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New Indictment of Indonesian Officials for Crimes

Praises New Indictment of Indonesian Officials for Crimes in E Timor

Media Release

Rights Group Praises New Indictment of Indonesian Officials

Calls on International Community to Strongly Support Joint UN/East Timor Serious Crimes Court

Contact: John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668, +1-917-690-4391

For Immediate Release

April 9, 2003 - Following yesterday's indictment of Indonesian military and police officials, the East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) today urged the United States and United Nations to fully support the prosecution of Indonesian officials accused of committing crimes against humanity in East Timor by the joint UN/East Timor Serious Crimes Unit.

"We urge the U.S. and the UN to actively pursue the extradition and prosecution of all those indicted by the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) currently residing in Indonesia. The Bush administration must use all diplomatic resources at its disposal to ensure Indonesian authorities honor the indictments issued and comply with extradition requests," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "There must be concrete repercussions for Indonesia's complete failure to cooperate with the SCU."

"The serious nature of the crimes committed, the inability of the new nation of East Timor to seek justice on its own, and the extreme violence aimed at a UN Security Council-mandated mission all necessitate international involvement," added Miller.

Indonesia has publicly refused to extradite anyone to East Timor for trial. Of the 227 suspects previously indicted by the SCU, nearly two-thirds reside in Indonesia.

In an effort to avoid an international court process, Indonesia established its own ad hoc court on East Timor, considered a sham by nearly all observers. The Indonesian court is expected to announce its last verdicts this month. So far, the court has acquitted 11 of 14 Indonesian defendants before it.

The SCU indictment accuses 16 persons, including nine Indonesian military (TNI) officers and the former Indonesian District Chief of Police, of crimes against humanity committed against the civilian population of Covalima district in 1999. Among incidents involved is the notorious September 1999 massacre at the Suai church, where scores of women, men, and children were killed, including three priests.

"East Timorese officials have expressed concern about the impact of the SCU indictments on relations with Indonesia, but East Timor's civil society has repeatedly called the pursuit of justice fundamental for stability and stated that the East Timorese people are crying out for justice," said Miller.

East Timor's National Alliance for an International Tribunal, praising February's indictment of the former head of the Indonesian military General Wiranto and other high-ranking officials, wrote to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio de Mello, "East Timorese victims have complained that [earlier SCU] indictments only charged lower-ranking Indonesian military and police personnel as well as militia members, but failed to address the primary perpetrators. The people of East Timor, who since 1975 have lived under Indonesian military occupation… are well aware that the violence in 1999 was part of an ongoing systematic and planned use of violence against our people."

"The U.S. and UN must ensure that the SCU and its courts have sufficient resources to finish investigations and conduct effective trials," added Miller. "The current May 2004 deadline for the SCU must be extended by the Security Council. Otherwise, justice will become just one more broken international promise to the people of East Timor."

"UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council must further establish an international tribunal to investigate and try war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed throughout the illegal Indonesian occupation of East Timor, from 1975 to 1999."

Background

The April 8 indictment charges eight TNI District and Sub-District Commanders, the former Indonesian District Civilian Administrator (also a TNI Officer), the former Indonesian District Chief of Police and six East Timorese TNI soldiers with 31 counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, enforced disappearance, torture, deportation and persecution committed against the civilian population of Covalima district between 27 January 1999 and 25 October 1999.

The indictment includes the September 6 massacre of refugees who sought refuge inside the Suai Church compound. Last August, the ad hoc court in Jakarta found five of those named in the SCU indictment not guilty of the church massacre.

The SCU has now issued a total of 59 indictments against 243 persons. Most of those indicted remain at large, likely in Indonesia.

The United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) established the SCU under authority granted by UN Security Council Resolution 1272 (25 October 1999) to set up a system to administer justice in East Timor. The SCU has focused on investigating serious crimes that took place during 1999 and prosecuting those responsible. The UN also created a hybrid international-East Timorese Special Panel of the Dili District Court to hear serious crimes cases.

East Timor gained independence in May 2002, but the UN retained authority to investigate and prosecute serious crimes committed through 1999 in the post-independence UN support mission UNMISET through Security Council Resolution 1410.

Indonesia's ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor has acquitted 11 of 14 Indonesian defendants tried thus far, in addition to two convictions for the only East Timorese on trial. The five sentences handed down were not commensurate with the crimes committed; four defendants received less than the legal minimum under Indonesian law. All remain free pending appeal. Few of the top architects of the terror in East Timor were even named as suspects, much less brought to trial. Other serious shortcomings of the Indonesian court include an extremely unprofessional courtroom environment packed with high-ranking military and militia; inadequate witness protection; and a prosecution that has presented weak and inaccurate indictments and arguments, painted a false picture of the conflict in 1999, and failed to present the overwhelming amount of evidence available.

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, economic justice and human rights, including women's rights. Additional background can be found at http://www.etan.org/et2003/april/default.htm#Serious Crimes.

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John M. Miller Internet: john@etan.org

Media & Outreach Coordinator East Timor Action Network: 12 Years for Self-Determination & Justice

48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097 Mobile phone: (917)690-4391 Web site: http://www.etan.org

Support ETAN, make a secure financial contribution: http://etan.org/etan/donate.htm

Send a blank e-mail message to info@etan.org to find out how to learn more about East Timor on the Internet
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