Subject: CTF Reports: Individuals May Seek Justice; 2 JP Op-Eds: Burying
also: 2 JP reports: Op-Ed: CTF Report: Burying Some Inconvenient Truth [by Aboeprijadi Santosoa, journalist who covered the 1999 East Timor mayhem for Radio Netherlands.]; and Op-Ed: East Timor: 'An Unfortunate Chapter?' [by Eko Waluyo, program coordinator for Indonesian Solidarity, a non-profit organization that supports human rights in Indonesia based in Sydney, Australia]
The Jakarta Post Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Individuals may seek justice for Timor violence to UN
Dian Kuswandini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Although the government has taken the blame for the East Timor violence in 1999, there remains an opportunity for individuals to seek redress through national or international courts, the National Commission on Human Rights says.
The rights body insisted Monday that both Indonesian and Timor Leste's governments could not stop any individual's effort from filing reports with the courts.
"Political statement of both governments doesn't implicate on victims' efforts in seeking justice," the commission's deputy chairman M. Ridha Saleh said here.
The governments of Indonesia and Timor Leste agreed last week that both parties would not take legal actions against the alleged perpetrators of the atrocities.
The statement followed their acceptance of a report by the Indonesia and Timor-Leste Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF), which concluded pro-Jakarta militia groups, the Indonesian Military (TNI), the Indonesian government and the Indonesian Police were responsible for the gross rights violations, which included murders, rapes, torture, illegal detentions and forcible deportation of civilians.
In the report, the CTF recommended that the Indonesian and Timor Leste governments make "official acknowledgement through expression of regret and apology for the suffering caused by the violence in 1999 and firm commitment to take all necessary measures to prevent the reoccurrence of such events and to heal the wounds of the past".
Ridha said the right body supported any individual effort to take the crimes against humanity to the international court of justice, which will require a UN Security Council's resolution.
"The CTF report confirmed our previous investigation which concluded the existence of gross human rights abuses in Timor Leste," he said.
He added that based on the CTF findings, the Attorney General's Office could reopen investigation into the case.
The ad hoc human rights court tried 18 military and civilian officials for the East Timor mayhem, but eventually they were all acquitted.
A coalition of rights groups under the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) threw its weight behind the right commission, saying punishment could be sought against perpetrators as the CTF report did not grant amnesty to actors implicated in the report.
HRWG coordinator Rafendi Djamin suggested establishment of a hybrid court, an internationalized national court consisting local and foreign prosecutors and judges, to hear the East Timor violence.
"A hybrid court is the best alternative for victims so far, as it consists both national and international parties, making it fair and impartial," Rafendi said.
Executive director of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) Agung Putri added the CTF report was merely a political document without any legal consequences, but it could serve as a reference for legal actions.
The House of Representatives, however, previously had shown refusal to bring back the tragedy to court, citing the government's decision to close the case.
The Jakarta Post Tuesday, July 22, 2008
CTF report: Burying some inconvenient truth
Aboeprijadi Santoso, Jakarta
The final report of the Indonesia-Timor Leste Truth and Friendship Commission (CTF), titled Per Memoriam ad Spem (Through memory toward hope) is a political document of compromise rather than a complete and verified factual report on what, when and why violence occurred in connection with the August 1999 popular consultation in East Timor.
Indeed, it has been intended as such from the very inception of the CTF. Its aim is to bury not just the 1999 issue but the whole tragedy of the East Timor conflict.
These two nations were involved in one of the thorniest and bloodiest conflicts in Asia. It was resolved through a United Nations agreement and plebiscite in 1999 which resulted in establishing Timor Leste as an independent state. But the plebiscite ended badly. The ensuing mayhem has plagued the two countries in recent years.
Once these neighboring states were forced to address the issue of truth and justice concerning their common past, they unfortunately chose to jointly ignore the greater part of a quarter century of conflict which began with aggression (1974). continued with invasion (1975) and escalated to war and, on an even greater scale, to crimes against humanity with the bloody Matebian encirclement (1975-1978) and other atrocities.
Instead the CTF, constituted in 2005 and consisting of experts from the two states, focused on the violence in the run up to the plebiscite and thereafter.
Now, with the conflict resolved and the long-awaited CTF report focusing exclusively on the 1999 mayhem and thus politically constrained by its terms of reference, probably neither will the victims' families ever receive recognition nor will the full truth of the whole conflict ever be established.
