BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home    March news

"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.

TO: Members of the United Nations Commission on Human RiGHTS

FROM: East Timor Action Network/U.S.

SUBJECT: Recommendations for UN Commission on Human Rights

DATE: March 10, 2001

Below is the East Timor Action Network’s (ETAN) commentary on developments since the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) adopted a Chairman’s Statement on East Timor at its 56th session April 25, 2000, followed by ETAN’s recommendations for the 57th session with regards to East Timor and Indonesia.


Excerpts from Chairman’s Statement on East Timor and developments since then:

Ø       “The Commission welcomed the general progress made and some concrete steps already taken by the Indonesian Government to investigate fully violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and to bring those responsible to justice.”

Virtually no progress has been made by the Indonesian government since last year’s session to bring those responsible for atrocities in East Timor to justice. On the contrary, since that time, the following has happened:

§       In August 2000, the Indonesian parliament enacted a constitutional amendment prohibiting retroactivity in prosecutions and limiting culpability for command responsibility for past crimes against humanity.

§       The military faction of the Indonesian parliament not only played a critical role in ensuring the passage of the constitutional amendment above, but was also able to guarantee 38 parliamentary seats for itself until 2009, giving it a strong say in any attempt to establish via legislation an ad hoc court to try past crimes.

§       To date, no Indonesian military (TNI) personnel have been indicted, much less prosecuted, by Indonesia for atrocities committed in East Timor, although there is extensive documentation of direct criminal involvement by TNI officers in 1999 and throughout the 24 years of illegal Indonesian occupation of East Timor. In January 2000, the Indonesian Human Rights Commission (KPP-HAM) named six generals and at least twelve other TNI officers culpable for crimes in East Timor in 1999. At that time, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman promised that within his office would decide whether to file charges against military, militia, and political leaders named in its report within three to six months. Thirteen months later, no charges have been filed against Indonesian officers.

§       The very few court cases brought thus far by Jakarta against East Timorese militia leaders deal only with crimes committed in West Timor during 2000, ignoring pre- and post-referendum violence.

§       The Attorney General has named only 22 suspects in his East Timor investigations, none of whom rank higher than a two-star general, and none have been indicted.

§       Many TNI officers responsible for crimes against humanity in East Timor retain positions of prestige and power, able to continue to wage terror campaigns against the people of Aceh, Papua, Maluku, and other areas of Indonesia.

Ø       “The Commission took note of the agreement between UNTAET and the Indonesian authorities to exchange information relevant to investigations, prosecutions and trials and welcomed the signature by the Government of Indonesia and UNTAET of a Memorandum of Understanding envisaging mutual cooperation in legal, judicial and human rights related matters, with the aim to promote reconciliation and to ensure future social and political stability.”

Since the 56th session, the Indonesian government has refused to honor all extradition requests made by UNTAET. Only a handful of requests have been made, and the longest-standing was not for an Indonesian official but for East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres, who was recently moved from jail to house arrest in Jakarta. Moreover, UN investigators who traveled to Jakarta in December 2000 to question Indonesian suspects and witnesses were not permitted to do so despite the Memorandum of Understanding mentioned above. Although UNTAET investigators have shared information with their Indonesian counterparts, reciprocity does not occur.

The chief of Indonesia’s armed forces, Admiral Widodo, publicly refuses to cooperate with any UN investigations and the parliament supports this position. It should also be noted that very few, if any, East Timorese would be willing to travel to Indonesia to testify in trials due to genuine concerns for their own safety and the lack of a functioning witness protection program in Indonesia.

Ø       “The Commission fully supported the Secretary-General’s intention to strengthen the capacity of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), in accordance with the latter’s mandate, to conduct forensic investigations and to provide assistance to ongoing procedures.”

East Timor’s justice system remains severely under-resourced. UNTAET investigations and prosecutions are fraught with procedural and other problems, including a lack of competence and professionalism. Cultural insensitivity and arrogance on the part of international UNTAET personnel are ubiquitous. A UN Security Council delegation which visited East Timor last November noted the under-resourced state of the justice system, the “devastation” of East Timor’s infrastructure, the lack of development progress outside of Dili, and “the small amounts so far expended on reconstruction.”

