BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home    March news

"The East Timorese have been seeking to hold accountable those responsible for the great suffering inflicted upon them by Indonesia’s invasion and occupation of their country. They are especially concerned that, barring the creation of an international tribunal, the Indonesian military leaders who gave the orders will escape justice. The lawsuit and hearing provide a forum for the East Timorese to tell their stories and to have a court officially acknowledge and rule on one of those responsible." John Miller, East Timor Action Network (ETAN)

Below: John Miller of the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) provides more information on the hearing.
Also below: Mar 28 AFP: Timor activist’s emotional testimony in US trial of Indonesian general
from: About Human Rights
From Kevin Reid, your Guide to Human Rights

March 26, 2001

US Court Goes After Architect of East Timor Terror

Several pro-independence East Timorese are suing an Indonesian General in the US under the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789. The Act allows any person in the world to sue for acts committed outside the US “in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

This week a U.S. court in Washington, DC, will hear evidence demonstrating 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 at the U.S. Federal Courthouse.

Below, John Miller of the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) provides more information on the hearing.

Who is General Johny Lumintang? Why is he on trial?

In 1999, during period when United Nations organized East Timor’s vote on its political status, General Lumintang was the vice chief of staff of the Indonesian army. As a commander of the Indonesian army he bears responsibility for the campaign of terror that was instituted during and after the vote. In addition, his signature is on two key documents: A telegram to the regional military head Major General Adam Damiri and other commanders just hours before the agreement to conduct the plebiscite was signed at the United Nations on May 5. The telegram ordered the commanders to plan a crackdown should the East Timorese vote in favor of independence.  This was to include “a plan to move to the rear/evacuate if the second option independence is chosen.” Soon after the vote, such a plan was put into action and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes.

The second document is a June 1999 army manual which states that Kopassus (special force) intelligence operatives were to be trained in propaganda, kidnapping, terror, agitation, sabotage, infiltration, undercover operations, wiretapping, photographic intelligence and psychological operations. Kopassus operatives were involved in the kidnapping of East Timorese independence activists prior to and after the independence vote.

Why is a US judge hearing this case? How is it possible?

The lawsuit is a civil action on behalf of several pro-independence East Timorese who suffered severe human rights abuses. They are suing under 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.  These laws provide a way to bring perpetrators of systematic human rights abuses and crimes against humanity into U.S. civil court.

These laws were used to successfully sue another Indonesian, General Panjaitan, for his role in the November 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor, as well as others from Central America, Bosnia, including Radovan Karadzic, and elsewhere.
These actions can only go forward if the defendant is served legal papers while in the U.S. Lumintang was handed the legal paper on the afternoon of March 30 after attending a series of meetings in Washington, DC.  He is in default, having lost the lawsuit when he failed to respond to the legal summons. This week’s hearing is to determine what damages he is required to pay.

Who will be testifying at the trial?

Testimony will come from three of the plaintiffs: A man whose brother had been tortured and executed by the Indonesian military,  and whose parent’s home was destroyed. Two other plaintiffs will also testify: A mother whose young son was killed and a man who was beaten and shot in the foot which had to be amputated. In addition, an expert on the Indonesian military will testify about Lumintang’s role. There will also be some video testimony by East Timorese unable to attend the hearing.

What do the plaintiffs hope to achieve?

The East Timorese have been seeking to hold accountable those responsible for the great suffering inflicted upon them by Indonesia’s invasion and occupation of their country. They are especially concerned that, barring the creation of an international tribunal, the Indonesian military leaders who gave the orders will escape justice. The lawsuit and hearing provide a forum for the East Timorese to tell their stories and to have a court officially acknowledge and rule on one of those responsible.

How closely is this trial being followed in East Timor?

We have heard that many in East Timor are eagerly following the progress of the legal action.

Isn’t there supposed to be an International Criminal Tribunal for East Timor? Does the US support the creation of a Tribunal? What about other countries?

At the end of January 2000, The UN International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor set up by the UN Commission of Human Rights reported that the campaign of terror in 1999 “would not have been possible without the active involvement of the Indonesian army, and the knowledge and approval of the top military command.”  The panel recommended that UN establish an international human rights tribunal, but no steps have been taken to set one up.

