WASHINGTON - January 19 - The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today praised the U.S. State Department for placing senior Indonesian military officials on it visa watch list. The group, however, emphasized that this step was only an initial one in the pursuit of justice for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in East Timor since Indonesia's 1975 invasion.
"The denial of visas to General Wiranto and other senior military (TNI) officials is an important first step, but the U.S. can do much more to promote justice for the people of East Timor," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "The U.S. must work with the UN Security Council to establish an international tribunal for East Timor. Only a tribunal would have the resources and political weight to properly try and punish those responsible for genocide and other grave crimes," said Miller.
"The Bush administration must also cease all assistance for the Indonesian military, the institution most responsible for these crimes in East Timor," continued Miller.
"The State Department should add to its visa watch list all of the nearly 300 people indicted in East Timor who have been given sanctuary in Indonesia and should encourage other nations to do the same ," he said.
"We also urge President Bush to expeditiously release U.S. government documents requested nearly a year ago by East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation," said Miller. "A full accounting of United States knowledge and actions during Indonesia's brutal occupation is an essential step towards justice and U.S. accountability for the military and political support it gave Indonesia during the occupation."
In a January 24, 2003 letter, the Commission asked for U.S. government documents on significant events and egregious human rights abuses that took place during Indonesia's occupation.
ETAN supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, economic justice and human rights, including women's rights. Since 1999, ETAN has joined with East Timorese civil society to urge the UN Security Council to establish an international tribunal. For additional information, see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).
The six believed to be State Department's watch list were indicted for crimes against humanity on February 24, 2003, by the joint UN-East Timor Special Crimes Unit (SCU) in Dili. In addition to General Wiranto, a leading presidential candidate in Indonesia, others thought to be on the list are General Zacky Anwar Makarim , Major-General Kiki Syahnakri, General Adam Damiri, Colonel Tono Suratman, and Colonel Mohammad Noer Muis.
The SCU has filed 81 indictments so far accusing 37 Indonesian military (TNI) commanders and officers, four Indonesian police chiefs, 65 East Timorese TNI officers and soldiers, and East Timor's former governor. At present, 281 of the 369 indicted by the SCU remain at large in Indonesia. Among those indicted by the SCU are Timbul Silaen and East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres. Silaen, the chief of police in 1999, is now performing the same function in Papua, where, with the assistance of Guterres, he is allegedly assisting in efforts to form militia.
East Timor's National Alliance for an International Tribunal recently called for strengthening the serious crimes process in East Timor, until an international tribunal is established. The UN is currently evaluating its options for when the current peacekeeping mission ends in May 2004. The alliance urged the UN to back the [SCU] "mandate with resources and political commitment to compel Indonesia to cooperate." Without such backing, the Alliance called the SCU process a "cruel charade" which provides "an excuse for East Timor's government and the international community to avoid meaningful action for justice."
During its illegal occupation of the island nation from 1975 to 1999, the Indonesian military was responsible for the deaths of more than 200,000 people, one-third of the population. The U.S. supplied over $1 billion in weapons and training from the time of the invasion through 1991. The Bush administration is pressing to restore much of the assistance cut beginning in 1991.
After the East Timorese people voted for independence in 1999, the Indonesian military retaliated by killing more than 1300 people, raping hundreds of women and girls, and destroying most of the country's infrastructure. In the months following 1999's devastation, two UN bodies 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. Of the 18 people tried, 12 were acquitted. General Damiri was convicted by the court, but received a sentence of three years, far less than the legal minimum sentence. He remains free pending appeal and is currently helping to direct the massive military campaign in Aceh. General Suratman was acquitted.
East Timorese leaders, 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.
Details about those banned and others significant figures involved in the 1999 violence can be found at http://www.yayasanhak.minihub.org/mot/.