166-167, April 2002
Bulletin no. 166
3. From rights abuses to Syari'a law [text unavailable]
4. Building solidarity for Aceh [text unavailable]
6. Peasant activists under fire [text unavailable]
7. Theys murder inquiry blocked by cover-up [text unavailable]
8. New Internationalist West Papua edition [text unavailable]
12. NGOs’ role at Rights Commission under threat [text unavailable]
13. Violence flares up again in Maluku [text unavailable]
14. R. Challis - Shadow of a revolution: Indonesia and the Generals (Book Review) [text unavailable]
15. Indonesia’s first rights activist passes away (In Memoriam) [text unavailable]
The Indonesian military is accustomed to ruling the country and enjoying political and economic power. The habit has turned soldiers into a special breed with all the characteristics of a ruling elite: arrogant, power crazy, greedy. General Wiranto's recent outburst at the ad hoc court on East Timor says it all. Showing no remorse, he blamed the destruction of East Timor in September 1999 on the UN, not on the barbaric acts of his own men.
For a brief period following the downfall of Suharto, the armed forces (TNI), in particular the army, was in a state of limbo. Having committed grave human rights violations, its image was gravely tarnished, forcing them to step back to make way for civilian rule. But within months of the election of Abdurrachman Wahid as president, some groups had started obstructing his administration. In the closing months of his brief reign, the military were in open revolt, parading in front of the palace. His successor Megawati took over with army and police backing, a clear sign that TNI-AD, the army, was back in the saddle and determined to stay there.
On the offensive
Several events in February and March signalled a big political offensive by the military, displaying their determination to grab back what they had briefly lost. First, was the decision of highly-placed military and police officers to refuse to be questioned in an investigation into the riots in Jakarta in 1998 and 1999 and the killing of student demonstrators. Next was the establishment of a new territorial military command in Aceh, Kodam Iskandar Muda, despite big protests in Jakarta and Banda Aceh. Then the TNI leadership arrogantly appointed two notorious human rights violators into strategic positions; Major-General Syafrie Syamsuddin became official spokesperson of the armed forces and Major-General Muchdi PR became Deputy of BIN (Badan Intelijen Negara, the revamped State Intelligence Body).
In April retired General Wiranto and the still-serving Major-General Adam Damiri appeared in court as witnesses at the ad hoc court on the disastrous events in East Timor in 1999. Although the world had seen how the Indonesian military and their proxy, the militias, plunged East Timor in an orgy of terror and destruction, these generals used the courtroom to make an unprecedented attack on the UN in East Timor, blaming it for the destruction.
These are examples of how army officers have shown utter contempt for civilian rule. Looking back in history to the birth of the Republic in 1945, the military have played a dominant role in political decision making throughout, with the exception of the 1950s, the period of liberal democracy, and the two years after the fall of Suharto from 1998 till 2000. Both these periods of civilian rule were ridden with secessionist moves and political instability. It has become second nature for most army officers to regard civilian rule as ineffective as compared with the military who are the 'divine rulers', or 'saviours of the nation'.
There are strong grounds to believe that the army's swift return to the centre stage of politics is largely due to Indonesia's woeful political and economic condition. In many countries, the collapse of an authoritarian regime has been followed by a long period of instability and disintegration. The upsurge of the independence movements in Aceh and West Papua is now the main justification for the army to step forward and involve themselves directly in decision making. Civilian politicians are seen as being too ineffective and liable to gives the separatists too much leeway.
For a brief period during the reformasi period, when civil society was vibrant, a handful of public-spirited army officers drew up an agenda for reform of the TNI, accepting the principle of civilian supremacy but this reform wing soon collapsed, as the result of sabotage and obstruction from fellow officers.
By mid-2001 the military were back at the helm, determining the composition of Megawati's cabinet. The key members of her cabinet are influential army officers. Lt. General Hendropriyono heads the state intelligence agency, BIN, with a seat in the cabinet, Lt General Hari Sabarno is the interior minister and General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is the coordinating minister for politics and security affairs. These appointments signalled that reformasi was already dead.
