Suharto, war criminal
What are ‘crimes against humanity’? Can Suharto be brought to trial for them? RICHARD TANTER reports.
Two unexpected events in recent months give hope that former President Suharto may some day be brought to trial for genocide and crimes against humanity, for his part in the anticommunist holocaust in 1965, and for the hundreds of thousands who died after the Indonesian invasion of East Timor.
On May 1, Jean Kambanda, former Prime Minister of Rwanda, pleaded guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity before the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Kambanda will probably be sentenced to a maximum of life imprisonment.
On April 30, the United States announced its intention to request that the Security Council establish an International Criminal Tribunal to try Cambodian former Khmer Rouge leaders on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity
I believe that the UN Security Council should appoint a Special Rapporteur or a Committee of Experts to assess prima facie evidence against Suharto and other senior or retired Abri leaders.
The Security Council should then establish an International Criminal Tribunal for Indonesia with a view to trying Suharto and others for the following crimes under existing international legal conventions and customary law:
Crimes against humanity
Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions
Violations of the laws of war
Crimes against peace
Three questions need to be answered:
Did Suharto and other senior Indonesian military commanders commit acts that amount to ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’?
If so, can Suharto be brought before an international tribunal on such charges?
Is it desirable to call for such an international criminal tribunal?
In the thirty years of President Suharto’s control, at least two sets of events amount to crimes against humanity and/ or genocide in an ordinary meaning of the terms.
First, President Suharto’s rule was founded when he led the holocaust that destroyed the Indonesian Communist Party. Between mid-October 1965 and the end of the following year, the Indonesian armed forces planned, orchestrated and in part carried out the murder of between 200,000 and one million Indonesian citizens. Virtually all were unarmed.
Most victims were alleged members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) or its allied community organisations. Some were targets of anti-Chinese hatred fostered by army propaganda. Hundreds of thousands were shot by the military. Comparable numbers were clubbed and hacked to death by their neighbours, directed, equipped and incited by the armed forces.
Much about the anti-communist killings remains unknown even today, since the subject has been unspeakable in Indonesia. Yet no serious historian doubts that hundreds of thousands of Indonesians were killed. One of the first tasks a UN Special Rapporteur or Committee of Experts faces is to examine the existing evidence as to the scale of the crimes.
The next task is to plumb the details – to date virtually unknown – of the armed forces’ planning of the holocaust.
Second, on the periphery of Indonesia, the state’s repression of self-determination gave rise to another set of massive crimes. The war against the East Timorese is only the best known of these. Indonesian intelligence agents began by coercing the leaders of several groups of conservative and anti-independence East Timorese into signing a ‘request’ (which the Indonesians had dictated) for assistance. Indonesian armed forces then invaded the former Portuguese colony on December 5th, 1975.
In the following four years, the population of East Timor decreased by 200,000 people. They died as a result of direct Indonesian army killings and bombings, but also through forced re-locations and the starvation and disease that followed the invasion. Since then, torture has been a standard operating procedure for Indonesian forces.
How then does international law relate to Indonesia? On what grounds could an international criminal tribunal bring charges against Suharto? Though there are some important legal matters for debate and interpretation, a case against Suharto for crimes against humanity is quite possible under existing international convention and international customary law. A prosecution against Suharto for the crime of genocide, though more difficult, would also be quite possible.
Until the Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [ICTY] in 1993, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [ICTR] in 1994, no-one had been charged with crimes against humanity or genocide in the years since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals at the close of World War 2.
Both those earlier trials were tainted with the flavour of ‘victor’s justice’. But the international law dealing with such grave crimes has developed considerably since that time. In fact the UN has been moving in recent years with surprising speed to establish a permanent International Criminal Tribunal. In June 1998 an International Treaty Conference will have been held to approve a draft convention, and then a process of signing and ratifying will begin. In the meantime, a special tribunal on the Yugoslav and Rwandan model remains the way forward.
