|Subject: JP: 'TNI washes hands' of rights
abuses in E. Timor
The Jakarta Post April 18, 2002
'TNI washes hands' of rights abuses in E. Timor
Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Suspicions that the Indonesian Military (TNI) has used the ongoing human rights trial to wash its hands of human rights violations in East Timor became apparent on Wednesday.
Witnesses testifying in the trial of former East Timor governor Abilio Soares told the Central Jakarta Human Rights Court that the governor had instructed regents in East Timor to form People's Volunteer Guards (Pamswakarsa), popularly known as militias, which carried out a bloody terror campaign in the territory in 1999.
Former Covalima regent Col. Herman Sedyono told the Central Jakarta Human Rights Court on Wednesday that the militia groups were set up in anticipation of escalating tension between proindependence and prointegration groups.
"The governor instructed all 13 regents to publicize the ballot and urged us to establish the People's Volunteer Guards," Herman told the court.
Abilio is charged with crimes against humanity, including genocide, for failing to prevent violence in East Timor in 1999. The charge carries a maximum sentence of death.
Earlier, Adam Damiri, former chief of the Udayana Military Command, which oversees Bali, West Nusa Tenggara, East Nusa Tenggara and the former East Timor, told the same court that Abilio was responsible for establishing militia groups in East Timor.
Their claims contradicted the belief that military personnel were actively setting up and giving military training to militia members in the run-up to the UN-organized referendum in East Timor in 1999, in which East Timorese overwhelmingly voted to break away from Indonesia.
Backed by certain elements in the military, the militias embarked on a bloody terror campaign before and after the ballot, killing dozens of proindependence supporters, and destroying almost 90 percent of the infrastructure in the former Portuguese territory, as well as forcing over 200,000 East Timorese into makeshift refugee camps in West Timor.
Another military witness said on Wednesday that they had lost contact with the defendant during the chaotic days after the announcement of the 1999 popular ballot.
Former chief of the Wiradharma Military Command Brig. Gen. A. Noer Muis testified that the governor's office had been emptied, along with other offices of government institutions, while lines of communication were cut off.
"Moreover, there was no line of command between the governor and the chief of the military command," he said.
The trial was adjourned until Thursday to hear the testimony of Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman, Muis' predecessor.
Witness says ex-Timor governor did not support violence
A witness testifying in Indonesia's new human rights court said that the former governor of East Timor did not favour violence despite his consistency in defending Jakarta's rule.
In the dock was Abilio Soares, who was East Timor governor when its people voted for independence in August 1999 after 24 years of Indonesian rule.
Pro-Jakarta militias supported by the Indonesian military waged a campaign of death and destruction before and after the vote.
"None of his (Soares') policy was in favour of violence or killings," said Suprapto Tarman, the former chief of East Timor's Ailieu district.
Soares is accused of responsibility for "crimes against humanity" by failing to halt the massacre of civilians. The offence is punishable by between 10 years' imprisonment and death.
Tarman praised Soares as a person who was "most consistent" in defending East Timor's integration with Indonesia. But he said Soares "gets along well with all kinds of people."
Tarman charged that UN officials administering the August ballot were not neutral, saying that only pro-independence activists were recruited as polling officials.
Also on trial Thursday was former East Timor police chief Brigadier General Timbul Silaen, who is charged with the same crime as Soares.
Prosecutors say pro-Indonesian militias supported by some members of security forces attacked pro-independence refugees in several areas in April and September 1999, killing more than 100.
These included an assault on a church in Liquica that left 22 dead; one on the residence of pro-independence figure Manuel Carrascalao where 12 people were killed; another on the diocese of Dili in which 46 people were killed; and one on the residence of Dili Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo in which 10 people were killed.
Mobs also attacked refugees at the Hail Mary church in Suai, killing 30.
Jakarta has come under strong international pressure to punish the atrocities, with the United States refusing to resume high-level military contacts until it does.
But two international rights groups, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have questioned the effectiveness of the rights court. The trial was continuing.
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