(New York) - The Indonesian ad hoc court for East Timor has utterly failed to bring to justice perpetrators of the 1999 violence in East Timor, Human Rights Watch said in a new briefing paper released today.
To date, only 12 people have been tried before the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor in Jakarta, and 10 have been acquitted. Of the 10, nine were Indonesian military and police personnel. The court has convicted only two people; both are East Timorese.
"The trials in Jakarta have been a whitewash," said Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia Division at Human Rights Watch. "Indonesia has failed in its promise to hold the military accountable for the atrocities in East Timor."
The United Nations secretary-general should commission an experts' report examining the failure of the ad hoc court, Human Rights Watch said.
In the 13-page briefing paper, Human Rights Watch stressed the obligation of the United Nations and its member states to ensure accountability for the 1999 violence, which occurred after the people of East Timor voted for independence in a U.N.-administered referendum. In 2000, the secretary-general pledged to "closely monitor" Indonesia's trials to ensure that they were a "credible response in accordance with international human rights principles."
The briefing paper describes the refusal of prosecutors to indict senior leaders such as then-chief of staff General Wiranto, named by the Indonesian Human Rights Commission as responsible for the 1999 violence. President Megawati Sukarnoputri later described many of the military leaders involved in the violence in East Timor as "national heroes" for their role in fighting for their country and publicly urged the military to "carry out your duties and responsibilities in the best possible manner without having to worry about human rights abuses."
"Indonesia's political leaders have created an atmosphere of impunity for these trials," said Adams. "It is clear that the most senior members of the Indonesian military responsible for the violence will receive only perfunctory trials. Some Indonesian military officers implicated in atrocities have actually been promoted."
While all of the accused have been charged with crimes against humanity, the indictments only allege that they failed to control their subordinates, not that they actually planned and ordered the attacks themselves.
Verdicts in remaining cases are expected in the next few weeks. The tribunal's mandate is due to expire on January 3, 2003. Among the cases still to be decided are Major General Adam Damiri, former chief of the Udayana Regional Military Command, who has been indicted on two counts of crimes against humanity.
"We do not recommend an extension of the mandate, since this process has proven to be fatally flawed," said Adams. "We urge the United Nations and donors to think of a different means of achieving justice based on international standards."
Human Rights Watch commended the efforts of a parallel process in East Timor, while noting serious technical weaknesses. The United Nations has created a special investigation unit and a special court in East Timor to hold perpetrators there accountable. Human Rights Watch urged donors to provide more training and resources to judges, prosecutors and investigators and called for an extension of the mandate of the special court and investigators in Dili.
In September 1999, the Indonesian National Army and Timorese militias carried out a campaign of murder, arson and forced expulsion after the people of East Timor voted for independence in a United Nations-administered referendum. After almost 25 years of brutal occupation, an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 East Timorese civilians lost their lives in the months before and days immediately after the voting. Approximately 500,000 people were forced from their homes or fled to seek refuge.