Subject: International Accomplices in Genocide
International Accomplices in Genocide: Case of East Timor
Summary of Paper presented to "Project on Comparative Research into Genocide and Mass Violence,"
Hiroshima Peace Institute, 22-26 March 2004
Geoffrey C. Gunn, Faculty of Economics, Nagasaki University
While international law is specific as to responsibility in the case of genocide by perpetrators, the law and informed discussion has been less vocal in determining the degree of culpability on the part of parties "external" to the crime, whether as political or economic allies of the perpetrators, or as suppliers of weapons and other lethal support. As revealed by intelligence communications on the events of 1974-76 in East Timor, the political leadership in both the U.S. and Australia not only had prior knowledge of Indonesian intentions including invasion, but connived in that illegal invasion.
Again in 1999, in the run-up to the UN-supervised ballot conducted in East Timor, Western intelligence were also apprised of worst-case scenarios likely to be played out by the Indonesian military and accomplices. For 24 years no role whatsoever was countenanced for Fretilin and the people of Timor in deciding their destiny. Although the East Timor self-determination case remained on the UN agenda, no major sanctions were exercised by the world community against Indonesia even with the knowledge of major population loss (25-30 percent) in East Timor bordering on - even equating - genocide, along with a litany of human rights abuses.
The documentary evidence, as presented below, reveals that the West connived with Indonesia, then sought to cover up its shabby complicity in the invasion and annexation of East Timor. This subterfuge not only owed to Indonesian public relations skills or "batik diplomacy," nor even the ham-fisted controls of a military dictatorship - although there was plenty of that - but rested squarely with the way that, during the long Cold War years and even beyond, the Western democracies (U.S., UK, Australia) conspired to build consensus on self-determination/human rights issues in perplexing ways. While a belated shift in international consensus/solidarity in September 1999 facilitated an international humanitarian rescue of East Timor, rightly we might describe these nation-state actors over the preceding 25 years as accomplices in genocide in East Timor.
Conclusion: The Question of Culpability of International Accomplices to Genocide
Major Cold War ally of the West, the Indonesian New Order was also highly dependent upon Western including Japanese ODA. The West backed Jakarta to the tune of US$1.2 billion in weapons procurements. Indonesian faced no demonstrable external threat but remains a country at war with itself (Aceh, Malukus, Papua). With the notable exception of the U.S. in supporting the outer island rebellions in the late 1950s/1960s, no Western country has challenged Indonesian national unity. Although Western intelligence services fully understood that the cost of the annexation of East Timor would not be accomplished without major loss of life, even when horrific human rights abuses were revealed (or even conceded), the result was cover-up and subterfuge. For over 25 years the West had the levers in their hands to sanction Indonesia, but with rare exceptions and with limp-wristed effect, held back from doing so. History repeats itself today.
Even today, as indictments for crimes against humanity - including murder, deportation and persecution against specifically targeted groups, namely those who supported independence - have been handed down by international judges appointed to East Timor's hybrid judicial system, Indonesia is unlikely to sanction the extradition of the perpetrators. More the concern that the international community has stood back from calling for an international criminal court on East Timor with the status of that of Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia (cf. Gunn/Huang 2004, 129-46). In other words, the culpability of the international accomplices in the genocide of East Timor, has yet to be tested.
Gunn, Geoffrey C. with Reyko Huang, New Nation: Peace-building in East Timor, Southeast Asia Studies Series No. 39, The Research Institute of Southeast Asia, Faculty of Economics, Nagasaki University, 2004.
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