The commission said they recognized the important influence of pre-1999 events on the period they investigated. They claimed to have considered the four key documents related to justice efforts and processes: Indonesia's human rights commission preliminary investigation, KPP-HAM; Indonesia's ad hoc human rights tribunal; The UN-sponsored Timor Leste Serious Crimes Unit investigation; and Timor Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation report.
But since they chose to resolve only the concluding episode of violence from April to September 1999 -- a period which consumed so much domestic and international attention that the two states could not avoid addressing it -- the CTF thus becomes a most pragmatic method to deal politically with the easier part of the conflict.
In addition to this political choice, three basic premises shaped the terms of reference, leading the commission to find results that more or less satisfy both sides instead of the full truth. The two governments have prescribed the commission, first, to seek a consensus without voting, second, to identify not individuals but institutions responsible for the violence and, third, not to ask for prosecutorial justice.
The implication is those responsible for the violence are not to be prosecuted. This is tantamount to perpetuating impunity; the UN has lodged its protest by refusing to attend CTF hearings.
The CTF final report, therefore, is a political discourse framed by the two states to bury the shame and human tragedy once and for all in order to foster friendship between states -- leaving several truths -- most of the conflict's tragic history ignored, hundreds of thousands of victims' families left unrecognized, and the questions of justice and reparation cast into limbo.
However, Indonesia was not only found guilty for the 1999 violence that took about 1,400 lives but they accepted the report. This fact should be appreciated.
Strangely, though, the commission referred to the reforms that engulfed Indonesia after 1998 to explain the mayhem. The killings, rapes and scorched earth policy in East Timor were ascribed to vast changes toward law enforcement and respects for human rights.
Evidence suggests that the police, then under the authority of the military, were in a state of disarray. By contrast, far from being confused, the military had a clear plan and developed a network of intelligence and political support. As the commission confirmed, they indeed sponsored, financed, trained and armed local civilian groups called "pro-autonomy militias". In fact, some of these groups had been set up was early as the 1970s in other guises.
The argument the violence may have been triggered by confusion stemming from he democratic transition in Jakarta is unconvincing. Some of the violence and destruction directed at former Indonesian properties resembled retaliatory violence exercised not only in Timor Leste but in Aceh and elsewhere after the national political reforms introduced human rights imperatives.
To say, moreover, that the mayhem might have been a consequence of a transitional power vacuum is to deny the very responsibility for conducting a peaceful public consultation which Jakarta insisted it would take on in the Indonesia-Portugal Agreement of May 1999.
Indeed, as the CTF report points out, the military has yet to offer a coherent explanation for the existence and role of the militias accused of being the primary perpetrators of the violence.
While Gen. Adam Damiri explained that these militias were not part of any lawful armed civilian groups, Gen. Zacky Anwar Makarim argued almost the contrary: the militias were indeed an unlawful project planned to keep East Timor on board.
The CTF report needs to be viewed as a way to get past this issue and refocus on pushing for reform of Indonesia's military.
For Timor Leste, however, the CTF recommendations may be more significant as that country, flanked by such a giant neighbor, needs greater assurance for its survival and long-term stability. It's a geopolitically awkward predicament, a bit similar to Finland during the Cold War which had to maintain strict neutrality vis-…-vis the neighboring Soviet Union.
Hence, the CTF report is basically a geopolitically constrained document that tells its readers a story of mayhem which ends somehow happily for the sake of friendship between the two states.
But, given the report ignores the greater tragedy perpetrated during the pre-1999 period of conflict, it's certainly an unhappy story to the many in Timor Leste victimized during the conflict.
Alas, to them, the two heads of states who received the CTF report, said nothing. And to the 1999 victims and victims' families, they only offered "deep regret". No mea culpa. No apology.
The writer is a journalist who covered the 1999 East Timor mayhem for Radio Netherlands.
The Jakarta Post Tuesday, July 22, 2008
East Timor: 'An unfortunate chapter?'
Eko Waluyo, Sydney
At the handover of a report by the joint Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) in Bali, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono accepted the report and expressed deep regret for the role the Indonesian military played in systematic human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999. He did not, however, follow up his expression with the intention of making a formal apology to the victims.