The Security Council empowered the ICTY to ‘prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law’, including genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva conventions of 1949, and violations of the laws of war.
In 1946, the UN General Assembly affirmed the principles of international law as recognised at Nuremberg.
Subsequently the International Law Commission (ILC) reported to the UN General Assembly that it had codified Principles of Law Recognised in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgement of the Tribunal.
Principle 6 includes among the crimes punishable under international law:
‘(c) Crimes against humanity: Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crimes against peace or any war crimes.’
The affirmation of the Nuremberg Tribunal’s Charter and Judgement by the General Assembly, and their codification by the ILC, provide a solid foundation for the law on crimes against humanity as an accepted part of international customary law. This was the basis for Security Council Resolution 827 (1993) that established the ICTY.
A case could clearly be made that under international law Suharto has committed crimes against humanity. He directed the Indonesian armed forces that murdered tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of overwhelmingly unarmed civilians in 1965-1966.
It is not known whether Suharto personally killed PKI members, or simply left that to colleagues, subordinates and civilian allies. But, mainly in his role as commander of the Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order (Kopkamtib), Suharto exercised direct and command responsibility for the planning and execution of what amounted to a massive crime against humanity in those years.
Prosecuting Suharto for the crime of genocide will be more difficult, though not impossible. The difficulties are two-fold. First, under international law the crime of genocide has a limited legal definition. Second, Indonesia, almost alone among important countries of the world, has not signed and ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Neither of these difficulties is, however, conclusive.
Under the Convention, genocide means:
‘Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such: killing members of the group; causing serious mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing methods intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’
In the case of Indonesia, the category of genocide is relevant in at least two cases: the mass anti-communist killings of 1965- 1966, and the killings following the invasion of East Timor.
However in 1965-66, as in Cambodia, Indonesian victims were for the most part killed not because of their ethnicity, nationality or racial identity. They were killed because of their alleged political beliefs. This would, in a strict sense, mean that their murders do not amount to genocide under the terms of the Convention.
But this does make the Convention irrelevant. In fact the presumed religious beliefs of PKI members, or rather, the lack of such beliefs, were very relevant to many of their persecutors. The fact that the PKI positively affirmed atheism was often held as a reason why they could never be trusted, and why they lost full status as human beings. In this limited sense, most of the 1965-66 killings had a religious aspect under the terms of the Genocide Convention.
Another, smaller, target of the 1965-1966 killings in some parts of Indonesia were Chinese Indonesians. To the extent that they were killed because of their Chinese identity, their murders would plausibly amount to genocide under the Genocide Convention.
Certain aspects of the Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor, especially during the years 1975-1979, could also be construed as genocidal under the terms of the Genocide Convention.
The most important difficulty with the genocide case against Suharto is that Indonesia has not signed and ratified the Convention. Unlike Indonesia, Yugoslavia, Cambodia and Rwanda are parties to the Genocide Convention. Consequently, there was no difficulty in law in trying former Rwandan government officials before a UN criminal tribunal. Nor is any difficulty anticipated on that ground in the Cambodian case.
Are the provisions of the Genocide Convention therefore not applicable in any way to acts of genocide committed within the territory of Indonesia? Most likely not, at least not in a direct sense.
Yet, some international legal experts maintain that the law of genocide has developed an overriding and peremptory applicability. This means individual states may not be permitted to defy it. Not only is the Convention a development of the established 1946 Nuremberg principles, they argue, but it gains added force simply by having been signed and ratified by the great majority of states.
In other words, the general law of genocide is likely to be applicable to some degree within the territory of Indonesia. The assumption must surely be made that in law, the categories of crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide are not closed.
If the US proposal to establish an International Criminal Tribunal for Cambodia is accepted by the Security Council, then the global applicability of the law of genocide will be very closely examined.
Why is it desirable at this point in history to mount charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against Suharto? Isn’t it all now a matter of history, of revenge against old men rather than justice? Won’t raking up the past do more harm than good, at a time when Indonesia needs stability?
