Imminent Indonesian Verdicts Cannot Deliver Justice for East Timor
International Tribunal Covering Entire Occupation Only Option
August 14, 2002 -- As the Indonesian court on East Timor prepared to announce its first verdicts, the East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) reiterated its call for an international tribunal.
"The Indonesian trials are so flawed, regardless of their outcome, they can not satisfy the need for justice for East Timor," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "The conduct of the trials confirms that their purpose was to deflect international criticism rather than to get at the truth. The prosecutions in Jakarta have been crushed under the weight of their limitations."
"If those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity go unpunished, there will be serious implications for healing and reconstruction in East Timor and the rule of law in Indonesia," Miller added.
Verdicts in the first of a dozen trials conducted by Indonesia's Ad Hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor, which began in March, are expected shortly. Under a severely limited mandate, a mere 18 suspects are being tried for failing to prevent massacres and other crimes committed in only three of East Timor's 13 districts during just two months April September 1999 - of a 24-year occupation.
"No one was tried for the many atrocities that occurred outside of these very narrow time periods and locations. Without an international tribunal, those most responsible for orchestrating the violence and devastation in1999 and before will inevitably remain free," said Miller
The defendants are accused of failing to prevent the actions of others rather than for acts they may have directly committed.
"The prosecution bought the military myth that the violence in 1999 was the result of conflict between East Timorese factions. Yet the razing of East Timor undeniably resulted from an orchestrated plan by top Indonesian military and other officials to first intimidate the East Timorese into voting to remain under Indonesian rule and then punishing them when they supported independence," said Miller.
None of the top-ranking officers and officials named by Indonesia's own human rights commission in January 2000 were seriously investigated, much less indicted. During the trials, powerful military officers sat in the courtroom in an effort to influence the outcome. Most East Timorese witnesses called to testify refused, and those who testified were harassed. The prosecutors have requested jail terms at or just above the 10-year minimum provided for in Indonesia law.
"An international tribunal is essential to ensure that those responsible at the highest levels of the Indonesian military and government are brought to justice for crimes against humanity and war crimes in East Timor from the 1975 invasion on," said Miller.
Following the August 30, 1999 UN-organized referendum, the Indonesian military and its militia systematically destroyed East Timor, murdering up to 2000 East Timorese, destroying over 70 percent of the infrastructure and raping hundreds of women. Hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) 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. For additional information see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).