etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer For Immediate Release 
October 4, 2001

East Timor Action Network Hails $66 Million Judgment in Rights Lawsuit Against Indonesian General 

Lumintang First Ranking Officer to Be Held Accountable for East Timor Post-Vote Violence

Contact: John M. Miller, (718)596-7668; (917)690-4391
Anthony DiCaprio, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), (212)614-6456 
Joshua Sondheimer
, Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), 415-544-0444 x303 

The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today hailed U.S. Federal Court Judge Alan Kay’s order holding Indonesian General Johny Lumintang liable for $66 million for his role in systematic human rights violations following East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence in 1999.

The six plaintiffs or their estates were granted $10 million each in punitive damages. Compensatory damages ranged from $750,000 to $1.75 million each.

"It has been established... that Lumintang has responsibility for the actions against plaintiffs and a larger pattern of gross human rights violations," wrote Judge Kay. "[H]e - along with other high-ranking members of the Indonesian military - planned, ordered, and instigated acts carried out by subordinates to terrorize and displace the East Timorese population ... and to destroy East Timor's infrastructure following the vote for independence."

Last March, Judge Kay presided over three days of hearings in Washington, DC, during which the court heard testimony of the plaintiffs and expert witnesses. The plaintiffs were victims of Indonesian military and militia violence. The decision was issued last month. (The text of the judge's findings can be found at

To date, the case against General Lumintang is the only one brought in any jurisdiction against a high-level Indonesian commander for the destruction following East Timor's August 30, 1999 UN-organized vote. General Lumintang chose not to defend himself in court.

"This judgment sends a strong message that the Indonesian military, police, and political leaders responsible for 1999's devastation of East Timor must be held accountable. Indonesia clearly lacks the will and East Timor the resources and access to defendants, to prosecute ranking officials responsible for these crimes against humanity,” said John M. Miller of ETAN, which supported the suit. “An international tribunal is essential to uphold international human rights standards and to end the impunity of the Indonesian military. While this judgment is no substitute for an international tribunal, at least one member of the Indonesian command has been brought to justice,” Miller added.

"The people of East Timor have been searching for justice for nearly three decades. The overwhelming violence that took place after August 30, 1999 vote affected nearly every person in East Timor. The United States is distinctly and unfortunately able to empathize with this profound suffering and it is appropriate that a U.S. court is the first in the world to find the defendant, along with other high-ranking members of the Indonesian military, responsible for the violence in East Timor," said Anthony DiCaprio of the Center for Constitutional Rights, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

"The tragic events of September 11 have reminded us all that attacks on innocent civilians are never justified," said Joshua Sondheimer of Center for Justice and Accountability, an attorney for the plaintiffs. "The court's ruling sends a message that if those responsible for grave human rights abuses against civilians want to enter the United States, they will be held accountable under U.S. law ."

In 1999, Lumintang, as vice chief of staff, was second in command of the Indonesian army. Following the August 30, 1999 UN-organized referendum, the Indonesian military and militia that operated with their support systematically destroyed East Timor, murdering at least 2000 East Timorese and destroying 70-80 percent of the infrastructure. Three-quarters of the population was forced from their homes.

In his ruling, Judge Kay cited the principle of command responsibility where "a commander may be criminally or civilly responsible for crimes committed by subordinates." He said that Lumintang is "both directly and indirectly responsible for human rights violations committed against" the plaintiffs. Evidence of direct involvement included his signature on certain key documents. He is also liable because as a member of the TNI high command he knew or should have known that subordinates were involved in systematic rights violations in East Timor and he failed to act to prevent or punish the violations.

Plaintiffs who traveled to Washington to testify in the proceedings included an East Timorese victim of Indonesian military and militia violence, whose brother was killed and father injured in post-election attacks. The father testified via videotape. Two other East Timorese targeted by the Indonesian military in September 1999 during the scorched earth campaign from Indonesia also testified: a mother whose son was killed, and a man who was shot by Indonesian soldiers and subsequently had his foot amputated.

The Megawati administration's recently amended decree establishing a special human rights court on East Timor in Indonesia falls far short of fully addressing the military's role in orchestrating the violence and devastation. It only covers April and September 1999 in three out of Timor's 13 districts. This excludes many atrocities that occurred outside of those time periods and locations, as well as the systematic coordination of the scorched-earth campaign by senior level security forces personnel as noted by both Indonesian and UN commissions of inquiry and, now, by Judge Kay.

“The lack of justice for the people of East Timor flies in the face of the recent emphasis on justice and rule-of-law expressed by both Presidents Bush and Megawati during the Indonesian president’s recent visit to the White House. Although the Indonesian military remains above the law, terrorizing and killing civilians throughout the archipelago, the Bush administration seeks to reward it with prestigious military assistance,” said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator for ETAN.

Lt. Gen. Lumintang is currently secretary general of the Ministry of Defense. He was trained by the U.S. under the Pentagon's IMET (International Military Education and Training) program and had been a past commander in East Timor.

In 1992, a judgment for $14 million was issued in a similar case against Indonesian General Sintong Panjaitan for his involvement in the Nov. 12, 1991 Santa Cruz massacre of over 270 East Timorese.

The Lumintang lawsuit, like the Panjaitan case, is based in part on the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 which allows non-citizens to sue for acts committed outside the United States "in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." The 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act reaffirms the 1789 law and gives U.S. courts jurisdiction over claims by citizens involving torture and extra-judicial killing occurring anywhere. Lawsuits can only go forward if the defendant is served legal papers while in the U.S.

Lumintang was personally served notice of the civil suit on March 30, 2000, while visiting the Washington, DC area. After he failed to answer the charges, including crimes against humanity, summary execution and torture, a judge declared Lumintang in default.

Counsel for the case are the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability and the Washington, DC law firm of Patton, Boggs.

For the text of Judge Kay's "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" and more information about the Lumintang and Panjaitan cases, see


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