He talked about "an unfortunate chapter of our shared past". As a consequence of his statement, he has created a new chapter in the culture of impunity, which has been a part of Indonesian history since Soeharto's rise to power in the 1960s.
From the beginning, some human rights bodies thought the establishment of the CTF by both governments was suspicious. They thought it questionable that the human rights atrocities in Timor Leste could be settled by diplomatic means rather through legal processes. The role of the CTF is non-judicial.
However, the report found that Indonesian state institutions were directly behind the atrocities. This conclusion counters former Australian prime minister John Howard's argument, which he presented the Australian public at the time, that rough elements within the TNI were behind Timor Leste atrocities.
The report also sends a message to the Jakarta ruling political elites that their political view on East Timor, that Soeharto created political dogma by using the security approach, nationalism and chauvinism to create national unity, is already bankrupt.
Justice for Timor Leste must be parallel to eradicating the culture of impunity in Indonesia. Meanwhile, there is a long list of impunities from the holocaust of 1965, conflict in Aceh, human rights abuses in West Papua and other abuses that needs to be address.
The report by the CTF is a critical step toward opening the Pandora's Box that contains these cases of impunity. The report, as a result, could create a strong foundation for democratic principles in Indonesia.
The genuine relationship between Indonesia and Timor Leste can only be based on that principle. It is an opportune time for Jakarta to continue the judicial process to try the perpetrators on the basis of the evidence provided in the report.
In addition, recommendations enclosed in the report -- to create a commission for people made to disappear, to rehabilitate and improve human dignity, to give amnesty with certain conditions and to establish a center of documentation and conflict resolution -- are critical to create peace and stability.
Although Yudhoyono has accepted the recommendations from CTF, his statement can only be interpreted as empty words to please the world. The role of the international community, particularly the Labor government in Canberra, should be to encourage Yudhoyono's government to fully implement the recommendations and follow up the report.
Meanwhile, Canberra's reaction to the CTF report was cautious. In an interview with ABC Radio on July 12, Australia's Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said that his government wanted to look forward, not backward, toward peace and stability in Timor Leste and its long-term relationship with Indonesia.
Learning from history is critical to looking forward. Has Canberra examined their foreign policy to see whether to engage in security cooperation with Jakarta? Great mistakes have been made in Timor Leste. Repeating the same mistakes should be avoided.
The report also emphasized that to avoid such atrocities in the future, Indonesia needs to genuinely implement security sector reform according to democratic principles.
Reform toward a transparent and accountable security sector is only at the beginning rather than being finalized. Empowering security sector reform within Indonesian security institutions not only benefits the maturation of the Indonesian democracy, it can also create the maturation of international relationships with Indonesia.
The current Australian government's position to create a healthy relationship with Indonesians needs to be proven by addressing obstacles to the democratic process in Indonesia, including the legal impunity of high officials. The participation of Kevin Rudd's administration to address impunity in Indonesia through the justice principle will be accepted by many Indonesian as a great achievement to create a healthy relationship.
By contrast, Canberra's unwillingness to participate in eradicating impunity in Indonesia is only creating a political soap-operatic relationship with Jakarta ruling elites. Canberra's aid excludes the justice issue (truth and reconciliation) in Aceh. This has created great concern.
The removal of the Howard government from office in Canberra and the strong support behind Democrat presidential candidate Obama are signals that the political ideology about the benefit of global markets and the neglect of social justice, is not the solution to create peace and stability today.
This message is also echoed within Indonesian social and political life. The reports says former armed forces commander Wiranto and former Army Special Forces (Kopassus) and Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) chief Prabowo Subianto were perpetrators of the atrocities toward Timor Leste.
Wiranto and Subianto are currently running for presidential election. In the Indonesian media, they promote themselves as the saviors of the nation. But current polling shows their support is less than 5 percent, indicating Indonesians widely reject the old Soeharto ideology.
The cold war era is over, so too is the Indonesian occupation of Timor Leste under the West's blessing. The world should start a new chapter and support those in Indonesia and Timor Leste seeking justice for the millions of human rights victims in both countries.
After all, human rights, social justice and democracy have become the global standards worldwide today.
The writer is the program coordinator for Indonesian Solidarity, a non-profit organization that supports human rights in Indonesia. Indonesian Solidarity is based in Sydney, Australia.