The effect of the Presidential decree establishing the Indonesian court is that the perpetrators of the many crimes committed before the consultation, including two of the worst atrocities - at Liquica Church on 6 April 1999 when more than 50 were killed and at the house of independence leader Manuel Carrascalao in Dili on 17 April 1999 when at least 12 were killed—will go unpunished. Much of the evidence of the systematic nature of the violence will remain suppressed. Moreover, the Indonesian army’s organisation of militia forces in preparation for the popular consultation, which began in the early part of 1999, will not fall within the court’s remit.
Paul Barber of TAPOL says: “The Indonesian authorities have cynically misled the international community as to their true intentions and cannot be trusted. Indonesia is neither willing nor able to provide justice to the long-suffering victims of the appalling crimes committed by the Indonesian military and its militia proxies in East Timor. International justice must now take its course.”
TAPOL has persistently drawn attention to the political and legal obstacles in the way of meaningful trials in Indonesia and has long insisted that there is no alternative to an international tribunal. The international community’s decision to allow Indonesia the chance to try the perpetrators has clearly backfired.
Indonesia deliberately deceived the international community in its recent dealings with the UN Commission on Human Rights. A decision by the Indonesian Parliament in March to recommend the human rights court for East Timor was timed to pre-empt demands for an international tribunal at the current session of the Commission. This week’s Presidential decree was issued within days of Indonesia agreeing to a Commission Statement which committed it to ensure accountability for crimes committed in East Timor during the whole of 1999.
It is not unlikely that President Wahid agreed to restrict the remit of the court in order to curry favour with the Indonesian military at a time when his own political survival is under grave threat just days before impeachment proceedings against him are due to re-commence.
It has appeared for some time that the Indonesian system for bringing the perpetrators to justice has been designed to fail. Last August, Indonesia’s supreme legislative assembly passed a Constitutional amendment which incorporated the principle on non-retroactivity into Indonesian law and provided suspects with an absolute defence to charges relating to the East Timor violence. Recently, legal experts and diplomats have raised concern about the Attorney General’s failure to bring the cases to trial before a legal deadline.
Numerous atrocities were committed in East Timor following Indonesia’s illegal invasion in 1975. Military-backed violence intensified from January 1999 onwards when then President Habibie of Indonesia announced that the East Timorese people would be allowed to decide their future status. After the overwhelming vote in favour of independence on 30 August 1999, a wave of violence and destruction was unleashed by militia groups trained and supported by the Indonesia military. Many hundreds were killed and around 250,000 East Tmiorese were forcibly deported to Indonesian West Timor. Many of the crimes committed amounted to crimes against humanity in view of the systematic and planned nature of the violence.
A UN Commission of Inquiry found evidence
of “a pattern of serious violations of fundamental human rights” in relation
to the 1999 atrocities and recommended the establishment of an international
tribunal when it reported in January 2000. Similar findings were made by
Indonesia’s own inquiry into the violence. Indonesian Attorney General,
Marzuki Darusman has carried out investigations into five cases - including
the Liquica and Carrascalao massacres - and has repeatedly stated that
the 22 suspects he has named would be brought to trial. No indictments
have yet been issued. The top-ranking suspect - Major General Adam Damiri
- was recently appointed operations chief-of-staff of the Indonesian army
and is now responsible for controversial troop deployments to the violence-racked
Indonesian province of Aceh.
TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign Up-dated May 1
Defending victims of oppression in Indonesia and East Timor, 1973-2001
TAPOL - which means political prisoner in Indonesian - is a leading English language authority campaigning on the human rights situation in Indonesia and East Timor. Estab in 1973, TAPOL has depended on networking with organisations in Indonesia, with NGOs in the UK and with solidarity groups around the world.
TAPOL produces the bi-monthly TAPOL Bulletin; occasional reports and briefing papers and other publications. Australian subscribers to TAPOL Bulletin may pay in A$ to: TAPOL (Australia) PO Box 121, Clifton Hill, Vic 3068 Rates for Individuals A$45, Unwaged A$22, Institutions A$80
Email: email@example.com Homepage: http://www.gn.apc.org/tapol ET Webpage: http://www.gn.apc.org/tapol/easttimorlatest.htm
BD: Calls for International War Crimes Tribunal - A collection of recent reports, articles and news
BD: War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity - A collection of recent press releases, petitions, articles and news