BACK DOOR Newsletter on East
"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." ICG
Indonesia: Impunity Versus Accountability For Gross Human Rights Violations
The International Crisis Group (Brussels)
February 2, 2001
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This report reviews Indonesia’s unimpressive record in bringing to justice
those responsible for gross human rights violations. Since May 1998 only
four major cases have resulted in convictions. In three of those cases
there are significant reservations about the process. While there have
been high level inquiries for other major cases, and additional trials
may result, other instances of blatant violations from the distant past
to the present have not been touched.
One reason for slow judicial progress has been the inadequacy of the
legal system. The need for new procedures to deal with gross violations
was treated with urgency only after huge international protest over the
murder and destruction that followed East Timor's vote for independence.
A number of new laws and mechanisms - examined in detail in the report
- have now been created, raising the possibility that Indonesia will make
further progress at a faster rate. The stakes are high. If Indonesia does
not use those laws vigorously, and against some senior military and civilian
officials, not merely subordinates, it will convince many that they enjoy
impunity to continue human rights abuses. And it will convince victims,
particularly in Aceh, Papua and Maluku where rising tensions threaten Indonesia’s
stability, that the state will not protect them.
This report confirms the experience of other countries in transition
that bringing perpetrators of gross human rights abuses in Indonesia to
justice will remain as much a political issue as a judicial one and that
only a handful are likely to be held to account either by judicial means
or other formal processes such as a Truth Commission. This is the direct
result of the inability of the civilian government to exercise full authority
over the armed forces. But the report also demonstrates the bona fides
of some Indonesian government leaders in pursuit of both judicial and political
accountability, just as it documents an overwhelming array of obstacles
Time alone will tell whether Indonesia is making the right choices about
priorities and tactics in response to those obstacles. But as much as the
government and key constituencies want to be left to themselves to decide,
other domestic constituencies and the international community cannot readily
accommodate the delays and uncertainties of the process. To be a cohesive
nation, Indonesia’s institutions must deliver protection and justice to
all citizens. The continuation of serious human rights abuses in parts
of Indonesia is fuelling separatist tensions, making accountability for
past abuses both harder and more important and leading many to question
the capacity of the Abdurrahman government.
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.
The prospect of an international tribunal to adjudicate serious crimes
committed in East Timor was first raised within the UN in 1999, and judicial
processes have been set in train by the UN administration in East Timor
for the investigation of such crimes. This international interest and activity
will continue to put pressure on Indonesia to set its own house in order.
If handled judiciously, it will strengthen those in Indonesia advancing
the cause of accountability, but the international community can not expect
a quick, neat or comprehensive pay-off.
To the Indonesian Government
To the International Community
1. Amend the constitution to resolve uncertainties about retroactive prosecution
for crimes of omission involving cases of gross violation of human rights.
2. Accede to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
3. Transfer authority to establish ad hoc human rights courts from the
parliament and the president to the Supreme Court or another respected
4. Avoid premature prosecution of the most senior military officers until
the effectiveness of the new human rights laws has been established, but
do not delay prosecutions in general.
5. Use prosecution of subordinate personnel to develop evidence for the
prosecution of more senior officers and officials, in some cases offering
immunity in exchange for testimony.
6. Utilise the ordinary criminal code as much as possible, in particular
if uncertainties about the constitutionality of retroactive prosecution
for crimes of omission are not resolved.
7. Adopt legislation as quickly as possible to make military personnel
subject to civilian courts in criminal cases.
8. Co-operate fully with UNTAET in prosecuting human rights cases.
9. Investigate and, if appropriate, bring to trial in Indonesia military
personnel and militia members living in Indonesia who are charged in East
10. Establish an effective witness protection program.
11. Give the National Human Rights Commission more resources to enable
it to carry out its expanded role effectively.
12. Provide additional training in international human rights law to judges
13. Ensure that the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission offers
the victims of human rights abuse wide scope to have their voices heard.
Jakarta/Brussels, 2 February 2001
14. Monitor and report regularly on Indonesia’s efforts to try suspected
perpetrators of gross human rights abuses.
15. Monitor closely the movements of suspected perpetrators of gross human
16. Devote significantly greater donor resources to judicial reform in
order to assist the Indonesian agencies most vigorously involved in pursuing
accountability for gross human rights violations.
17. Use both contacts with the military and carefully targeted restrictions
on co-operation with it to sensitise senior officers to the broader implications
of the accountability issue for Indonesia’s national interests.
18. Assist Indonesian groups that participate vigorously in the domestic
debates on accountability to gain more access to information, including
by releasing currently classified accounts of human rights abuses where
these can be sanitised to protect sources.
19. Hold Indonesia to a timetable and criteria for continued progress in
prosecuting those responsible for violence in East Timor and take up again
the issue of an international tribunal if these are not maintained.
20. Pay particular attention to what is done about the most senior personalities
named in the Indonesian Commission of Inquiry into the crimes in East Timor
and, where credible evidence is available, help Indonesia flesh out the
21. Deliver a clear message to Indonesia that if it fails to bring those
responsible for gross violations of human rights in East Timor in 1999
to trial, pressures from domestic constituencies are likely to make it
impossible for donors to provide the developmental assistance Indonesia
needs, well before the last resort of an international tribunal again became
an active issue.
22. Give more money to UNTAET’s Special Crimes Unit, upgrade the priority
of its mission, and provide additional highly qualified personnel to staff
BACK DOOR Newsletter on East