies taken away by army and buried secretly.

Suspects: regional administrator Colonel Herman Sedyono, Lieutenant Sugito, Laksaur members Olivio Moruk, Martinus, Manek.

LIQUICA, April 6, 1999

Crime: Besi Merah Putih militia, police in civilian clothes and soldiers attack church compound where people are sheltering from militia attacks. One shot and tear gas grenade open attack, completed with knives. At least 30 killed. Police Mobile Brigade platoon stands by. Soldiers take away bodies in army trucks for secret disposal.

Suspects: Liquica regional administrator Leoneto Martins, army sergeants Yacobus, Tome Maria Goncalves. Besi Merah Putih leader Manuel de Sousa.

CAILACO, BOBONARO, April 12-13, 1999

Crime: Halilintar militia and local military abduct and torture six people, including primary schoolteachers suspected of being independence supporters. After several abductors are killed later that day in a Falintil ambush, the six are executed the next day in front of mourners.

Suspects: Bobonaro military district commander Lieutenant-Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian, and Halilintar militia chief Joao Tavares.

DILI, April 17, 1999

Crime: After rally in front of the provincial governor's office, militia destroy offices of Dili's only newspaper, attack home of independence figure Manuel Carrascalao where more than 140 people are sheltering. Carrascalao's 17-year-old son Manuelito among about 15 killed.

Suspect: Aitarak militia leader Eurico Guterres.

MALIANA, September 8, 1999

Crime: Militia from Dadurus Merah Putih and other groups attack dozens of refugees sheltering in the town's police headquarters. Army and Police Mobile Brigade troops do nothing. At least 70 killed by bullet and knife. Bodies taken away in trucks later that night.

Suspects: Lieutenant-Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian and Joao Tavares.

LOS PALOS, September 25, 1999

Crime: A Tim Alfa militia group formed and trained by Indonesian Special Forces ambush a vehicle taking a church delegation to Baucau. Nine killed, including two nuns and Indonesian journalist Agus Mulyawan.

Suspects: Alfa leader Joni Marquez, members Joao da Costa, Manuel da Costa, Amilio da Costa.

The next morning, Sugito was seen directing three soldiers and a Laksaur team who were burying corpses on the seashore at Weluli, across the border in West Timor. An exhumation of the graves more than two months later found the remains of 27 men, women and children as young as five. Among them were the bodies of the three priests.

The massacre at Suai - while the Indonesian commission says the total death toll was "at least 50", other estimates say more than 200 - was probably the worst single incident of mass murder during the horrific month that followed the result of East Timor's UN supervised ballot.

Until the Australian-led intervention force Interfet established its control over East Timor in October that year, about 500,000 of the 800,000 population were forced to flee their homes - either to the hills of the interior where hunger and disease waited, or across the border in a mass deportation drawn up in contingency plans by Indonesian authorities.

SUAI was not exceptional. As a hitherto secret report compiled by a special commission for Indonesian Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman makes clear, it followed a pattern of violence set from the start by militias who were organised, armed and closely directed by Indonesian military, police and civil authorities from the beginning of 1999.

"The planning and discussion about the formation of armed civilian groups ... took place in East Timor, in Bali [where the Indonesian regional military command then covering East Timor has its headquarters] and in Jakarta, and as well involved officers with authority in the chain of command, both at regional and central level."

This involvement is acknowledged in statements by officers as high as former Armed Forces Commander General Wiranto to the Commission to Investigate Violations of Human Rights, or KPP-HAM as it is known by its Indonesian initials, which completed its inquiries at the end of January last year.

Moreover, the systematic support for the militias by the military and police, and the approving comments sent to Jakarta by regional army commander Major-General Adam Damiri about two of their most vicious attacks, make it inconceivable that the militia strategy was the unauthorised initiative of officials on the ground.

The KPP-HAM report traces the origins of the militia groups back to the partisans formed by the Indonesian Army when it invaded East Timor in 1975, some of which became quasi-military units with ranks and pay scales matching those of regular soldiers.

After the then president B.J. Habibie announced in January 27, 1999, that East Timor would be allowed to choose between two options - autonomy within Indonesia or independence - the report said that "these old militia groups were revived and supported in order to achieve victory for autonomy".

In addition, Damiri reported to the then security co-ordinating minister in Habibie's cabinet about a military-style force of young people called Gada Paksi (Young Guard Upholding Integration) which was "recruited, trained and funded" by the Indonesian Army, specifically Kopassus (the Special Forces).

Eurico Guterres and several other militia leaders were prominent in Gada Paksi, whose members were later recruited into the "Integration Fighting Force" headed by former partisan and Bobonaro region head Joao Tavares.

The former provincial governor, Abilio Soares, and various regional heads told the Indonesian investigators how these militias and other military auxiliaries were formed into pro-integration groups directed by local administrators, police chiefs and army commanders.

Guterres was in charge of 2,651 pro-integration supporters in the capital Dili, including 1,521 members of his Aitarak militia.