Ø       “The Commission urged a rapid solution of the East Timorese refugees problem in West Timor. The Commission took note of the decision by the Government of Indonesia to set a deadline and to take all necessary measures for the refugees to express freely their choice. The Commission noted the positive steps taken by the Government of Indonesia to enhance the security and the safety in refugee camps… However, the Commission remained concerned at various obstacles, including intimidation and misinformation by remaining militias in refugee camps, which hampered the safe and voluntary return of refugees to East Timor. The Commission asked the Government of Indonesia and the international community to continue to provide relief assistance to the refugees.”

The refugee crisis has worsened since the 56th session. The September 6, 2000 rampage in which militia brutally murdered three international United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) workers, the worst attack ever on the UNHCR, occurred while Indonesian police and military stood by and did nothing to stop the violence.  Since the killings, there has been virtually no international presence in the refugee camps, where up to 100,000 East Timorese remain more than fifteen months after they were forced from their homeland. Armed militia continue to patrol the refugee camps, and half-hearted efforts by Indonesian authorities to disarm them have been completely ineffective; many believe these efforts to be an empty gesture to pacify the international community. The UN Security Council delegation to West Timor found continued intimidation and misinformation by the militias. It called the conditions of the refugees in the “dilapidated” camps “truly depressing.”


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. In fact, as noted above, there has been a turning away from the rule of law in Indonesia, as the power and influence of the military in Indonesia has increased over the last year.  Consequently, ETAN encourages the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) and its member states to carefully and fully consider the following:

1.      International Tribunal for Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes in East Timor - The UNCHR should call for the establishment of an international tribunal to try crimes against humanity committed in East Timor, following up on previous public statements by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and High Commissioner Mary Robinson, as well as the recommendation of the report of the UN International Commission of Inquiry. The demonstrated inability of both Indonesian and East Timorese judicial systems to bring Indonesian military and political personnel and militia leaders to justice should be clearly decried, and the defiant lack of cooperation of the TNI and Indonesian parliament with UN investigations strongly condemned. If the international community chooses to continue to wait for Indonesia to prosecute, the UNCHR should set clear deadlines and standards. Failure to meet these criteria would then trigger steps to set up an international tribunal. Any tribunal should be charged to investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975 to the end of 1999.

2.      East Timorese Refugees in West Timor - The UNCHR should call for renewed international efforts to resolve the refugee crisis. It should publicly note the threat to East Timor’s peace, security, and integrity caused by the operation of armed militias with impunity in West Timor, as well as the ongoing humanitarian crisis. The UNCHR must insist on verifiable disarmament and dissolution of all militias. Militia leaders must be arrested and extradited to East Timor or to an international court for trial. Indonesia must guarantee the safety of international and local humanitarian workers in West Timor, ensuring they have unimpeded access to refugees and can supervise in an environment free of fear and intimidation to enable each refugee to choose whether to return to East Timor or settle in Indonesia.

3.      UNTAET’s Performance - The UNCHR should review UNTAET’s activities in East Timor with an eye toward human rights, noting positive developments but also encouraging the United Nations to redress problems and allegations of cultural insensitivity and arrogance among international staff; the need for better training, more resources and simplification of bureaucratic procedures; and inadequate communication with and delegation of authority to the East Timorese people. UNTAET should seek ways to work with the people of East Timor to redress these problems and provide additional resources and better management for East Timor’s investigatory and judicial system.

4.      Indonesian Security Forces - The UNCHR should condemn ongoing severe human rights violations against civilians by Indonesian security forces throughout the archipelago, especially in Aceh, West Papua, and Maluku, sending Special Rapporteurs to investigate the extent of arbitrary execution, arrest and torture in those and other regions. The UNHRC should support genuine subordination of the Indonesian military to the civilian government. The increase in power of the military since last year’s session should be noted, as well the continued impunity enjoyed by the military, both of which directly affect East Timor’s future security. The UNCHR should call on Indonesia to reduce excessive military deployments in Aceh, West Papua, and Maluku and for complete withdrawal of inorganic troops from these areas; dissolution of the territorial command structure; break-up of military control of the economic sector; and the release of political prisoners.

5.      UN Member States’ Culpability—Member states should examine their own culpability in the 24-year Indonesian military occupation of East Timor, including their role, if any, in actively arming and training Indonesia’s military and failure to work for implementation of relevant Security Council, General Assembly and UNCHR resolutions. The UNCHR should encourage nations with information relevant to war crimes and crimes against humanity in East Timor to make it available to East Timorese and international investigations.

East Timor Action Network/U.S.
P.O. Box 1182, White Plains, New York 10602 USA
Telephone:1-914-428-7299; fax:1-914-428-7383

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.
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East Timor info on the ETAN site is added daily.
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