There is something to be said for this objection, but it is wrong. An international criminal tribunal has three purposes. The first is to bring those individuals responsible for horrific crimes to justice, and to punish the guilty. By ordinary human standards, Suharto and his colleagues committed – and then benefitted greatly from – crimes on a horrific scale.
In Indonesia, the dead are many, but so are the scarred survivors. How long must they wait in fear and silence?
The second purpose is to deter such acts in the future. By establishing the possibility that those leaders of states may have to take responsibility for their actions.
A Rwandan prime minister is in gaol for genocide, Serbian war- lords slink in hiding, and two Korean presidents ended their careers with gaol sentences and national disgrace. Small comfort in a world of pain and hypocrisy, but possibly the beginnings of assigning global responsibility.
The third purpose of an international tribunal is to establish a reasonable basis for national reconciliation and for overcoming deep collective trauma.
Despite thirty years of repressing open discussion of the Indonesian holocaust, the wounds among the living are deep. Half a million victims left behind millions of bereaved. Fantasies and fears of revenge are to be expected, but the understandable desire for revenge is best met by facing the events of the past openly, and by establishing individual responsibility in open courts, properly conducted.
Crimes against humanity and genocide are recognised as the concern of all humanity, not only the peoples who suffer directly. Security Council Resolution 827 (1993) requires all states to cooperate fully with the ICTY. Under Principles of International Co-operation in the Detection, Arrest, Extradition, and Punishment of Persons Guilty of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, adopted by the UN in 1973, member states ‘shall not grant asylum to any person with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that he has committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity’.
Now that Suharto has fallen, this will be an important obligation to recall. In the world of realpolitik, especially during the Cold War, international law and ordinary principles of justice counted for little against the interests of the major states. But there is plenty of reason to hope that the cry for justice will be heard this time.
In the face of widespread calls from abroad and inside Indonesia for the former president to be tried for crimes against humanity, some Indonesian successor regime, as in Rwanda, may well be prepared to acknowledge the jurisdiction of an International Criminal Tribunal.
By establishing that Suharto is, prima facie, guilty of crimes against humanity, a great deal is achieved. By focussing the minds of the international legal community on solving the practical and technical problems, we normalise the idea that this respected international figure came to power through genocide.
Leaders like President Clinton should be asked to explain just why he is prepared to act on Cambodia, but not on Indonesia. This way the double standard is rendered visible. In the face of the deceits of power, cynicism is understandable. But the cynical response is not always quite as realistic as it may seem at first sight.
The leader of the Rwandan genocide has been tried before a United Nations court. In the broken remains of Yugoslavia, UN warrants for the arrest of war-lords keeps them in hiding, lest they be arrested. Even, finally, in Cambodia, the dirty hands of world politics have moved enough to allow for the establishment of a tribunal.
Once the face of capitalist fortune turned away from Suharto, the outside world started to see him as a dictator. With a little more effort, he may be seen for what he truly is – a criminal on a massive scale.
Richard Tanter is Professor of International Relations at Kyoto Seika University. He is an Australian.
Monas square violence is criminal, govt must act resolutely: Muhammadiyah chief
Antara , Jakarta | Tue, 06/03/2008 3:36 PM | National
Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin said the violence committed during the Pancasila Day gathering at the National Monument (Monas) on Sunday was criminal and needs to be dealt with resolutely.
“Those acts are clearly criminal in nature and must be addressed resolutely. The government must take concrete and firm action lest such behavior becomes a widespread habit and Indonesia turns into a violence-ridden country,” Syamsuddin said.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono here Monday, the leader of Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organization said the government must take concrete measures to enforce the law consistently.
But Syamsuddin said there was some truth to the belief that the government’s indecision on the Ahmadiyah issue was an indirect cause that the attack by Islam Defenders’ Front (FPI) members on a peaceful rally conducted by the Alliance for Freedom of Religion and Belief (AKKBB).