The commission said Wiranto acknowledged the militias in his contingency plan drawn up in August 1999, in which he lists about 1,100 people with 546 weapons, and a further 11,950 members of "resistance organisations" such as Aitarak, Laksaur, and so on.

Earlier, in a confidential letter on June 15, Wiranto said that "one of the development efforts with regard to the pro-integration groups that also needs to gain support from all relevant departments/agencies is to watch that they remain united and do not split, and that they continue to stress efforts for dialogue and discussion, and avoid physical activities aimed at intimidation which will simply be very counterproductive in the struggle for various aspirations".

Wiranto goes on to commend the coalition of two pro-integration political fronts into "one fighting forum".

The commission comments that this "development" was definitely directed towards a win for the autonomy choice. The same kind of thing was indicated by Wiranto in his testimony to the commission, that "in a moral sense there were indeed efforts to make autonomy win so that East Timor would still be one with Indonesia ... This can be very much seen in the security apparatus and government apparatus in the region".

The same drive for an autonomy vote involved army and civil elements in backing pro-autonomy groups in the staging of mass roll-calls and oath-taking ceremonies at Balibo, Viqueque and Zumalai between February and April - at which military and civilian officials were present.

The biggest rally involved militia from all over East Timor in the grounds of the governor's office on April 17. Immediately afterwards, the massed militia, led by Aitarak, attacked the house of independence leader Manuel Carrascalao, killing his son and 11 other people.

This and an earlier attack won approval in a secret report by Damiri to the Co-ordinating Security Minister, Lieutenant-General Feisal Tanjung, on July 11, 1999.

The April 6 attack on refugees in the Liquica church by Besi Merah Putih and other militias, with police and army units standing by, left at least 30 dead, some of whom were dumped secretly in a nearby lake. Damiri said this had "resulted in the anti-integration youth being unable to act".

Likewise, after the April 17 attack on the Carrascalao house, Damiri said the "situation among society all over East Timor was to love the Red and White [the colours of the Indonesian flag]. East Timorese society only then became aware that the integration group clearly had many supporters."

The report gives an outline of operational links between the militias and the Indonesian army. According to sworn testimony by former pro-Indonesian partisan Thomas Goncalves, who went overseas early in 1999 rather than accede to pressure to lead militias, the operational commander was Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim, a career Special Forces officer and East Timor veteran who had a shadowy liaison role in Dili throughout this period.

Some of the militias were billeted at local military bases. The militias often used military vehicles for their patrols, if they were not patrolling together with military personnel. After capturing and torturing suspected supporters of the independence council, the CNRT, the militias would hand them over to military posts. The Special Forces group, known variously as SGI, Tribuana or Nanggala - which was seconded to the East Timor Command - as well as regular army units and the two locally raised battalions "often helped the CNRT in detecting and capturing CNRT people".

Goncalves is quoted as saying that he received 300 rifles directly from Lieutenant-Colonel Yayat Sudrajat, the SGI commander. In the Lautem region, 40 semi-automatic SKS rifles were kept in the army base for use by the Alfa militia, who had their room in the barracks and came and went as they pleased with the weapons. The military at Suai supplied the Laksaur with weapons, and Eurico Guterres told the commission his Aitarak militia had M-16 semi-automatics.

"According to him the weapons had been left with the police but on the eve of the announcement of the ballot result, they took them out from the storage place," the commission said. "Eurico's testimony was strengthened by a statement by Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim to the KPP-HAM mentioning the fact that weapons from the militia were stored in various military barracks and that they could be taken back when needed."

In the north-west coastal region of Maubara in particular, the three militia groups called Besi Merah Putih, Mahidi and Red Dragon always operated with Indonesian army group. Most of the Besi Merah Putih barracks were at local military bases, and the village army representatives under the military's territorial command structure, known as babinsa, were the organisers of this militia.

"Acts carried out carried out by the Barisan Merah Putih and the military supporting them generally followed the pattern of capture, abduction, torture and murder," the commission says. "While on a daily basis they threatened, robbed, terrorised and intimidated the population so that it would join the BMP and choose autonomy."

The commission goes on to observe the impunity enjoyed by the militias. "Proof of the support from military and civil authorities is that militia members that had openly carried out murder, torture, abduction and capture were never caught by the security apparatus," it reports. "Even if they were arrested, before very long, according to the East Timor Regional Police Chief, Colonel Timbul Silaen, the detention would be suspended. This kind of thing continued from January up to September 7."

The commission found that the military were also involved in the militia violence aimed at forcing the population to flee. The bupati of Suai, Herman Sedyono, and the local army commander, Lieutenant Sugito, had told the commission they had prepared transport to shift the population several days before the poll results were announced.

The violence in East Timor right from Habibie's January 27 announcement to the ballot result was not the result of civil war, the Indonesian investigators concluded, but the "result of a systematic course of violent action carried out by the militia with the support of and, it must be strongly suspected, organised by the armed forces and police apparatus."

The commission then notes drily: "Indonesian army, police and civil officials when asked for clarification at the National Human Rights Commission generally denied their linkage with the militia." In separate sections of the report, the commission complains about the destruction of evidence such as the hiding of bodies, and the obstructive role played by legal advisers engaged by suspect officers.

