|Subject: Guardian: East Timor Trial Farce
Lets Real Killers Stay Free [+CSM]
Received from Joyo Indonesian News
The Guardian (London) March 15, 2002
East Timor trial farce lets real killers stay free
By John Aglionby in Jakarta
Allegations of how senior Indonesian generals waged a brutal campaign to sabotage East Timor's independence referendum in August 1999 emerged yesterday as Jakarta began the first trials of 18 army officers and civilian officials accused of gross human rights violations.
After six months of procedural delays and procrastination, Indonesia's civilian governor of East Timor in 1999, Abilio Soares, and the provincial police chief, Brigadier General Timbul Silaen, stood in the dock yesterday at separate sessions of an ad hoc court in Jakarta created specially to hear the East Timor cases.
Hours earlier, Australia's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper published detailed and damning extracts from communications between Jakarta and East Timor in 1999, intercepted by the Australian intelligence agency, the defence signals directorate, confirming the widely held belief that the true masterminds of the carnage will escape justice.
The conversations reveal that several current and former senior generals, led by the then chief security minister, General Feisal Tanjung, orchestrated a clinical operation involving military special forces and locally recruited militias to coerce the East Timorese into voting against independence.
When that failed they sought revenge by killing about 1,000 pro-independence supporters, destroying up to 80% of the former Portuguese colony that Jakarta had occupied since a 1975 invasion, and forcing about 260,000 East Timorese over the border into Indonesian West Timor.
Among Gen Tanjung's alleged henchmen were the then information minister, Lieutenant General Yunus Yosfiah, held responsible for killing British and Australian reporters in the town of Balibao in 1975; the then trans-migration minister, Lieutenant General AM Hendropriyono, now the intelligence chief; and Major General Sjafrie Sjamsuddin, the Jakarta military commander during the massive riots in 1998 and currently the chief military spokesman.
The latter two are among those expected to meet the FBI director, Robert Mueller, today when he visits Jakarta to discuss combating terrorism. None of the above officers is among the 18 indicted.
The one noticeable omission from the Australian list is General Wiranto, the Indonesian military commander and defence minister in 1999 who was thought to have planned the carnage. It now appears that he was a fall guy, either unaware of or apathetic to the plotting.
Intercepts quoted in the newspaper show that two squads of undercover special forces, named Tribuana and Venus, were operating in East Timor with the local militias within a fortnight of President BJ Habibie's surprise announcement in January 1999 that he would give the East Timorese the chance to vote on their future.
During the following six months the recorded communications detail a catalogue of orders and discussions that paint a compelling account of desperate officers determined to avert independence at any cost.
The Australian embassy in Jakarta refused to comment on the revelations, and the Indonesian government said it did not give the report "much credence".
"We can't base our policies on what's written in the Sydney Morning Herald," said a foreign ministry spokesman, Marty Natlegawa. "We need to have clear references or documents if we want to make any meaningful response."
Western diplomats said the article was unlikely to make any difference to the barely credible tribunal. "Timbul Silaen and (Brig Gen) Tono Suratman were identified as the fall guys on this over a year ago and they'll stick with it," one said.
Both trials yesterday were adjourned for one week.
Diplomats and human rights activists watching the legal proceedings said that things would have to improve significantly if Jakarta wanted the hearings to be taken seriously.
"It's like a play," one person said. "It's very short on substance, but it's the only option for justice we have."
Indonesian court puts military impunity on trial
Three of the defendants are the most senior military officials ever to face a civilian court.
By Dan Murphy Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Munir had dreamed of this day for years, and as head of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), he had helped to bring it about: the nation's first trial of senior leaders for crimes against humanity, committed in East Timor in 1999.
But as a special court opened yesterday to try 18 suspects, including three military officers, accused of four atrocities in East Timor, Munir was conspicuously absent from the jam-packed gallery. Instead, he was sifting through the wreckage of his office, one day after it was ransacked by a mob of 300 military supporters.
"This attack was about our ongoing efforts to bring senior officers in the military to justice,'' said Munir yesterday, sitting on a bench outside his office. "The irony of this happening the day before the East Timor trial isn't lost on me."
Convictions in the trial could pave the way for the US to resume military ties with Indonesia - something that would strengthen President Megawati's government, and turn the world's largest Muslim country from a reluctant ally to a wholehearted supporter of the US war on terrorism. Observers say this trial could also mark the end of a tradition of impunity for the Indonesian military.
Defendants at the hearing yesterday included former East Timor Gov. Abilio Soares and a former East Timor police chief, Brig. Gen. Timbul Silaen. They are charged with knowingly permitting their subordinates to participate in "wide and systematic attacks" against civilians, including a massacre of 26 refugees at a church in September 1999. Mr. Silaen says the accusations are false.
Other defendants include Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, the senior commander overseeing East Timor at the time, Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman, the former East Timor military commander, and Col. Noer Muis, also a former East Timor military commander. They are the most-senior Indonesian officers ever to face a civilian court for human-rights crimes.
Armed Forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin told reporters that the military is giving its "full moral support" to the accused.
The US Congress banned military assistance and training for the Indonesian military in the wake of the East Timor violence, which left more than 100 dead and displaced 250,000 people after the former province chose independence in a UN-sponsored poll. But some diplomats and Indonesian human rights activists warn the US against resuming military ties.
"Using the outcome of this tribunal as a parameter for resuming relations with the Indonesian military would be an enormous mistake,'' says Hendardi, chairman of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association. "Until they've gotten out of politics and shown they've changed their methods, you can only create more victims by resumed contact."
Critics point out early warning signs in the legal process. None of the 18 defendants are being held in jail, few if any of the judges have a background in human-rights law, and no witnesses have been summoned from East Timor, where the alleged crimes were committed.
"They're charging these men with knowing that violent crimes were to be committed, but the prosecutors don't seem to know who committed the violence themselves," says Mohammad Asrun, a lawyer and spokesman for Judicial Watch, a watchdog group. "The defense should be in a great position when it starts arguing."
Mr. Asrun and others say that by choosing to prosecute just four instances of violence, it does not appear prosecutors will attempt to prove a pattern of premeditated violence by the military as an institution.
The murder of former Monitor contributor Sander Thoenes - who, UN investigators say, was killed by members of Indonesian Army Battalion 745 - is not among the incidents being prosecuted.
One of the people who will not appear before the court is General Wiranto, who headed the armed forces at the time of the violence in East Timor. His absence is among the biggest complaints for rights activists, since they say he bore ultimate responsibility for what happened in East Timor and elsewhere.
Calls to the office of one of Wiranto's lawyers were not answered.
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