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Petition for International Tribunal on East Timor

To: Groups and organisations in Solidarity with East Timor

From: UK Groups in Solidarity with East Timor

We are circulating the statement below for signatures in order to reiterate the call for an international tribunal on East Timor.  We plan to release the full list of signatories together with the Statement at the time of the next East Timor World Bank Donorís Meeting in Canberra next month.

Closing date for signatures: 11 June 2001.

Pls email: &

Catherine Scott,
Asia Policy Officer,
Catholic Institute for International Relations,
Unit 3, Canonbury Yard,
190a new North Road,
London N1 7BJ
Tel: 020 7288 8614 (Direct)
Tel: 020 7288 8600 (Switchboard)
Fax: 020 7359 0017


We are organisations with long-standing links with the peoples of Indonesia and East Timor. We have followed events in East Timor for many years and have sought to show support and solidarity for our East Timorese friends in their constant search for justice and peace. This statement arises out of our dismay at recent developments in Indonesia and East Timor concerning the administration of justice for gross violations of human rights committed in East Timor. The statement reflects the views of many organisations in Indonesia and East Timor, several of which have signed it.

The primary purpose of the statement is to call upon the international community to set up an international tribunal for East Timor to bring the perpetrators of gross violations to justice. We firmly believe that timely justice and the ending of impunity are essential for peace and reconciliation in East Timor and for democracy and stability in Indonesia. We are convinced that credible trials will not be possible in Indonesia and that justice will not prevail unless international mechanisms are established without further delay.

In making the statement, we take account of the following:

