Subject: JP: Indonesian Activists Criticize Govt's Defensive Stance on CAVR

also: JP: The UN Timor report: Still a pebble in our shoe? ; Judicial commission to review Priok case

The Jakarta Post Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Treat Timor Leste report with an open mind, activists say

Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Human rights activists have criticized the government's defensive stance on a report by an independent commission, which claims that up to 180,000 people died during Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor (now Timor Leste).

The Timor Leste government submitted the report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Saturday (Indonesian time).

Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara, chairman of the National Commission of Human Rights, and Ifdhal Kasim, coordinator of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam), said Monday the government should treat the report with an open mind.

They said Indonesia and Timor Leste and should focus on peaceful, legal solutions to past human rights abuses in Timor Leste. A defensive reaction would be counterproductive and could lower Indonesia's standing in the international community.

The inability of Indonesian courts' to convict any high-ranking military officers implicated in the rioting around the 1999 UN-sponsored referendum had already tarnished Indonesia's image, they said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has expressed his deep concerns about the report, while Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono rejected it outright.

Prepared by the independent East Timorese Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation the report alleges that the Indonesia Military used starvation and sexual violence as weapons to control the territory during the occupation.

It also accused soldiers of using napalm and chemical weapons to poison food and drinking water.

The commission investigated human rights abuses that happened from 1975, when Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony, through 1999.

Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao had kept the report secret for fears of irritating Indonesia, but it was leaked to the Australian media before it was sent to the government and the UN.

Ifdhal and Abdul Hakim said the report contained many truths because it was based on reports from thousands of witnesses who endured or witnessed rights abuses.

"Indonesia should also admit that president Soeharto's decision to invade East Timor was wrong and we realized later that (the decision) had neither political nor economic advantages," Abdul Hakim said.

The government should study the report, and then give its version of the story to the Timor Leste government and the international community, clarifying where the report was wrong.

"Like other countries such as Japan, Korea and South Africa, Indonesia should confess it has made mistakes and should offer an apology," he said.

"The government should lobby the UN and Timor Leste not to bring the human rights abuse cases to the International Court of Justice and to settle them through reconciliation like other countries like Peru, El Salvador and Argentina did in their transitions from authoritarian regimes to a democratic governments," he said.

Abdul Hakim believed it wouldn't be easy for the UN to take former Indonesian officials to the international court because Timor Leste would probably not want to prosecute them, preferring to maintain good relations with Indonesia for the sake of its economy.

The commission's main role in writing the report was to seek the truth about the past and then encourage reconciliation, they said.

"But Indonesia has to be ready to make an apology to Timor Leste and pay compensation to all the victims of human rights abuses," Ifdhal said.


The Jakarta Post Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The UN Timor report: Still a pebble in our shoe?

Ati Nurbaiti, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The denial of former occupiers of their deeds, through the omission or near invisibility in the history they teach their children, is disturbing, to say the least, in the eyes of the formerly oppressed.

We sense such resentment from older Indonesians who survived Japanese occupation, for instance, when they hear reports of Japan's reluctance to revise its history books, so young Japanese can understand the atrocities committed by the country's soldiers during World War II.

Fast-forward to 10 years from now and try to imagine how the history books in Timor Leste, formerly East Timor, will depict Indonesia.

What Indonesians are taught is that our freedom fighters struggled to their last drop of blood against cruel Dutch and Japanese occupiers. Regarding East Timor, our children are still taught that in 1975 we came to the rescue after Portugal abandoned its impoverished colony, and that we lost many brave men fighting the Fretilin rebels, helping to save the world from a potentially dangerous communist power.

Last Friday, the world heard a different version of what took place in East Timor. A dapper Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao delivered to the United Nations a report from the young nation's Truth, Reception and Reconciliation Commission. The report is said to be over 2,000 pages thick, containing the testimony of over 7,000 people who experienced life under Indonesia.

We know from leaked fragments of the report not only that some 183,000 East Timorese are said to have died directly and indirectly as a result of the 24-year occupation, but also that murder, torture, rape and starvation were deliberately used as weapons to ensure the subservience of the populace.

The report only confirms what was reported for decades by foreign journalists and activists -- but it is now an official document of the UN.

Indonesians seem to sense, or hope, the report will not cause any major turmoil in the international community. Indonesia has already gone through the humiliation of losing East Timor, and Timor Leste is naturally going through the teething problems of a new and poor country -- with only its much larger neighbor to rely on. The big powers that assisted Timor Leste in the separation have largely left to help people elsewhere.

