For Immediate Release
Anthony DiCaprio, (212)614-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org
John M. Miller (718)596-7668, email@example.com
Attorneys and Legal Scholars Call for International Tribunal for East Timor
January 31, 2002 - In a statement issued today, attorneys and legal scholars urged the UN to establish an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against the people of East Timor.
“The time to prosecute the crimes inflicted upon the East Timorese through the establishment of an International Criminal Tribunal is now. Each step by the international community to prosecute the acts perpetrated against the East Timorese advances the rule of law, and signals that neither state-condoned nor state-perpetrated terror, wherever it occurs, will be tolerated,” said the statement signed by nearly four dozen legal experts from around the world.
“We intend to keep pressing for justice for the people of East Timor, and will continue to collect signatures in support of a tribunal,” said Anthony DiCaprio, the statement’s organizer. “A tribunal is necessary to hold those high ranking officials who organized and implemented the destruction of East Timor accountable. The international community cannot countenance impunity.” DiCaprio of the Center for Constitutional Rights was lead attorney, in a civil action in U.S. court, which resulted in a $66 million judgment against General Johny Lumintang, deputy chief of staff of the Indonesian Army in 1999.
The statement was released on the second anniversary of the publication of the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor. This comprehensive investigation found that the Indonesian governmental and military personnel at all levels participated in and were complicit in organizing and committing the violence in 1999. On August 30 of that year, the East Timorese people voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN organized referendum.
The Commission’s January 31, 2000 report also recommended that the UN Security Council establish an International Criminal Tribunal for East Timor to try war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the territory which will become independent on May 20. The Security Council has yet to create a tribunal, citing promises by Indonesia that it would prosecute high-level Indonesian military perpetrators. The statement says that Indonesian actions to date do not “justify confidence in the [Indonesian] process.” UN prosecution of serious crimes in East Timor is limited to mostly lower-level militia physically present in the territory.
East Timor was invaded by Indonesia on December 7, 1975. During Indonesia’s 24-year occupation, more than 200,000 East Timorese, approximately one third of the population, were killed or disappeared. Following the August 30, 1999 vote, the Indonesian military and militia killed several thousand East Timorese, destroyed nearly all infrastructure, and forced some 250,000 East Timorese into Indonesian West Timor.
The full statement and signatures to date can be found on-line at http://www.etan.org/news/2002a/01law.htm
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LAWYERS AND LAW PROFESSORS CALL FOR EAST TIMOR JUSTICE
Justice for the people of East Timor can no longer be delayed or denied; the time has come to establish an International Criminal Tribunal for East Timor.
Thousands of East Timorese have been raped and otherwise tortured, arbitrarily detained, summarily executed, disappeared, and have had other atrocities inflicted upon them by the Indonesian military and its militia since Indonesia’s invasion of the country in 1975. During Indonesia’s twenty-four year occupation, more than 200,000 East Timorese, approximately one third of the population, were killed or disappeared.
When the East Timorese, relying on assurances from the United Nations, Indonesia, and the international community, voted for independence from Indonesia in the August 30, 1999 Popular Consultation, the Indonesian military and militia responded by killing and torturing thousands of East Timorese, destroying nearly all infrastructure, and forcing some 250,000 East Timorese into Indonesian West Timor. Most East Timorese lost their loved ones, their homes, or their property.
East Timor’s destruction was so complete and its economy so devastated, that the vast majority of its people remain unemployed with little hope of employment in the near future. Medical care is limited to a small percentage of the population who are lucky enough to be treated in one of the country’s few under-staffed and under-funded medical clinics. Mental health care, desperately needed by the East Timorese as a result of their horrific suffering, is non-existent.
In response to the post-Popular Consultation violence, the United Nations convened an International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor. On January 31, 2000, the Commission determined that Indonesian governmental and military personnel at all levels participated in and were complicit in organizing and committing the violence. Indonesia’s “Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations in East Timor” (KPP-HAM) issued a report in January of 2001 making similar findings. On September 10, 2001, Judge Alan Kay of the United States District Court rendered a judgment in the sum of $66 million against the second highest-ranking officer in the Indonesian Army, Major General Johny Lumintang, for his role in the referendum-related violence in 1999.
The UN International Commission’s January 31, 2000 report also recommended that the UN Security Council establish an International Criminal Tribunal for East Timor. However, the Security Council has declined to establish a tribunal, in large part due to promises by Indonesia that perpetrators in that country would be prosecuted, and because of the work of the Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor in pursuing prosecutions there. To date, both systems have proven inadequate to hold high-level Indonesian military perpetrators accountable. The Serious Crimes Unit does not have jurisdiction to prosecute individuals who are not present in East Timor, and given the current political climate in Indonesia, convictions of high-level military personnel seem unlikely.
President Megawati Soekarnoputri’s mid-January appointment of ad hoc judges to the Indonesian Tribunal on East Timor, after months of delay, does not justify confidence in the process. President Megawati has not provided any measures to protect the safety of judges or witnesses despite the fact that an Indonesian Supreme Court judge was assassinated last year after investigating corruption and human rights abuses. The judges receive low pay and are unknown academics from provincial law schools with little human rights background. Moreover, the Attorney General has declined to include General Wiranto among the list of suspects to be investigated, despite substantial evidence of his direct involvement.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 without dissent, begins with the recognition of the “inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. To effectuate these principles by creating fully enforceable obligations under international law, in 1998, one hundred and thirty nine countries signed the Rome Statute to create the International Criminal Court (ICC). Fifty countries have ratified the treaty, moving closer to the sixty ratifications necessary to bring the ICC into being. But the jurisdiction of the ICC will be prospective only, so that forum is not available to the people of East Timor.
The world community recognizes that all victims of gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law have an inherent right to seek justice and to demand that the international community bring perpetrators to justice. Indeed, international law imposes a duty to prosecute such transgressions. As UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in his January 31, 2000 letter to the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, the International Commission of Inquiry “found that the United Nations and the international community had a particular responsibility to the people of East Timor in connection with investigating the violations, establishing responsibilities, punishing those responsible and promoting reconciliation.”
The time to prosecute the crimes inflicted upon the East Timorese through the establishment of an International Criminal Tribunal is now. Each step by the international community to prosecute the acts perpetrated against the East Timorese advances the rule of law, and signals that neither state-condoned nor state-perpetrated terror, wherever it occurs, will be tolerated.
Received via ETAN:
Timor Action Network U.S. Updated May 19
ETAN/US was founded following the November 1991 massacre. ETAN/US supports a genuine and peaceful transition to an independent East Timor. It also supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights, including women’s rights.
East Timor was invaded and subjugated by US 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 UN.
ETAN/US provides a wide range of articles, news reports and press releases related to East Timor. ETAN has 28 local chapters. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com Homepage:http://www.etan.org
East Timor info on the ETAN site is added daily.
BD: Current Urgent Actions
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