During the Habibie and Wahid periods, there was a significant push towards civilian supremacy, which also gave democratic space for the spectacular growth of the pro-referendum movement in Aceh and the birth of the Papuan Presidium Council with independence demands on its agenda. The TNI used the threat of separatism as justification to re-enter politics, and enjoyed the tacit support of broad sections of the public where the concept of NKRI, the unitary state, is deeply ingrained. In the name of protecting NKRI, the TNI started to conduct massive military operations in Aceh and West Papua without noticeable protest in parliament.
The two wings in the military
With the collapse of the reformasi wing, TNI officers now mainly consist of two wings: the political wing and the mandiri (self-reliant) wing. While there are clear differences between the two groups, they basically agree on the army's 'divine rule', the ineffectiveness of civilian politicians and the TNI's guardian role for the state. This found clear expression in Megawati's working program: 'To defend the unification and unity of the nation in the framework of the Unitary State of Indonesia (NKRI).'
One could argue that there are good grounds for feeling frustrated with the achievements of Indonesia's civilian political elite. Civilian rule under Habibie, Wahid and Megawati has not successfully promoted the principle of civilian supremacy. Gradually Indonesia has become one of the world's 'failing states', characterised by corruption, mismanagement, disintegration and the inability to build democratic institutions. In such conditions, the TNI appears to be the only institution able to hold the country together.
Indonesia is now reckoned to be the most corrupt country in Asia, even surpassing Vietnam and China. During the orgy of personal plunder in the final years of the Suharto period, the bureaucracy-military partnership always guaranteed a share for the military. Up to the bitter end most military factions supported Suharto.
But now, nominal civilian rule has replaced the authoritarian pyramid constructed under Suharto, with new groups of politicians in the executive and the legislature. They have been able to build their own power bases and grab every business opportunity in sight. The free-for-all fight for economic resources in the post-Suharto period led to another orgy of corruption and plunder, involving old and new cronies and creating a new layer of mostly civilian nouveau riche. The military top had hardly any share of the cake, fuelling more discontent with the new civilian elite. At the same time the dire economic situation could not provide an adequate budget for a professional armed forces, encouraging the military to get involved in organised crime and rackets.
Politically speaking, the young plural party system is in a mess. All the major parties are split into at least two wings, and fighting publicly over political issues and economic gains. Although some retired generals have joined parties, the majority are reluctant to do so. This mirrors the early fifties when political officers and mandiri officers also were part of the political constellation.
The political generals
There are significant differences among the political generals in strategy and approach. Retired General Wiranto, one of the main decision makers up to early 2000, is a typical exponent of this group but functions outside the formal system. Everyone knows that his contacts with the Suharto family are close, giving him access to plenty of money. While Wiranto represents the voice of many disgruntled officers who have lost the political and economic clout they enjoyed in the post-Suharto era, their real influence in politics is limited. Wiranto himself has a high profile in the media, on TV and radio and uses bribes to get interviewed. He deals primarily with the closing years of Suharto, when there was much turbulence and ABRI, later renamed TNI, gained a very negative image. As the then commander-in-chief, Wiranto must take responsibility for the many atrocities in the second half of the nineties. His line of defence is predictable: it was all done in the line of duty and the military were simply functioning as public servants.
The other wings of the political generals are more up front and have remained part of the political system. Two important officers, now cabinet ministers, should be mentioned: Lt-General Hendropriyono, who heads BIN (see below) and General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), co-ordinating minister for political and security affairs.
SBY is typical of the TNI officers involved in daily politics, which was so widespread during the Suharto era. His image is very respectable; he was a cabinet minister under Wahid and now under Megawati. He is in effect the prime minister because the president is indecisive and says very little. In public at least, he is seen as the one who has determined policies regarding Aceh and West Papua and who coordinated the peace talks in Malino on the Poso and Maluku conflicts.
He clearly has political ambitions. The confusion that reigned under Wahid prompted him to find alternatives. After refusing an invitation to join Wahid's party, he set up a new party which includes former stalwarts of GOLKAR, the government party under Suharto. This party hopes to emerge as an alternative, a new military-bureaucracy coalition. Other parties set up by retired generals have failed to win significant support. The SBY alternative is banking on a further decay in day-to-day politics under Megawati and then emerge strongly in the 2004 elections.
The mandiri group
While most retired officers are accustomed to being active in politics, most active officers, in particular those who run Cilangkap, the Indonesian Pentagon, have developed a different approach. While the older generation, the so-called political generals, still function as members of parliament, provincial governors or mayors, the present generation have structurally said goodbye to the idea of holding public office.
