East Timor: International community must press for justice for crimes against humanity

Amnesty International UK Media Director, Lesley Warner, said:

'The plight of the survivors and families of those who were attacked, killed, tortured or raped must not be forgotten.

'The persistent refusal of the Indonesian authorities to cooperate with the justice process in East Timor, and the failure of the recently completed Indonesian trials in Jakarta to uncover the truth, means that the international community must now take action.'

On 30 August 1999, the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia. An estimated 1,300 people were murdered by pro-Indonesia militia opposed to independence. The Indonesian security forces were responsible for protecting the people of East Timor, but stood by as the violence escalated and often participated directly in many attacks. Today, the majority of victims and their families are still waiting for justice, and many Indonesian military or police officers who colluded in the violence remain in active service, some in senior posts.

Amnesty International is calling on the UN to make it clear to the Indonesian government that it must cooperate with bringing the perpetrators of the violence to justice, and for the UN Secretary General to commission an independent review of both the Jakarta and the East Timor trials. The organisation is also calling on the international community to support the justice process by making financial and technical assistance available, including forensic and legal services.

Amnesty International activists all over the world will be writing to their governments, asking them to put justice for victims and survivors on the UN's agenda. The hundreds of outstanding cases include:

  • Ana Xavier da Conceição Lemos, a prominent political activist, primary school teacher and mother of three Children's rights. On the day of the independence ballot Ana was beaten and interrogated by militiamen led by an Indonesian military officer, and reportedly raped in detention before 'disappearing'.
  • Students Augustino de Carvalho and Estevao Xavier Pereira were seen being beaten and kicked by Indonesian soldiers in May 1999. The eyewitness later heard two shots ring out and a vehicle driving away very fast. The students' bodies were discovered buried together with their hands tied.
  • Anacleto da Silva, a young father of two, was working as an interpreter for a British journalist and an American photographer. In September 1999 the men were travelling in a taxi when they crossed paths with Indonesian military Battalion 745. After attacking the taxi driver and blinding him with their rifle butts, soldiers forced Anacleto into a truck with other prisoners. He has not been seen since.

Background

On 30 August 1999, in a UN-organised ballot, 78.5% of voters chose to reject Indonesian rule. Extensive evidence shows that the militia groups responsible for the violence before and after the ballot received the active support of the Indonesian armed forces, police and civilian authorities.

Trials of suspected perpetrators, which recently concluded in Indonesia, have been seriously flawed. The majority of defendants were acquitted, while six men who received short prison terms have been released pending appeal. They include several members of the Indonesian military or police who remain in active service.

A parallel justice process in Timor-Leste has made considerable progress in investigating the crimes. Indictments have been issued against more than 300 individuals, the majority for crimes against humanity. 221 suspects named in the indictments remain in Indonesia, but the authorities have consistently refused to transfer them to Timor-Leste to stand trial.

Related information

Indonesia & Timor-Leste: International responsibility for justice http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGASA030012003?open&of=ENG-IDN

To take action, please see Amnesty International's web action at: http://web.amnesty.org/pages/tmp-290803-action-eng /b>

View latest press releases