All sectors of East Timorese society are pressing for a trial as the only way to make sure that those in command are brought to justice.

The Clinton administration did raise the issue of a tribunal a number of  times last year, and Secretary of State Colin Powell recently said that he would study the issue. Most other nations have been silent on the issue or have urged that Indonesia first must be given a chance to prove that it can prosecute its own. While some steps have been taken, Indonesia has yet to indict much less try any Indonesian military leaders or East Timorese militia leaders for crimes committed in East Timor and huge obstacles remain to successful prosecution, and the international community has yet to set any deadlines.

East Timor Action Network U.S.
ETAN is a U.S. based activist group presenting a wide range of articles, news reports and press releases related to East Timor. ETAN/US also provides ways to help East Timor, which was invaded and subjugated by U.S. ally Indonesia in 1975. East Timor chose independence in August 1999 and was soon destroyed by the Indonesian military. It is now administered by the U.N.. ETAN advocates human rights accountability, return of refugees and democratic reconstruction of East Timor.
Email: &  Homepage:
East Timor info on the ETAN site is added daily.

Agence France Presse

March 28, 2001

Timor activist’s emotional testimony in US trial of Indonesian general
By Stephen Collinson


An activist from East Timor Tuesday tearfully told of his brother’s murder in violence which erupted after the territory voted for independence, as a US court opened a civil trial into a top Indonesian general’s alleged role in the carnage.

The US District Court in Washington is trying General Johny Lumintang in absentia. He is charged with presiding over gross human rights violations against East Timor’s people before and after they voted to leave  Indonesia  in August 1999.

Lumintang was vice chief of staff of the army at the time of the vote, which triggered a rampage by pro-Jakarta militias which launched massacres, forced tens of thousands from their homes and burnt the capital, Dili, and other major towns to the ground.
The crux of the case, brought by three East Timorese, lies in the claim that top Indonesian military officers planned and supervised the militia violence, which claimed an unknown number of lives.

The first witness, a political activist who’s name was witheld for his own safety, said his brother, also a pro-independence advocate, was murdered by militia members and his father was shot in an attempted execution.

He repeatedly dabbed his eyes as he recounted how he found out about his brother’s death when he returned to East Timor after fleeing to Bali.

Relatives told him how militiamen hunted down his brother, whose identity was also withheld from the court, shooting him in the legs and stabbing him, before finally cutting his throat, said the activist.

He described how his family had later gone in search of the body, buried by a river in a shallow grave.

“We found pieces of his body, fingers,” he told the presiding magistrate through an interpreter.

When the activist was asked by lawyers how much he missed his brother, he broke down, prompting the magistrate to halt the hearing for the day.

The case was brought under US legislation which allows American jurisdiction over acts of torture committed outside the country. A lawsuit can only proceed however if defendents are served with legal papers while in the United States.

Lumintang was presented with the civil suit during a visit to the United States in March 2000.

He did not answer the charges so was declared by the court to be in default
-- the case which opened on Tuesday centres on punitive damages to be levied against the general, who as expected did not appear in court and was not represented.

Testifying against the general, now secretary general of Indonesia’s ministry of defense, an expert on East Timor, a former Portuguese colony invaded by  Indonesia  in 1975, offered evidence linking the Indonesian military with the militia violence.

Professor Richard Tanter of Kyoto’s Seika University said Australian intelligence intercepts, Indonesian military documents and other evidence showed a campaign by top Indonesian generals to fan militia violence before and after the vote.

“It was clearly a campaign of terror,” he said.

The military’s first intention was to “derail the process of popular consultation” Tanter said, and when it became clear the vote would not go its way, was prepared to evict the population, forcing them to flee to Indonesian West Timor, he said.

Two other plantiffs, one who lost her activist husband in the violence, and one who lost a leg to a militia attack, are due to testify in the case which ends on Thursday.

Activists hope that the case will renew pressure to bring those suspected of human rights violations in Indonesia to trial.

“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 Miller of the East Timor Action Network.