But what happened was far more than "gross violations of human rights", the commission says. "First, the facts were established of definite policies issued both by those in charge of security in East Timor and the local government which made possible the continuation of the criminal acts," it says. "Secondly, in the time frame investigated by the KPP-HAM, a criminal act on a wide, massive, intensive and collective scale can be seen." But while it found "crimes against humanity" had been established under both Indonesian law and international conventions, the commission said that the offences could not be called "war crimes", and did not amount to attempted genocide.

In delving into the purpose of the crimes, the commission sees three distinct phases in which the military role changed subtly. Before the May 5 agreement in New York setting the terms of the referendum, the violence had been more blatant, aimed at giving the impression of civil war conditions emerging in East Timor and thereby encouraging a deferral of the vote. After the agreement, the military and police had to step back to give "an image of neutrality" and violence was escalated by militias.

The final phase involved the large-scale deportations after the ballot, in which about 250,000 people were taken to West Timor and other nearly Indonesian territories.

"The enforced evacuation was carried out under various kinds of modus operandi which affirm the existence of a systematic plan," it notes. "Documents obtained provided indications that the enforced evacuations were planned long before in anticipation of defeat in the ballot. All of this was supported by the statements given by refugees in [Kupang and Atambua]."

The intention was to convince world opinion that the results of the ballot were in doubt, and that the East Timorese preferred the security of being in the neighbouring Indonesian province. "At this stage, the objective to keep the territory and deny the East Timor people's choice was carried out through the practice of violence and a high stage of preparedness for pacification through the avenue of forced evacuation," the report says.

"The violence that continued indicated the unbroken connection between elements of the Indonesian Army, Indonesian Police and the militias in carrying out conditioning, choice of actions, fixing of times and targets from the evacuation project." The last stage has been in guarding the refugees in West Timor, and enforcing terror through murder, disappearances, mistreatment and sexual violence.

WHO then is responsible?

According to the Indonesian Commission, there were three classes of perpetrators: those militia, military and police personnel directly on the scene; those who controlled operations; and those who were responsible for national security policy, "including but not limited to the high military officials who were actively and passively involved in the crimes".

The report lists 32 people who should be investigated as suspects for crimes against humanity. These included the two major-generals, Zacky Anwar Makarim and Adam Damiri, and 15 other military personnel, such as Lieutenant Sugito, identified in various atrocities; several civilian officials including former governor Abilio Soares, and 10 militia members including Eurico Guterres and Joao Tavares.

The Indonesian investigators concluded that the whole range of violations was "fully known to and realised by the Armed Forces Commander, General Wiranto, as being the one responsible for national security" and the "whole run" of civilian and military officials working East Timor at that time.

"All of the crimes against humanity, direct or indirect, took place because of the failure of the Armed Forces Commander to guarantee the security of the implementation of the announcement of the two options by the government," the KPP-HAM said.

"The police structure which at that time was under the command of the Defence Minister [a position also held by Wiranto] weakened the capacity of the police apparatus in carrying out the task of security based upon the New York agreement. For this, General Wiranto as armed forces commander was the one who must bear responsibility."

Investigators dug deep The report on human rights violations in East Timor during the last months of Jakarta's rule has been sitting like a pent-up volcano in the office safe of the Attorney-General, Marzuki Darusman, for the past 15 months.

It caused a major eruption when it first looked like being aired in February last year. Even a limited whiff of its contents was enough to blow the then Co-ordinating Minister for Defence and Security, General Wiranto, out of office.

Keeping the full report under lock and key may have been part of the protracted bargaining over nearly two weeks that resulted in Wiranto accepting President Abdurrahman Wahid's call for his resignation.

Knowledge of its damning conclusion, sheeting home ultimate responsibility to Wiranto, will play into the current political crisis in Jakarta, in which "status quo" military elements including the former defence chief are trying to replace Wahid with Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The members of the special investigation commission include some of Indonesia's finest human rights lawyers, who spent years in heroic but often futile challenges by the privately funded Legal Aid Institute to former president Soeharto's authoritarian New Order.

With Albert Hasibuan as head, the commission included lawyers Asmara Nabahan, Koesparmono Irsan (a retired police general), Todong Mulya Lubis, H.S. Dillon, Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, Munir, and Zoemrotin.

Given 27 research, documentation and secretarial staff, the commission visited East and West Timor as well as interviewing witnesses in Indonesian cities. If anyone thought the inquiry would be token, that view was shaken when the commission found and exhumed bodies of the Suai massacre that had been buried secretly in West Timor.

Revelation of its full scope will put immediate pressure on Wahid's Government to widen the jurisdiction of the special tribunal it has just foreshadowed, to include crimes committed before the August 30, 1999, ballot as well as afterwards.

But the report also contains a broader challenge by Indonesia's civil society to militarism. As well as prosecutions for the 1999 violence, it calls for investigation of Timor crimes going back to 1975, and the complete withdrawal of the Indonesian Armed Forces from their "territorial" involvement in domestic administration.

Hamish McDonald 

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