  1. After the announcement by former President Habibie of Indonesia in January 1999 that the East Timorese people would be allowed to decide their future status, a wave of violence was unleashed by militia groups trained and supported by the Indonesian army. Following the overwhelming vote in favour of independence on 30 August 1999, at least 1,000 people were killed, many more were injured, up to 75 per cent. of the population was displaced, including around 250,000 forcibly evacuated to Indonesian West Timor, and around 80 per cent. of the infrastructure was destroyed. In view of the systematic and planned nature of the violence, many of the crimes committed amounted to crimes against humanity.
  2. Crimes against humanity are crimes of universal jurisdiction and the international community has a special responsibility to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. It has an additional moral responsibility in relation to the 1999 crimes since many of them were committed when the UN was administering the 'popular consultation' or after it had abandoned the territory despite promises that it would stay after the vote.
  3. Many other gross violations of human rights, including mass murder, were committed in East Timor in the period following Indonesia's illegal invasion in 1975. Around 200,000 people - approximately one-third of the pre-invasion population - lost their lives. The international community also has a responsibility to investigate the atrocities committed during that period.
  4. The report of the International Commission of Inquiry (ICI) on East Timor presented to the UN Security Council on 31 January 2000 (S/2000/59) cited evidence of "a pattern of serious violations of fundamental human rights" in relation to the 1999 crimes and recommended the establishment of an international tribunal for East Timor. It expressed "the view that ultimately the Indonesian Army was responsible for the intimidation, terror, killings, and other acts of violenceÖ"
  5. At the same time, the Indonesian Commission for Human Rights Violations in East Timor (KPP-HAM) issued a report which confirmed military involvement in and responsibility for crimes against humanity. It named as suspects 32 military and civilian personnel, including Major Generals Zacky Anwar MaKarim and Adam Damiri and militia leader Eurico Guterres. It also stated that overall responsibility for the crimes committed lay with armed forces commander in chief, General Wiranto.
  6. In response to the ICI report, the UN Security Council stated on 18 February 2000 that the perpetrators should be brought to justice "as soon as possible" and that Indonesia should "institute a swift, comprehensive, effective and transparent legal process, in conformity with international standards of justice and due process of law. An earlier report by the three UN special rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, torture and violence against women published in December 1999 recommended the establishment of an international tribunal if the Indonesian process was not completed in "a matter of months".
  7. There are overwhelming political and legal obstacles in the way of meaningful trials in Indonesia. Many of those obstacles have been introduced since Indonesia committed itself to bring the perpetrators to justice before its own courts. It is evident that the Indonesian authorities are neither willing nor able to administer meaningful justice in relation to the East Timor crimes. The international community's decision to allow Indonesia time to try the perpetrators has not worked and the international community's inaction can no longer be justified.
  8. In August 2000, the Indonesian supreme legislative assembly provided defendants with an absolute defence to charges relating to the East Timor crimes by enacting a Constitutional amendment which introduced the principle of non-retroactivity into Indonesian law. Suspects would also appear to have a defence based on the Attorney General's failure to bring the cases to trial before a deadline set out in Indonesia's Law on Human Rights Courts. That Law is in itself flawed and falls short of international standards, particularly those relating to judicial independence and impartiality. It is widely acknowledged by those in the best position to know that very few current judges can be regarded as independent and untainted by judicial corruption. Procedural and institutional safeguards for the rights of defendants fall far short of accepted human rights standards and there is no adequate witness protection programme for traumatised victims and witnesses.
  9. In November 2000, the Indonesian Attorney General, Marzuki Darusman, stated that 22 suspects implicated in crimes against humanity in East Timor would be tried in January. That has not happened. The suspects included Eurico Guterres and Major-General Adam Damiri, but significantly did not include other high-ranking officers, such as Major-General Zacky Anwar and General Wiranto, who were identified by Indonesia's KPP-HAM report as being responsible for the violence.
  10. In April 2001, President Wahid issued a Presidential decree establishing a human rights court for East Timor, but limited its jurisdiction to crimes committed after the August 1999 vote. This means that many crimes committed before the vote 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 in Indonesia. Much of the evidence of the systematic nature of the violence will remain suppressed. Moreover, the Indonesian armyís organisation of militia forces in preparation for the 'popular consultation', which began in the early part of 1999, will not fall within the courtís remit.
  11. The Presidential decree was issued within days of Indonesia agreeing to a statement at the UN Commission on Human Rights which committed it to ensure accountability for crimes committed in East Timor during the whole of 1999.
  12. Indonesia's inability and unwillingness to administer credible justice in relation to gross violations of human rights was demonstrated by the outcome in May 2001 of proceedings against those accused of involvement in the killing of three employees of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Atambua, West Timor in September 2000. The six accused were not charged with murder or manslaughter, but with lesser offences. As a result, their sentences ranged from only 10 to 20 months imprisonment.
  13. Despite the signing of a memorandum of understanding on legal co-operation by the Indonesian Government and UNTAET in April 2000, the Indonesian authorities have refused to co-operate. On several occasions, UNTAET investigators have been refused access to witnesses they have travelled to Jakarta to interview. Indonesia's unwillingness to take action against military suspects is evident from its failure to suspend them from duty. Some of the suspects have instead been promoted, including Adam Damiri, who is now responsible for controversial troop deployments to Aceh. Militia suspects, notably Eurico Guterres, are regarded by many in Indonesia as national heroes. Guterres was convicted of a weapons offence in April 2001, but received a sentence of just six months imprisonment, which he is serving under house arrest.
  14. The judicial system in East Timor has also failed to deliver justice to date. Investigations by the Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (SCIU) of UNTAET have been unacceptably slow. The SCIU initially concentrated on a select few cases and major atrocities, such as that committed at the Suai church compound on 6 September 1999 when dozens were murdered, have not been properly investigated. There are persistent reports that the SCIU's work is severely hampered by problems relating to a lack of resources, management conflicts, poor communications, the lack of clear policy guidelines, and a reluctance to expose the systematic nature of the 1999 violence. There are also allegations of political interference in the judicial process.
  15. The absence of credible justice in East and West Timor is seriously undermining attempts to repatriate those among the 100,000 or so refugees remaining in West Timor who wish to return home. The failure to prosecute those responsible for serious crimes helps to fuel an environment in which intimidation is widespread, humanitarian assistance is severely hampered and refugees are unable to make free and informed decisions about where they wish to live.
In the light of the above, we call upon the international community to: May 2001

This statement is endorsed by the following organisations:

Pls email: &

Closing date for signatures: 11 June 2001.

See also:

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

BD: 'Refugees' & Missing Persons - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news

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