Human Rights Watch today called Indonesia's indictment of the notorious militia leader Eurico Gutteres a necessary but insufficient step to address the violence in West Timor.
"Eurico Gutteres was one of the key thugs behind the violence in East Timor, and we've been waiting more than a year to see him behind bars," said Joe Saunders, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The indictment will be meaningful only if he is quickly arrested and prosecuted. The Indonesian government has to demonstrate that it is serious about reining in these criminals."
Eurico Gutteres was one of the Indonesian army's main operatives throughout 1999 in East Timor, and the leader of the Dili-based militia Aitarak. He was indicted yesterday by the Indonesian Attorney General's office on charges of illegal possession of firearms.
Under Eurico's direction, Aitarak took the lead in organizing pro-Indonesia rallies that often turned violent and leading attacks on independence supporters throughout 1999. After the independence vote on August 30, he helped coordinate the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of East Timorese across the border into Indonesia.
Despite the indictment, Eurico has not been detained and remains free to move around Indonesia. He has portrayed himself as a misunderstood champion of Indonesian unity and warned of angry reactions from followers in West Timor should he be arrested.
Human Rights Watch said the Indonesian government should follow the indictment by:
detaining Eurico Gutteres and strengthening the charges against him;
explaining to the Indonesian public exactly what his criminal activities have been, including the role of Aitarak members in the scorched earth destruction of East Timor and in murderous attacks on civilians;
being prepared to immediately arrest and detain his followers in West Timor if they respond to the indictment with violence or other criminal acts;
making clear that the prosecution of criminals and thugs in West Timor will not end with this indictment;
outlining a detailed plan for the separation of known criminals from the refugee population in West Timor, still believed to number about 100,000 and for the repatriation of all those who want to return to East Timor.
cooperating fully with a proposed delegation from the U.N. Security Council. Any such delegation should have a clear mandate to verify Indonesia's compliance with Security Council Resolution 1319, adopted on September 8, 2000, calling for "immediate and effective action" to resolve the ongoing crisis in West Timor.
"Eurico isn't a hero, he's a criminal," said Saunders. "But he's done a masterful job of manipulating Indonesian public opinion to paint himself as a victim, and top Indonesian officials have let him get away with it."
Eurico Gutteres began his political activities as a young courier for Falintil, the East Timorese guerrilla force. As a youth, he was reputed to be a militant supporter of independence. He was arrested in 1991 following the army's firing on demonstrators in what has become known as the Dili massacre. When he was released from detention, he had changed sides and became a trusted tool of the Indonesian army. In 1995, he was appointed one of the top leaders of Gardapaksi, the Youth Front for Upholding Integration, an organization created by former President Soeharto's son-in-law, General Prabowo, to counter pro-independence activities. Gardapaksi, fully funded by the Indonesian government, was responsible for many attacks on suspected independence supporters between 1995 and late 1998. As international and church pressure to disband Gardapaksi increased, Eurico dissolved it, only to reorganize it, with the army's help, into the Aitarak militia in 1999.
Human Rights Watch reiterated its call that Indonesia's donors postpone their annual donor meeting, currently scheduled to be held in Tokyo October 17-18, until Indonesia acts to resolve the crisis in West Timor. Further details and recommendations on the donor meeting are available at: https://www.hrw.org/press/2000/09/indonesiacg.htm