East Timorese still waiting for justice

By Jon Lamb

On July 15, the final report from the joint Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) was officially received by the governments of Indonesia and East Timor. The report, titled “Per Memoriam ad Spem” (Through Memory towards Hope), cites that gross violations of human rights took place in East Timor in 1999 and that institutional responsibility for this rests with the Indonesian military and police, the militia groups created by them, as well as the Indonesian government.

The report’s recommendations have no binding legal status and the report has been ridiculed by human rights groups and activists within both Indonesia and East Timor. Their concerns have been echoed by international human rights and solidarity organisations.

A statement released by the Timor-Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal (ANTI) on July 15 noted: “Once again, ANTI would like to emphasize that the findings of CTF and its recommendations are nothing new for the people of Timor-Leste, because most of its findings were already written in the CAVR [Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation] report, Chega, the Indonesian KPP HAM report, the investigation by the UN High Commission for Human Rights in 1999, and the Special Panels for Serious Crimes (SPSC) all concluded that what took place in 1999 were systematically organized crimes against humanity, according to the Rome statute International Criminal Court (ICC)”.

The ANTI statement stressed that: “It is not new for ANTI that TNI [Indonesian military], POLRI [Indonesian police] and the Government of Indonesia created, supported, trained and funded the militia and provided other facilities including guns, so that they could commit crimes against humanity in 1999. One new thing is that commissioners from both countries acknowledged what ANTI has urged during this time, that there cannot be amnesty for the perpetrators of Crimes Against Humanity, and no rehabilitation for them.

“ANTI rejects the recommendation of CTF to create a new monitoring and dissemination commission lasting five years to implement the recommendations of CTF. ANTI thinks this commission is established just to waste people’s money, not to give justice for victims families and survivors, but only to enrich a few groups, while increasing the vulnerability of victims who have already suffered from human rights violations, without any special attention from Government programs.”

ANTI has called for full and adequate resourcing of the recommendations of the CAVR, which includes the establishment of a war crimes tribunal.

Both the Indonesian and East Timorese governments, led by presidents Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jose Ramos Horta respectively, have expressed opposition to the formation of an international war crimes tribunal to investigate war crimes in East Timor, either for the period surrounding the 1999 independence referendum or the period of Indonesian military occupation from 1975-1999. Two key former TNI generals responsible for human rights violations in East Timor, Wiranto and Prabowo Subianto, are presidential candidates for the 2009 election.

According to a July 20 Agence France Presse report, Horta stated: “We have to understand the new Indonesia and remember that the Indonesian army was not defeated in East Timor ... They left because the leaders in Indonesia ordered them to leave.” Horta stressed that it would be unreasonable to call for a war crimes tribunal, stating: “I sympathise with them and I would never stab them in the back by pushing for an international tribunal that would embarrass Indonesia and wreck the relationship.” The release of the CTF report follows the release from prison and granting of amnesty (over the last year in both Indonesia and East Timor) of a number of East Timorese militia leaders, including the notorious Eurico Gutteres in April.

Indonesia and East Timor analyst Max Lane, who helped organise the large East Timor solidarity actions in Sydney in September 1999, told Direct Action: “Until there is a real and genuine process of accountability to hold those military and civilian figures in Indonesia responsible for orchestrating war crimes in East Timor — and elsewhere such as Aceh and West Papua — they will continue to act with impunity.”

Lane added that “such a process must also hold to account the leaders of Western nations such as Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom who provided diplomatic cover and the material means for the Indonesian military’s crimes in East Timor”.