Subject: US Timor Activists: General's Sentence A "Joke" [+Army's Resurgence]

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

also: AP: Indonesia General's Sentence Shows Army's Resurgence

Agence France Presse
August 5, 2003

Indonesian General's Sentence A "Joke" : US Timor Activists


US-based East Timor activists on Tuesday branded a three-year jail term handed to an Indonesian general convicted of human rights violations as the territory struggled for independence as a "joke."

The condemnation came despite the fact that prosecutors had requested that Major General Adam Damiri be acquitted by the Jakarta human rights court.

"The punishment does not fit the crime," said John Miller, spokesman for the East Timor Action Network.

"Today's three-year sentence for General Damiri is a joke and has done nothing to boost the laughable credibility of Indonesia's court. The international community has been taken for a ride. The question is: what is it going to do about it?"

Damiri, a former regional commander responsible for security in East Timor while it was still Indonesian territory, branded the verdict as political, vowing to appeal.

The judge in the case ruled that Damiri should have taken immediate corrective steps to address any violations by his subordinates.

Unlike US activists, Jakarta-based campaigners welcomed the verdict, after previously dismissing the Jakarta court as a sham.

Indonesian Foundation of Legal Aid chairman Munarman said, "This is a rare verdict and this is definitively a milestone in the upholding of human rights here."

He praised the judges as having shown "extraordinary courage".

Muhammad Asrun who heads Judicial Watch called the court's decision "very important".

But he added that three years was not a long enough sentence "because he (Damiri) held the primary responsibility over security in East Timor".

Damiri is the last and most senior of 18 defendants to appear before the court over the Indonesian army-backed wave of bloody militia violence against East Timorese independence supporters in 1999.

The court was set up to deflect pressure for an international tribunal into the bloodshed but international and local rights groups have called it a sham.

Eleven security force members and one civilian have been acquitted by the court. Five people -- two army officers, a former Dili police chief, the former civilian governor and an ex-militia chief -- were ordered jailed but remain free pending appeals.

Damiri has also been indicted by UN-funded prosecutors in East Timor for crimes against humanity.


Indonesia General's Sentence Shows Army's Resurgence

JAKARTA, Aug. 5 (AP)--A three-year jail sentence handed down Tuesday to the highest-ranking officer implicated in East Timor crimes came as a welcome surprise to a nation that had widely expected him to walk free after the prosecution itself requested that charges be dropped.

Still, the relatively light sentence was a blow to hopes that Indonesia's fledgling democracy can rein in its generals.

The ruling by a Jakarta court which convicted Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri for the destruction of East Timor after a U.N. independence plebiscite in 1999, also may complicate efforts by the U.S. administration to restore military ties as it seeks to enlist Indonesia in the war on terror.

The court's ruling came on the same day as a powerful car bomb wrecked Jakarta's Marriott Hotel, killing at least 10 people and injuring 100 - another manifestation of the turmoil that continues to plague Indonesia's transition to democracy.

The court had been widely expected to acquit Damiri after prosecutors recommended that charges be dropped due to lack of evidence.

Damiri immediately said he would appeal the verdict, and some legal experts predicted that the ruling would be quietly overturned by a higher court. He remains free pending the appeal.

"After this, we feel that the United Nations and United States should look again into establishing a war crimes tribunal," said John Miller, spokesman for the East Timor Action Network, a U.S.-based human rights group.

U.N. officials have repeatedly said that the Indonesian army trained, equipped and commanded the militia gangs that committed most of the atrocities.

Damiri's was the final of 18 trials organized by Indonesian authorities in an apparent effort to defuse calls for an ad hoc U.N. tribunal akin to those for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Six of the defendants have been found guilty, but their light sentences have contributed to a perception that the process amounts to a whitewash. The toughest sentence of 10 years in prison was handed down to a Timorese civilian who led a notorious militia.

Some say the verdicts show how the Indonesian military - the main pillar of the 32-year dictatorship of former President Suharto - has succeeded in re-establishing its influence in Indonesian society five years after his ouster.

"The outcome of this trial just shows that the generals are again all-powerful and that they can get away with anything they want," said George Atidjondro, an Indonesian professor at Australia's University of Newcastle.

He said that efforts to reform the military after Suharto's fall - including introducing civilian control over the armed forces - had foundered under President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Many of the senior commanders involved in the current offensive against separatists in Aceh are veterans of the occupation of East Timor, Aditjondro said.

"There is a confluence of political interests here," he said. "She gets to portray herself as the savior of Indonesia's unity, and they get to keep calling the shots."

In the past calls for an international war crimes tribunal have been opposed by Washington. Ties with the Indonesian military were cut by the Clinton administration in 1999 after the events in East Timor.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted against resuming military links after revelations that Indonesian troops were likely responsible for an attack on a group of American schoolteachers last year in the eastern Indonesian province of Papua. Two Americans and an Indonesian were killed and eight other U.S. citizens were badly wounded.

"I suspect that the outcome of Jakarta trials will reinforce the sense in Congress that the Indonesian military is essentially unreliable even as an ally in the war on terrorism," Miller said.

-Edited by Genevieve I. Soledad

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