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Indonesian General To Go On Trial

Indonesian General To Go On Trial For Role In East Timor Rights Abuses
East Timorese Plaintiffs Travel to U.S. to Testify
Hearing to Assess Damages Against General Lumintang

Contact: John M. Miller, (917)690-4391, john@etan.org Jennie Green, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), (212)614-6434, (347)489-0370 Joshua Sondheimer, Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), 415-544-0444 x303 jsondheimer@hotmail.com

Next week a U.S. court in Washington, DC, will hear evidence that Indonesian General Johny Lumintang is responsible for gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor. Judge Alan Kay will preside over the hearing from Tuesday, March 27 to Thursday, March 29 in courtroom 5 at the U.S. Federal Courthouse (3rd and Constitution Ave., NW). Court is in session from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

The proceeding will determine the amount of compensatory and punitive damages to be assessed against Lumintang, who is not expected to attend.

"Lawsuits like this one can help insure that those responsible for 1999's devastation of East Timor are called to account, while putting future rights abusers on notice," said John M. Miller of the East Timor Action Network, which is supporting the suit. "While no substitute for an international tribunal, all available means must be used to bring justice for East Timor."

In 1999, Lumintang was the vice chief of staff of the Indonesian army. Following the August 30, 1999 UN-organized referendum, the Indonesian military systematically destroyed East Timor, murdering at least 1500 East Timorese and destroying 70-80 percent of the infrastructure. Hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes.

Plaintiffs who have travelled to Washington to testify in the proceedings include Aniceto das Neves, head of the advocacy division of Yayasan Hak, an East Timorese human rights organization, and a victim of Indonesian military violence. His father was injured and brother killed in post-election attacks. Two other East Timorese (who wish to remain anonymous) targeted by the Indonesian military in September 1999, during the "scorched earth" campaign following the overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia will also testify: a mother whose son was shot and killed, and a man who lost a foot after he was shot by an Indonesian soldier.

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 to be in default. Next week's hearing will determine the amount of damages for the plaintiffs and the amount to be assessed against Lumintang in punitive damages.

Lt. Gen. Lumintang currently serves as secretary general of the Ministry of Defense.

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 anyone, citizen or not, to sue for acts committed outside the United States "in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." The 1992 Torture Victim Protection Act restates the 1789 law and applies it to torture victims. Lawsuits can only go forward if the defendant is served legal papers while in the U.S.

Counsel for the case are the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Center for Justice and Accountability and the law firm of Patton, Boggs.

For more information about the Lumintang and Panjaitan cases, see http://www.etan.org/news/2000a/11suit.htm.

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. founded following the November 1991 massacre supports a genuine and peaceful transition to an independent East Timor. ETAN has 27 local chapters throughout the U.S.


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