Xanana himself has repeatedly stressed it is in no one's interest to follow up on the report.

"We accept the results of the report as a way to heal the wounds," were the words of the former Fretilin leader at a UN forum. It is not "punitive justice" the country is seeking, said Xanana, adding that the report also detailed human rights violations by the Timorese.

So there is probably no need for concern that the world will begin clamoring for Indonesian generals to be hauled in front of international rights tribunals.

What is important now seems to be the work of the Commission of Truth and Friendship, set up by Timor Leste and Indonesia to address past grievances and create "harmonious" relations between the countries -- even though the commission's mandate is only to bring to light human rights violations since 1999, except those already addressed by earlier commissions.

Expectations for the commission are high, maybe even too high. However, it will have contributed considerably to good relations between the countries if it adds to the record of what transpired around the time of the referendum leading to East Timor's independence.

Howard Varney, an advocate of the High Court of South Africa, with experience on the world's first "truth and reconciliation" body, told this paper last year the commission should "at least put down the essential story of what happened ... at least to put a version of history that is a representation of the testimonies that have been put to them".

We are reminded here of our own experiences under colonial rule. My mother can forgive, but she cannot forget how her adoptive parents were taken away one day and never returned to buy her the bike they promised for her ninth birthday. But at least I can check the available records of the 1944 kidnappings and mass murders of "dissidents" in Mandor, West Kalimantan, where a plaque marks their mass grave. The people who laboriously documented the kidnappings and murders believed the stories of the victims must not be allowed to disappear.

Now for the difficult part. Indonesians, who see themselves as victims and eventual victors over inhumane colonizers, again face terrible allegations that have not disappeared, accusations of gross human rights violations when we were the occupier.

Beyond any debates that may arise after Xanana's UN appearance, which may further affect the settling of matters of "truth", "reconciliation" and "friendship", it is the business of the people of Timor Leste of how they decide to teach their nation's history.

And it is also up to Indonesians to decide whether we will continue to teach our children the same old stories, as if the UN report never existed, as if those 7,000 East Timorese were all liars. Borrowing from one of our eminent former foreign ministers, the East Timor story will then likely remain a "pebble in our shoe".


The Jakarta Post

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Judicial commission to review Priok case

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Judicial Commission promised Tuesday to investigate the judges who acquitted two military generals of all charges in connection with the 1984 Tanjung Priok massacre where troops shot dead up to 100 people.

A group representing the survivors and victims' families has requested the commission investigate the decisions of judges at an ad hoc human rights tribunal and the Supreme Court, the two bodies that heard the case.

Commission chairman Busyro Muqoddas said the investigation would decide whether the judges violated their code of ethics when hearing the cases.

"We will examine whether they were professional in carrying out their duties. The judges must uphold their code of ethics by making their verdicts impartially based on the principles of justice," he said.

In 2004, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by prosecutors for it to convict Maj. Gen (ret) Pranowo, then Jakarta Military Police chief, and Maj. Gen Sriyanto, the former operations chief of the North Jakarta military command, of gross human rights violations in the case.

Earlier in August 2003, an ad hoc human rights tribunal similarly acquitted the two generals.

The two were in command when their troops shot dead dozens of Muslim activists during a violent protest in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, on Sept. 12.

Official figures say 24 people were killed in the shooting and 54 were injured. However, testimonies from survivors and victims' family members indicate that more than 100 people may have died.

Pranowo was also accused of allowing the torture of demonstrators while they were held in military detention.

Busyro said the commission would question witnesses of the incident when reviewing the decisions.

The panel of Supreme Court justices that presided over the trial of Sriyanto and Pranowo was led by Andriani Nurdin, while the trial at the human rights tribunal was chaired by Iskandar Kamil.

Members of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) helped the victims lodge their request in the form of a Kontras report Tuesday.

Kontras coordinator Usman Hamid said he was suspicious of the courts' verdicts. "There was no transparency at all in the legal process. We were unable to follow the Supreme Court's review of the case because the justices did not let us know about its progress," he said.

Judges in both courts were imprecise and blinkered in their search for truth, he said.

In its report to the commission, Kontras pointed out that at the lower court level, judges had neglected important evidence and violated the law by permitting witnesses that had withdrawn their cases against the state.

The Supreme Court justices, who should have noted the irregularities in the lower court's handling of the case, were also oblivious, he said.

One of those detained by soldiers, Ratono, told the commission of his abduction and torture.

"They kidnapped me and forced me to leave my nine-month old child. Then they shocked my friends and I with electricity." (08)

------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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