East Timor Commemorates Tragic Anniversary of Kissinger-Engineered Massacres, Mourn New Civil Rights Abuses
On the December 7 anniversary of Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) calls on the United Nations to establish an international tribunal for East Timor. Last week's acquittal by an Indonesian court of four officials accused of committing crimes against humanity in East Timor mocks East Timorese demands for justice and betrays the international community's misplaced trust in Indonesia's justice system.
Indonesia's Ad Hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor has now acquitted a total of 10 Indonesian officials, despite substantial evidence against them. Only two defendants, both East Timorese, have been convicted.
We take no comfort in the results thus far. While those found guilty are responsible for grave human rights abuses, their convictions -- coupled with the many acquittals -- reinforce the Indonesian military myth that the violence in East Timor resulted from intra-Timorese conflict rather than orchestration by the Indonesian occupiers. The prosecution, whether by incompetence or design, presented this very argument with all too predictable results.
In East Timor, church and community leaders, widows and rights activists have persistently called for justice. To move forward, they demand accountability for past abuses. We urge the UN to answer these cries by establishing an international tribunal for East Timor.
We call on the UN Secretary-General to report to the Security Council that Indonesia is incapable of holding its own accountable. The Security Council should then take the necessary steps to convene an international tribunal to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the people of East Timor since the 1975 invasion.
We urge the U.S. Congress and administration to continue to make credible prosecution of Indonesian military, police and political officials a condition of renewed military assistance to Indonesia and to work actively to create an international tribunal. The U.S. must also increase its support for the reconstruction of East Timor, especially the new nation's justice system. The recent violence in Dili and Baucau tragically illustrates the trauma, frustrations and harsh conditions faced by the people of East Timor. The U.S. must help address these problems with programs designed and carried out in consultation with local groups.
The systematic terrorization of the East Timorese people over the course of 24 years by the Indonesian military must not go unpunished, allowing those most responsible for orchestrating East Timor's destruction to remain free to wreak havoc throughout Indonesia.
The Indonesian military launched its 1975 invasion just hours after then President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave their explicit permission to go ahead. The legacy of that illegal and destructive act lives on in the tears of families who continue to mourn the more than 200,000 dead, in the deep poverty and massive unemployment of the vast majority of the East Timorese and in the cries for justice which have gone unanswered by the international community.
The Indonesian Ad Hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor has been seriously flawed from its inception. It operates under a severely limited mandate, with jurisdiction over only three of East Timor's 13 districts during just two months (April and September 1999) of a 24-year military occupation. Indonesia will not try anyone for ordering or carrying out the many atrocities that occurred outside of these very narrow time periods and locations.
The defendants were primarily accused of failing to prevent the actions of others rather than for acts they may have directly committed. The prosecution repeatedly described the violence in 1999 as the result of conflict among East Timorese factions and portrayed the UN administration of the referendum as biased and anti-Indonesian. As of now, ten defendants have been acquitted, two convicted and six remain on trial.
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. Powerful military officers routinely attend the court in an effort to intimidate. Fearing for their safety, most East Timorese witnesses called to testify refused, and those who did were harassed. The prosecution failed to make use of vast amounts of UN documentation available to them as evidence.
More than 200,000 East Timorese--about one-third of the pre-1975 population--lost their lives from war and forced starvation as a result of Indonesia's invasion and 24-year occupation.
Following the August 30, 1999 UN-organized referendum on independence, the Indonesian military and its militias systematically destroyed East Timor, murdering up to 2000 people, destroying over 70 percent of the infrastructure and raping hundreds of women. Hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes.
In January 2000. the UN International Commission of Inquiry reported to the UN Human Rights Commission that "a pattern of serious violations of fundamental human rights" had taken place in East Timor in 1999 and took "the view that ultimately the Indonesian Army was responsible for the intimidation, terror, killings, and other acts of violence." The commission recommended the establishment of an ad-hoc international human rights tribunal to cover crimes committed in 1999. However, the UN Security Council accepted Jakarta's demand that Indonesia first have the chance to prosecute the accused within its own court system.
Indonesia's presence in East Timor violated numerous UN Security Council resolutions and international law. Moreover, Indonesia's 1999 rampage violated Jakarta's pledge to provide "a secure environment" during the UN-run ballot process.
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).