To help solve the Ahmadiyah problem, Muhammadiyah is organizing a meeting between leaders of the controversial sect and Islamic organizations for June 11, 2008, he said.
“In light of the existing differences in religious belief, Muhammadiyah is taking the initiative to host a dialogue between Ahmadiyah leaders and Islamic organizations,” Syamsuddin said.
Muhammadiyah was not in a position to support or oppose the dissolution of any organization because, in its view, the existence of an organization was not the business of society.
“We must co-exist with all other groups in the world,” he said.
On the other hand, Syamsuddin said, the state cannot interfere in the convictions and beliefs of a society, but has the right to disband any group in societal terms when the group commits acts
of violence and dislocates society.
The Muhammadiyah leader met the President to invite him to a open world peace forum to be hosted by Muhammadiyah June 24-26, 2008.
The forum will call for a firm attitude against violence and be attended by 100 world religious, economic and political figures. (**)
April 22, 2004
The Wiranto Dilemma: Indicted War Criminal Seeks the Indonesian Presidency
by Dana R. Dillon
The upcoming presidential election in Indonesia presents the Bush administration and members of Congress with a dilemma. Wiranto, a retired general who was indicted by the United Nations for human rights abuses, has been nominated by Golkar, one of Indonesia’s main parties. Criticism of Wiranto from Washington—especially at this early stage in the presidential campaign—could bring attention, support, and perhaps victory to this otherwise unpopular candidate. Those in Congress and the administration who are concerned about Wiranto’s candidacy would do well to mute their criticisms, at least for the time being.
A War Criminal?
General Wiranto was Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Indonesia when Suharto fell from power in 1998 and when Indonesia’s armed forces withdrew from East Timor in 1999. In both instances, the behavior of the military was less than glorious. In 1998, several protesting students were shot and others were kidnapped, allegedly by members of the military. No top officers were ever prosecuted for this attack.
In August 1999, East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia, and in a bloody withdrawal—some say retribution—Indonesia’s military and proxy militia were accused of killing more than 1,400 people, displacing hundreds of thousands more, and destroying three quarters of East Timor’s infrastructure. The United Nations indicted Wiranto for his alleged inaction during the immolation of East Timor, but he has never stood trial. Wiranto denies that he did anything wrong in either case and claims that the allegations are designed to derail his presidential bid.
Wiranto was selected to represent Golkar, former dictator and kleptocrat Suharto’s party, at its April 20 party convention. Golkar is enjoying a revival of sorts after the April 5 legislative elections. Although the party won fewer votes in 2004 than it did in 1999, this year’s widely dispersed voting pattern left Golkar, with only 21.1 percent of the vote, as the largest party.
Two other candidates substantially lead Wiranto in public opinion polls. The current President, Megawatti, is in second place in the race, and another retired general, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, leads the pack. There is little reason to believe that Wiranto can beat either opponent, but American officials making fiery condemnations of his candidacy will only draw more attention, and perhaps sympathy, to him.
To understand how innocent and entirely justified comments by senior American officials can be misunderstood in Indonesia, one has to look no further than Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge’s March visit to Indonesia.
While in Indonesia, Secretary Ridge expressed his disappointment with the Indonesian Supreme Court’s decision to halve the sentence of the Jemaah Islamiyah leader and terrorist mastermind Abu Bakar Bashir. Although Secretary Ridge made many positive statements about Indonesia, Ridge’s comments about Bashir received the most attention. Many Indonesians felt Ridge’s comments were an unwarranted interference in Indonesian affairs.
Yudhoyono, the leading presidential candidate, felt compelled to announce that he “respected” the decisions of Indonesia’s supreme court, and another Indonesian official called Ridge’s remarks detrimental to the war on terrorism.