More articles on crimes accountability:

Mar 26 About HR: US Court Goes After Architect of ETimor Terror  News with background
"The East Timorese have been seeking to hold accountable those responsible for the great suffering inflicted upon them by Indonesia’s invasion and occupation of their country. They are especially concerned that, barring the creation of an international tribunal, the Indonesian military leaders who gave the orders will escape justice. The lawsuit and hearing provide a forum for the East Timorese to tell their stories and to have a court officially acknowledge and rule on one of those responsible." John Miller, East Timor Action Network (ETAN)

Mar 19 Watch Indonesia: German MP demands stronger commitment for Human Rights  Release
"At the 56th UNCHR a one year deadline has been set for the Indonesian Government to accuse all those human right violators. Since then nothing has happened and the time limit has been exceeded. Because of that there is no other alternative but to establish an international ad-hoc court as soon as possible." Mrs. Leutheuser-Schnarrenberger, Committee for Human Rights and humanitarian aid of the German Parliament (Bundestag)

Mar 14 Japan: NGO Joint Petition on UNCHR 57th session  Petition
"The Japanese government should also call for clarification, as part of any investigation into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in East Timor, of the responsibility borne by countries which provided financial assistance, weapons and diplomatic support to the Indonesian government and military, and were therefore indirectly involved in the massive human rights abuses perpetrated in East Timor." NGO Joint Petition on UNCHR 57th session

Mar 10 ETAN: Memo to UN Commission on H. Rights  Memo
"At last year’s Human Rights Commission session, Indonesia’s representative Susanto Sutoyo expressed confidence that his government’s internal processes would satisfy the requirements of the international community. U.S. representative Micheal Dennis stated the U.S. sincerely hoped that at the next session of the Commission, it would be able to note further progress by Indonesia in bringing those responsible for human rights violations in East Timor to justice. Unfortunately, such progress has not occurred." East Timor Action Network/U.S.

Mar 5 AFP: Horta calls for UN tribunal in East Timor  News
"If Indonesia proves incapable of bringing the culprits to justice, we believe the UN Security Council will have no alternative but to create an ad-hoc tribunal for East Timor ... There can be no reconciliation without justice, we cannot declare an amnesty" Jose Ramos Horta, Foreign minister in East Timor's transitional government

Feb 28 TP: Human Rights Cases: UN Must Give Indonesia A Timeframe  News
“Let me be straight. Though I value Serio de Mello’s efforts in Jakarta, I still think in order to be effective the UN must give Indonesia a deadline to deal with the [crimes against humanity] cases,” Aderito de Jesus, Director, Sahe Institute of Liberation

Feb 14 SMH: UN credibility at risk over war crimes, says Horta  News
"If Indonesia fails to deliver justice then I don't see how the Security Council can get away from creating a war crimes tribunal for East Timor. ... I am confident a war crimes tribunal remains a strong option.'' Jose Ramos Horta, cabinet member for foreign affairs, UN-chaired East Timor Transitional Administration (ETTA)

Feb 5 JP: James Dunn interview on perpetrators of war crimes in Timor  Interview
"As long as no one is made accountable for war crimes in Timor, the blame will continue to be placed on Indonesia" James Dunn, expert on crimes against humanity, UNTAET

Feb 2 ICG: Indonesia: Impunity vs. Accountability For Gross Human Rights Violations  Report
"The international community has a particular obligation to ensure accountability for Indonesian perpetrators of serious crimes committed in East Timor in 1999. It has a more general concern for accountability because of its stake in democratisation and stability in an important country. This requires a higher degree of international engagement in Indonesian processes than might otherwise be normal or tolerable." International Crisis Group (Brussels)

Feb 1 ETAN/U.S.: East Timor Still Awaits Justice A Year After UN Call for International Tribunal  Release
"We are deeply disturbed that a year has passed since both [crimes tribunal] inquiries and no steps have been taken to address these severe human rights abuses with an international tribunal and no one has been prosecuted in Indonesia," John M. Miller, East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN)

Jan 31 TAPOL: East Timor - Crimes against humanity must not go unpunished  Release
"Speedy justice and the ending of impunity are essential for peace and reconciliation in East Timor and for democracy and stability in Indonesia," Paul Barber, TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign

