Indonesian generals unlikely to be punished for genocide

December 1, 1999

Following a fact-finding tour to East Timor, Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has announced it will subpoena senior Indonesian generals, including General Wiranto, minister-coordinator for political and security affairs, to explain their involvement in the violence and human rights abuses in East Timor since January.

While they may face trial, it is unlikely that these high-ranking officers will punished.

Investigations undertaken in Dili and Suai November 9-14 by a nine-member Komnas HAM commission led by Albert Hasibuan collected information incriminating the Indonesian army (TNI) and militias in the scorched earth policy unleashed in East Timor after the September 4 announcement of the ballot result.

The commission, which met with Bishop Belo, Interfet commander Major General Peter Cosgrove, NGOs, East Timorese leaders and many eyewitnesses, has been given three months to produce its findings. So far Interfet has found 135 bodies, but it estimates that as many 2000 people could have been killed in the post-ballot violence.

On November 22, Hasibuan said that he said he found "many indications" of ties between the Indonesian military and the militias. "After our latest visit to West Timor, we found many indications of a close association between the Indonesian military and militias in the mass destruction and murder in East Timor", Hasibuan was quoted as saying in the November 22 Jakarta Post.

"Almost all office buildings and 60-70% of houses were destroyed. It is only fair that Wiranto, as the highest military commander at the time, would be held responsible, at least for his apparent inaction to try to stop the bloodshed in East Timor, especially in Dili", said Hasibuan.

In Suai, the mission interviewed a militia commander, Johnny Marques, who was being held in custody by Interfet. Marques was quoted as saying he had been threatened by several TNI personnel to carry out the destruction in Los Palos.

Apart from Wiranto, the commission has summonsed Major General Adam Damiri and Major General Zacky Makarim. Damiri was trained as a Kopassus (special forces) commander, and until recently was Udayana military commander (which covers eastern Indonesia, including Bali), overseeing much of the logistics, financial support and weaponry for the militia operating in East Timor.

Zacky Makarim, as head of the military intelligence agency BAIS (formerly known as BIA), was the most senior military intelligence officer in East Timor, serving there 1983-89 and then again from January this year. Initially operating under cover, Zacky Makarim was later given official status by Wiranto as the TNI's liaison officer with UNAMET.

"The mission looked into at least five cases of violence, resulting in hundreds of victims, perpetrated by militias with the help of the military", said Hasibuan.

These cases included the April attacks at the Liquica church and the home of Manuel Carrascalao in Dili. Another case being investigated was the September 6 attack by TNI and militias in Suai, when at least 200 people, including three priests, were killed. Hasibuan said that witnesses reported seeing TNI trucks remove bodies, while others were burned on the spot.

Witnesses told the commission that a TNI member wearing an Aitarak T-shirt was present when militias attacked Bishop Belo's house. "An eyewitness claims to have seen Major General Syafrie Syamsuddin present during this incident", said Hasibuan.

An experienced Kopassus combat and intelligence general, Syamsuddin first went to East Timor in 1976 and was a member of nanggala teams, the Kopassus counterinsurgency units renowned for their violence and terrorism. Syamsuddin attended a special intelligence course in the US in 1977 and in 1986 received anti-terrorist training there. He was head of Kopassus intelligence in East Timor when the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre took place.


Hasibuan said the best mechanism for putting militia leaders and military personnel on trial would be for a human rights court to be established under legislation before parliament, rather than military tribunals or civilian courts.

The new Indonesian government is under national and international pressure to bring the generals responsible to justice. The November 23 Jakarta Post editorial commented: "This is an inquiry upon which Indonesia's reputation, and especially that of the government, is at stake."

But the commission and Komnas HAM lack teeth. All previous reports of systematic human right violations in East Timor, Aceh and West Papua have been ignored.

The new minister for law and legislation, Yusril Ihza Mahenmdra, said on November 23 that while the government would establish a human rights court, it would not have the power to bring alleged perpetrators of past atrocities to justice. "The human rights court cannot be intended to try past cases, but only violations occurring after the court comes into existence."

The military still plays an influential role in Indonesian politics, and there are no immediate plans by the new government to end the TNI's "dual function". Five ministers in the new cabinet have military backgrounds, and Wiranto's successor as commander in chief of the armed forces, Admiral Widodo, has cabinet status.

Widodo told the parliament on November 23 that the Komnas HAM commission's findings needed to be "clarified" . He claimed that the TNI was being treated unfairly because the eyewitnesses were all pro-independence.

"To get balanced results, we have to hear from witnesses from the other side", he said, ignoring the fact that nearly 80% of East Timorese voted for independence.

A five-member UN team to investigate the post-ballot violence arrived in East Timor on November 25, some three months after the fact. The lack of a specialised forensic and pathology team collecting evidence has meant that a considerable amount of evidence has already been lost.

Led by Costa Rican jurist Sonia Picardo, the team was met by some 200 women marching through Dili demanding that those TNI figures responsible for violence against women be brought to justice. The UN team is expected to report to the UN secretary-general by December 31 and then to the UN General Assembly on whether it should set up an international war crimes tribunal.

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