As a candidate for President, Wiranto has many weaknesses. Indonesians are fed up with passive and corrupt leaders, and Wiranto is both. Army generals officially earn only a few hundred dollars a month, but Wiranto retired a very wealthy man and has no explanation about the source of his wealth. His claim that he is the only candidate strong enough to hold the country together contrasts sharply with his principal excuse for his lack of action in East Timor, that he did not know what was going on there and that he could not control his own forces. Finally, Wiranto was Chief of the Armed Forces when the military was the most hated institution in the country.
Indonesia has a free and dynamic media that is reporting all these facts and more to the public. Without interference from outside the country, Indonesia’s voters will most likely reject Wiranto’s bid for the presidency. Comments by well-intentioned American politicians and senior officials will not be seen as informative, but insulting, and may backfire.
America’s principal interest in Indonesia is a free and fair election, not who wins it. So from now to the July 5 presidential election, the best policy for Congress and the Administration is to withhold comment on the candidates and trust Indonesia’s democratic process.
Dana R. Dillon is Senior Policy Analyst in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.
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U.S. Criminal History in Indonesia
by S. Brian Willson
U.S. SENATOR SPARKMAN: “At a time when Indonesia was kicking up pretty badly–when we were getting a lot of criticism for continuing military aid–at that time we could not say what that military aid was for. Is it secret anymore?”
U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT MCNAMARA: “I think in retrospect, that the aid was well justified.”
SPARKMAN: “You think it paid dividends?”
MCNAMARA: “I do, sir.”
–Hearings on Foreign Assistance, 1966,
before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
“The United States wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.”
–Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, in a cable to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on Jan. 23, 1976 muting U.N. opposition to Indonesia’s Dec. 7, 1975 invasion of East Timor
“It is the explicit policy of the Indonesian security forces to meet peaceful and unarmed civilian protests with force. Military training from the United States thus directly undermines the democratic movement in Indonesia.”
–Megawati Soekainoputri, Indonesian dissident,
in a March 18, 1998 letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton
When Indonesia won its independence from the Dutch in 1954, the U.S. took notice. The fourth most populous nation, the largest archipelago-state in the world made up of thousands of mineral-rich islands stretching 3,000 miles across, was no longer in the hands of the “West.” President Sukarno was considered a “neutralist” and a leader of the “Third World” nonaligned nations seeking self-determination, a movement threatening western control.
As early as 1955 the CIA and the Pentagon were attempting to undermine Sukarno. This interference included attempts to steal elections, creation of paramilitary sabotage units, building networks with the military, and assassination plans.
Dedicated to raising standards of living, President Sukarno nationalized Dutch-owned industries, including in 1965 the oil reserves. In October l965 General Suharto siezed power, a man who had served both the Dutch and the Japanese. What followed has been called “One of the most savage mass slaughters of modern political history” (New York Times, March 12, 1966), a conclusion echoed in a 1968 CIA report. An extraordinarily brutal campaign of repression of Indonesia’s population was coordinated by Suharto and his cohorts with international corporations and investors, freeing them to plunder Indonesia’s extensive oil and natural gas reserves, rich mineral deposits and dense forests.
The relationship between the U.S. and Indonesian military under Suharto intensified with training and provision of weapons. Subsequently, U.S. diplomats and CIA agents disclosed that they had systematically compiled “death lists” of “Communist” operatives, from top echelons to village cadres, regularly providing names to the Indonesian military. Howard Federspiel, an Indonesia expert at the State Department in 1965, declared, “No one cared, as long as they were Communists, that they were being butchered.” Torture was routine and death squads murdered at will. Estimates range from 500,000 murdered to more than one million, with 750,000 political prisoners, uncounted thousands of whom died of malnutrition and untreated illness.
On December 7, l975, Indonesia’s armed forces invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, only hours after the departure from Jakarta of U.S. Pres. Ford and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Columnist Jack Anderson reported that Pres. Ford had declared: “We had to be on the side of Indonesia.” Subsequently Henry Kissinger has confirmed they approved the invasion. Anderson also reported that “five days after the invasion, the United Nations voted to condemn the attack as an arrant act of international aggression. The U.S. abstained…The U.S. delegate (Daniel Patrick Moynihan) maneuvered behind the scenes to resist U.N. moves aimed at forcing Indonesia to give up its conquest.” By 1989, Amnesty International estimated that Indonesian military forces had murdered 200,000 E. Timorese of a population of 600,000-700,000, a holocaust proportionately more brutal than the simultaneous campaign of Pol Pot in Cambodia.
