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Where Is the Justice for East Timor and Indonesia

Where Is the Justice?

UN, U.S. Must Break the Silence on Crimes in East Timor Since Invasion

Impunity Encourages Violations in Indonesia; Uncertainty in East Timor

Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668

On the December 7 anniversary of Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) urged United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the U.S. government to forcefully act for justice for the people of East Timor.

"While standing in a churchyard in Liquica in 2000, site of one of the worst massacres in 1999 in East Timor, Annan called for 'justice to prevail over impunity,'" said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "It has been four months since Indonesia's sham ad-hoc court issued its final verdict, and still the Secretary-General remains silent about the next steps needed to fulfill his pledge of justice for the East Timorese. Justice delayed is clearly justice denied," he added.

"Justice delayed also translates into continuing human rights violations in Indonesia. Powerful rights violators can only be celebrating the UN's silence. Continued impunity no doubt emboldens generals and militia leaders alike."

"The next step should be to establish an international tribunal," continued Miller.

Last summer, the East Timor National Alliance for an International Tribunal wrote, "The reality is that Indonesia has not demonstrated its commitment to conduct prosecutions in Indonesia or to cooperate with the court in Timor Leste. The Alliance of Timor Leste therefore calls on the international community to establish an international tribunal in order that those responsible for the violations in Timor Leste will finally face justice."

"People in the U.S., East Timor, and Indonesia are mindful of the U.S. role in backing Indonesia's attack on this anniversary of the December 7 invasion and propping up the Suharto dictatorship for decades," said Miller. "The U.S. government must come clean on its role in the suffering of the East Timorese people and back a process of genuine justice. It should begin by releasing the documents requested by East Timor's truth commission, so they can fulfill their mandate to give a full accounting of the occupation."

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao recently expressed concerns about militia incursions from West Timor, especially when UN peacekeepers withdraw next spring. "If militia and military leaders did not enjoy impunity, this substantial threat to East Timor's peace and security would not exist," said Miller.

Many senior officials who directed crimes against humanity in East Timor remain active in Indonesia.


During its illegal occupation of the island nation from 1975 to 1999, the Indonesian military was responsible for the deaths of more than 200,000 people, one-third of the population. The U.S. supplied over $1 billion in weapons and training from the invasion through 1991 and more since.

After the East Timorese people voted for independence in 1999, the Indonesian military retaliated by killing more than 1300 people, raping hundreds and destroying most of the country's infrastructure. In the months following 1999's devastation, two UN bodies called for the establishment of an international tribunal. Instead, Indonesia promised to try its own and eventually established the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor. The court issued its final verdict on August 5. Of the 18 people tried, 12 were acquitted. All but one of those convicted received less than the legal minimum sentence, and all remain free pending appeal.

East Timorese leaders, stressing the need to establish good relations with their powerful neighbor, have repeatedly urged the international community to take the lead on issues of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio de Mello reported to the 59th session of the Human Rights Commission criticized "the limited geographical and temporal jurisdiction of the Court; the lack of experienced prosecutors and judges; the intimidating and, at times, hostile, courtroom treatment of Timorese witnesses by some judges, prosecutors and defense counsel; the causes and consequences of non-attendance of Timorese witnesses at the proceedings; and the lightness of the sentences imposed, which bear no reasonable relationship to the gravity of the offences committed." He added "the failure to put before the court evidence that portrays the killings and other human rights violations as part of a widespread or systematic pattern of violence seriously undermines the strength of the prosecution's case and jeopardizes the integrity and credibility of the trial process."

The joint UN-East Timor Serious Crimes Unit in Dili has indicted a number of high-ranking Indonesian officials, including General Wiranto, who was commander in chief of Indonesia's armed forces in 1999. 280 of the 367 persons indicted are outside East Timor, but Indonesia refuses to extradite anyone to East Timor.

General Wiranto and General Prabowo Subianto are considered credible candidates for president in the Indonesian election to be held next year. Prabowo served several tours in East Timor. From 1995-98 he was commander of Kopassus, the most notorious army unit. He is now reported to be working with East Timorese militia in West Timor.

A number of other senior military officials are active in Indonesia's martial law operation in Aceh, including Major General Adam Damiri, who was convicted by the ad hoc court. General Timbul Silaen was recently appointed police commander in Papua. Silaen was police commander in East Timor in 1999 during its independence ballot. He was acquitted by Indonesia's ad hoc court. East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres, sentenced to ten years in prison by the ad hoc court but free on appeal, is reported to be forming similar militia groups in Papua. Damiri, Guterres and Silaen are under indictment in the UN-East Timor Serious Crimes Unit.

see ETAN's Human Rights and Justice pages

John M. Miller Internet:

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:

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