It is nearly 17 months since the people of East Timor went to the polls in a UN-sponsored referendum and voted for independence. And of course it is also 17 months since the Indonesian army (TNI) launched its “Operation Final Cleansing”, which aimed to wipe our country from the face of the earth and very nearly succeeded.
Despite repeated promises, not one senior
member of the Indonesian military has been tried for their crimes, even
though an Indonesian government commission named senior military commanders
as being responsible for the violence of September 1999.
Bad and all as that is, that final round of violence came after the 24-year illegal military occupation by Indonesia which left many members of our families dead among the 200,000 people who lost their lives. Listening to Indonesian officials promise time and time again to hold trials that never materialise is not just depressing, it is deeply insulting.
It is time for the international community to tell Indonesia that it has had its chance and failed. It is time to set up an international tribunal for East Timor similar to that in the Hague for the former Yugoslavia, or in Tanzania for Rwanda. The architect of the wars and genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo, Slobodan Milosevic, sits in prison in Belgrade. Many of the people who took part in those wars are in jail, awaiting trial or like Radovan Karadzic on the run. Chile’s former Pinochet may also face trial.
So if trial and prison is good enough for Milosevic and Pinochet, it is good enough for Indonesia’s former dictator, Suharto, who is still free despite having robbed and murdered for 32 years. Many of those TNI commanders who were responsible for countless murders in East Timor are likely enjoying comfortable retirements in Jakarta.
Any international war crimes tribunal for
East Timor will serve several purposes. It will let the Indonesian people
know the full extent of the savagery and horror of what was done in their
name. And it will let them and the world know the Indonesian military for
what they are - a gang of murderers and criminals. They won’t just become
international pariahs, but become pariahs in their own country.
Last but not least, for those of us who saw many members of our families die, it will give us some comfort at the thought that those responsible will one day have to face justice and answer for what they did. -
Yours, etc., (P) Jose
Dino Gandara RAI, Keeper Road, Drimnagh, Dublin 12.
BD: War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity - A collection of recent press releases, petitions, articles and news
BD: Calls for International War Crimes Tribunal - A collection of recent reports, articles and news