The U.S. State Department has consistently supported Indonesia’s (illegal) claims to East Timor while downplaying the slaughter. Since the invasion, the U.S. has continually trained Indonesia military while approving sales of over $1 billion in weaponry, including aircraft and assault rifles. Under President Clinton $148 million worth of military hardware has been granted as well as secret Green Berets training to Indonesia’s feared Kopassus counterinsurgency units in defiance of Congressional prohibitions.
Western governments, including the U.S., knew from intelligence sources as early as July l998, that the Indonesian military was working with recruited armed militias to destroy the impending independence referendum. Nonetheless, the U.S. was providing training to the Indonesian Air Force as recently as summer 1999, and U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen reported that only a week before the August 1999 referendum U.S. and Indonesian military personnel were conducting joint operations.
The incredulous “necessary” illusions about Indonesia are revealed by Clinton administration officials recently referring to Suharto as “our kind of guy,” and Clinton’s recent statement that E. Timor is “still a part of Indonesia.” E. Timor has never been a part of Indonesia! The history of U.S support for Indonesia’s repression represents the normal pattern of U.S. global hegemonic policies. This behavior can be understood partially by recognizing a huge structural problem: the 4.5% of the world’s population living in the U.S. consume collectively nearly half the world’s resources. To continue this extraordinary exploitation requires belief in an ideology that nobly justifies (or conveniently denies) lawless interventions that cause extreme violations of human rights. An arrogance gone mad, explains with incredible double speak, policies of imperialism, no matter the form.
The people here as well as elsewhere deserve a U.S. government committed to upholding international law and the preservation of human rights for all people, everywhere. The hope is in a popular movement that can effectively demand such compliance, while understanding the necessary linkage between domestic values and exploitive policies in order to seek an alignment rooted in justice for all.
THE inquest into the 1975 killing of five newsmen in Balibo has exploded into a diplomatic row, with a senior Indonesian politician storming out of Australia and Canberra facing a recommendation to prosecute for war crimes.
After the issue received widespread coverage in Indonesia, a chanting crowd of several hundred people, some holding signs including “F— off Australia”, gathered outside the embassy in Jakarta yesterday to protest against the treatment given to the city’s governor, Sutiyoso, during his visit to Australia.
Mr Sutiyoso, a retired army lieutenant-general, cut short an official tour of NSW on Tuesday night after police requested he testify about his role in the special forces attack in Balibo on October 16 in which the television newsmen died.
Indonesia is considering retaliating against Australia’s “unacceptable action” in attempting to force Mr Sutiyoso to testify, said the Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirayuda.
After meeting Mr Sutiyoso, Mr Wirayuda summoned the Australian ambassador, Bill Farmer, to his office last night to deliver a direct protest and demand further explanation. He said the “unpleasant incident” was performed by Australian police and their conduct was unacceptable.
Rights Group Calls on East Timor Leadership to Respect Judicial Independence
Demands UN and U.S. Create International Tribunal to Try Wiranto and Others
For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668; 917-690-4391
May 28, 2004 – The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today urged East Timor’s leadership to end its inappropriate intervention in the country�s justice system. Instead, the human rights group urged the United Nations to take full control of the prosecution of those accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor by creating an international tribunal.
“Pressure on the prosecutor general by East Timor�s leadership not to seek an international warrant for General Wiranto — while understandable in the face of Indonesia�s threats — is inappropriate,” said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. “East Timorese who have often expressed their hope for justice must be extremely disillusioned. Reconciliation can only come from justice, and justice must place no one, however powerful, above the law.”
