|Indonesian Ad Hoc Court
Tries East Timor Abuse Suspects
The people of
East Timor voted for independence from
Indonesia on August 30, 1999, in a United Nations-supervised
referendum. Indonesia had invaded the country in 1975 after the
Timorese gained independence from Portugal, and during the 24-year
occupation that followed, an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 people had
In the period surrounding the referendum, more than 1,000 civilians
were killed in violence instigated by pro-Jakarta militias. Some
250,000 people were forced to flee their homes. Following the
referendum and surrounding bloodbath, the
Transitional Administration in East Timor oversaw the nation until
it became independent on May 20, 2002.
United Nations investigators and an
Indonesian human rights
commission found that the militia violence was planned, supported
and directed by the Indonesian military in an effort to prevent
independence for the territory. A United Nations International
Commission of Inquiry recommended in a January 2000
report that an international tribunal be created to try war crimes
suspects, calling such a move "fundamental for the future social and
political stability of East Timor." No such tribunal was created,
largely due to strong resistance from the Indonesian government.
Instead, East Timor created special panels in the capital, Dili, to
try suspected war criminals domestically, and Jakarta established an
Ad Hoc Human Rights Court to prosecute Indonesian suspects.
The Ad Hoc court in Jakarta proposed to try 18 suspects on charges of
crimes against humanity. As of mid-January, 2003, 10 military and
police officers had been acquitted. One military officer was convicted
and sentenced to five years in prison, pending appeal, and two
civilians had been convicted.
The number of acquittals, the failure of the prosecution to seek
maximum penalties, the appointment to the court of judges with close
ties to the Indonesian military, and other factors, have discredited
the Ad Hoc court in the eyes of many foreign governments. These
include the United States, which had considered the trials a benchmark
for re-establishing military ties with Indonesia. Human Rights
organizations including the East Timor
Action Network,the Judicial
System Monitoring Programme, and
Human Rights Watch
have also criticized the trials.
|ARTICLES AND COMMENTARY
- David Cohen,
Seeking Justice on the Cheap: Is the East Timor Tribunal Really a
Model for the Future?, U.C. Berkeley War Crimes Study
- James Dunn,
East Timor Unpunished, The Canberra Times (January 7, 2003).
- Allan Gerson, Peace Building:
The Private Sector's Role, 95 A.J.I.L. 102, (January, 2001).
Indonesia – Comments on the Draft Law on Human Rights Tribunals,
Amnesty International, (June 2000).
- Carsten Stahn, Accommodating
Individual Criminal Responsibility and National Reconciliation: The
UN Truth Commission for East Timor, 95 A.J.I.L. 952, (October,
- Hansjorg Strohmeyer, Collapse
and Reconstruction of a Judicial System: The United Nations Missions
in Kosovo and East Timor, 95 A.J.I.L. 46, (January, 2001).
Court for East Timor a "Whitewash", Human Rights Watch,
(December 20, 2002).
Justice Denied for East Timor, Human Rights Watch, (December
- Desmond Ball et al., Masters of
Terror, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian
National University, Canberra, (2002). This book contains a
comprehensive list of profiles of the key suspects in the 1999
violence in East Timor. This list is also available on the
Janyary 14, 2003; Last updated Feb 5, 2008.