Jan 30 CSM: Conviction in East Timor Falls Short of Calls for Justice  Article
"But no one in East Timor, thirsty for justice after a 24-year occupation, is satisfied with the result. "We reject this verdict," said Catalina Pereira, the victim's daughter, outside the courthouse. "So many men were slaughtered, and this is it?" The dissatisfaction of Ms. Pereira and thousands of other East Timorese illustrates how the effort to build a credible international justice system is faltering across the globe. A combination of weak political will, high costs, and poor coordination are hampering justice efforts from East Timor to the former Yugoslavia." Dan Murphy

Dec 13 2000 SMH: East Timor - Empty Justice  Editorial
"Indonesia is supposed to be bringing suspects to account for some of the worst human rights abuses, including the massacre of priests, women and children sheltering in a church in Suai and the murder of a Dutch journalist, Sander Thoenes. The former armed forces chief, General Wiranto, has been named by Jakarta as "morally responsible", but no charges have been laid or cases mounted. This leaves East Timorese prosecutors with a credible legal process but no significant suspects to try, and Indonesian prosecutors with all the big suspects but no credible process. Jakarta is not willing to extradite suspects to East Timor, and would have serious problems in protecting witnesses in any trial of senior military officers in Indonesia." Editorial, Sydney Morning Herald

Dec 6 2000 Times: Bishops call for international tribunal to try war crimes in East Timor  Letter
"In Indonesia efforts are being made to set up trials. But the conditions for them to be conducted according to international standards do not exist and are unlikely to in the near future. ... No healing process can start in the knowledge that perpetrators will go unpunished. Justice is vital to East Timor's future, and to the future of Indonesia, which is struggling to found a democratic state based on the rule of law." David Konstant, Bishop of Leeds, Chairman, Catholic Bishops' Conference Department of International Affairs & Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford

Dec 2 2000 CCET: Christian churches call for justice and peace in East Timor  Statement
"The fabric of East Timorese society has been torn and weakened by years of warfare waged by an occupying power. The result is a society which is in desperate need of justice, in order to build a lasting, and peaceful culture for the future based on democratic principles, human rights and national reconciliation. In order to give this a chance of success, the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the East Timorese militias and their instigators in the Indonesian national army (TNI) must be adequately prosecuted and the guilty brought to justice without further delay." Christian Consultation on East Timor (statement signed by 36 Christian organisations and churches)

Nov 29 2000 GLW: UN goes soft on militias  Article
"When asked about the security situation and the Indonesian government's steps to try those responsible for human rights abuses, Andjaba replied the government "has tried its best" and that "I don't think it is time now for an international criminal tribunal". Andjaba's comments echo those of UN representatives and Western governments throughout the year: in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, they are defending the Indonesian government's position that it alone should conduct investigations into the post-ballot violence in East Timor and bring those responsible to justice. It looks unlikely that those ultimately responsible, including former TNI head General Wiranto, will face trial. Or if they do it will be a long, drawn out process open to manipulation." Jon Land

Jun 21 2000 Y-HAK: Lopes: Rekonciliasaun Housi Lei Nia Roman  Article added Feb 23
"Principio katak rekonciliasaun tenke bazeia iha esforsu atu fo justisa ba sociedade, liu-liu ba mutun na’in sira (victima). ... Bazeia ba lia-los ne’e mak ita bele hateten katak procesu lei nian la’o. Procesu lei nian ne’e bele la’o iha tribunal (tribunal formal) no mos bele la’o tuir dalan ne’ebe la-os tribunal, hanesan mekanismo fukun (mekanisme adat). Substancia rua ne’e, justisa ho lia-los, bele hala’o hanesan no dala ida de’it, ho hanoin katak sira na’in rua tulun malu. Procesu lei nian bele mos hala’o uluk atu buka lia-los, no dala ruma ita hetan tiha ona lia-los, tuir mai ita lori problema ne’ebe iha ba tribunal." Aniceto Guterres Lopes, Direktor, Yayasan HAK

Jun 21 2000 Y-HAK: Lopes: Reconciliation from a Legal Perspective  Article added Feb 23
"It is a basic principle that we must base reconciliation on the effort to realize justice for the entire society, especially for the victims.  ... Given the spiritual injury experienced by society, the healing process must be gradual. This reconciliation is inevitably tied to the nature of the legal process. Only if there is justice can true reconciliation, or social healing, occur." Aniceto Guterres Lopes, Director, Yayasan HAK

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