Poster listing most wanted for crimes against humanity carried during a May 29 protest in Dili. The protest was held just before the planned meeting between East Timor’s president Xanana Gusmao and Wiranto in Bali. Reuters/Lirio Da Fonseca.
Efforts by East Timor’s leaders to distance themselves from the indictment of senior Indonesian officials for crimes against humanity committed in 1999 intensified recently when an international judge in East Timor issued an arrest warrant for former General Wiranto, now a leading candidate for president of Indonesia.
East Timor’s President Xanana Gusmao reportedly will meet with Wiranto this weekend.
“East Timor is caught between a rock and a hard place. Its dilemma speaks volumes about the failure of the United Nations, the U.S. and other countries to act quickly and forcefully for justice,” added Miller. “The crimes committed in 1999 and before were crimes against humanity. Many were directed at undermining a UN mission. We urge the UN to heed East Timor’s repeated request that the international community take the lead in pursuing accountability.”
�At a minimum, the Secretary-General and Security Council must back the serious crimes process they set in motion,� said Miller. “We again urge the Security Council to revisit the UN Commission of Inquiry�s recommendation to establish an international tribunal for East Timor. We continue to urge the U.S. to withhold all military assistance for Indonesia until Wiranto and others responsible for crimes against humanity in East Timor and Indonesia are brought to justice in judicial processes consistent with international standards,” said Miller.
This weekend’s meeting will be the second this year between President Gusmao and Wiranto. The East Timor National Alliance for an International Tribunal reported that the two met in Bali in January. That meeting was confirmed by Wiranto and others.
Wiranto was Indonesia�s Armed Forces Commander and Defense Minister in 1999. Prior to and after East Timor’s overwhelming vote for independence, his troops and their militia proxies conducted a campaign of terror resulting in more than 1400 deaths, displacement of three-quarters of the population and destruction of more than 75% of East Timor’s infrastructure.
On May 10, 2004, an international judge at the Special Panel for Serious Crimes in East Timor issued an arrest warrant for Wiranto. He was indicted on February 24, 2003, for crimes against humanity before the Special Panel. The previous March, prosecutors submitted a 92-page brief summarizing more than 15,000 pages of evidence previously filed with the court.
In January, Dili�s chief prosecutor, Longuinhos Monteiro, said he was actively pursuing warrants against senior officials, accusing international judges of blocking them. Citing judicial independence, President Gusmao�s office said at the time that he would not get involved. However, this week, Monteiro said there was a consensus among East Timor’s leaders that it is not in East Timor’s interest to prosecute Wiranto or other indicted senior Indonesian officials.
While President Gusmao has the constitutional power to pardon, he must first consult with the government. Unless he and the government plan to pardon Wiranto, Article 199 states, “Courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law.”
In the months following the 1999 devastation of East Timor, two UN investigations called for the establishment of an international tribunal. Instead, Indonesia promised to try its own and eventually established the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor. The widely criticized court issued its final verdict on August 5, 2003.
Indonesia’s presidential election takes place July 5. A runoff will take place September 20 if no candidate gets more than 50%.
Gusmao met May 15 with President Megawati, who is running for reelection, as part of regular bi-lateral meeting between the two countries. He has not said if he will meet with Indonesia�s other presidential candidates.
East Timorese leaders, fearful of possible retaliation and stressing the need to establish good relations with their powerful neighbor, have repeatedly urged the international community to take the lead on issues of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor.
The Security Council mandated the establishment of the Serious Crimes Unit to conduct investigations and prepare indictments to assist in bringing to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity and other serious crimes committed in East Timor in 1999. It also created the Special Panels to hear serous crimes cases. Since East Timor�s independence, the SCU has worked under the legal authority of East Timor�s prosecutor general.
ETAN advocates for justice and sustainable development for East Timor and human rights for Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity that took place in East Timor since 1975 and for continued restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces. For additional information, see ETAN’s web site (http://www.etan.org).