In contrast to his seniors like SBY or Wiranto, army chief of staff General Endriartono Sutarto, sees things differently. In his own words, the army's main task is to guarantee national sovereignty and protect the country against the danger of disintegration, in effect, a declaration of war on separatism. The best examples of the mandiri group are Endriartono Sutarto himself and Lt.-General Ryamizard Ryacudu, a no-nonsense general who prefers military action to words. While Endriartono needs to be careful about what he says, Ryacudu functions as the spokesperson of the group. 'The army has always been on the losing side', he laments. 'Even during the New Order, we always came last. Can you imagine, we only received a fraction of the state budget (around 3 per cent). It was only when General Yusuf was Minister of Defence (1978-1983) that the allocation was adequate. After that, never again" [Tempo, 7 April 2002].
His views on reformasi are clear: the reform measures are in disarray. Reflecting the views of most soldiers, he says. 'The reform programme did not proceed as expected. Each one went their own way.' [Garda, 3 March 2002]. He openly criticises fellow officers who joined the ranks of reformasi and got infected with the disease of reform and democracy. But 95 per cent of the troops still hold firmly to the TNI identity, according to the general. It is clear that the mandiri stalwarts have nothing but contempt for civilians and showed open defiance of President Wahid. While the army remained on the sidelines during the moves to overthrow Wahid, their open defiance of Wahid's policies gave the signal to other political forces to start impeachment proceedings.
Kostrad and Kopassus
Ryamizard Ryacudu is the commander of Kostrad, the Army Strategic Command, the backbone of Kotama (Komando Utama, Main Command Forces) and the main command force of the army. Kostrad has 40,000 well trained troops and takes the lead in fighting armed GAM units in Aceh. As a leading exponent of the mandiri wing, Ryacudu is driven by the fear of Indonesia falling apart.
The other force in Kotama is Kopassus, the special forces with around 7,000 men. In the turbulent period from 1998 to 2000 Kopassus was widely condemned for its role in kidnappings and other serious human rights violations including torture and disappearances but in 2001 Kopassus made a comeback. For a while there was bitter rivalry between Kostrad and Kopassus officers but it seems that Kostrad has once again taken the lead in Kotama.
In Aceh, during the DOM period from 1989 till 1998, Kopassus led the counter insurgency operations against GAM. A condition of low intensity conflict was maintained, resulting in grave human rights violations in the countryside. After a brief pause, military operations were resumed on an even larger scale in 2001, with Kostrad as the main combat force. Now, Kostrad and Kopassus work hand in hand in Aceh.
Some new elements have emerged in dealing with the problems in conflict areas. The practice now is to use a combination of elite forces, including marines, air force commandos and Kopassus troops, against separatists or armed groups in Poso or Maluku. Together with Kostrad units, these 'joint battalions' (yongab), Brimob troops (the special command unit of the police force), are also taking part. By the end of 2001 about 50 battalions from the TNI and the police were deployed across the nation in trouble spots. While several battalions are deployed in eastern Indonesia (West Papua, Maluku and Sulawesi), most of the joint battalions are deployed in Aceh, where the TNI faces the most serious challenge.
Another new element in the war against separatist forces is the specially trained combat intelligence units called tontaikam (peleton pengintai keamanan, security surveillance platoon). These units are trained and groomed at the Kopassus training centre in Batudjadjar and are responsible for reconnaissance and intelligence work in trouble spots ahead of military operations. The activities of tontaikam are directly felt by the population in Aceh where around a dozen people die every day. While there has been consolidation within Kotama, other TNI structures are beginning to re-emerge.
Kotama's military operations against GAM have been quite successful. The armed wing of GAM has been pushed back to the mountains while OPM activities in West Papua are hardly noticeable. But as conflicts in other parts of the world show, military might does not solve anything and only creates more violence. The idea that GAM can be obliterated is an illusion and has only increased its popularity among the Acehnese. The death toll in 2001 reached 1,700, largely due to intensified war operations by Kotama troops.
The territorial structure
For some time there was confusion about the decisions of an important TNI seminar regarding the future of the territorial structure. One decision was to hand over the military territorial structure to local governments. Some far-reaching ideas were floated about abolishing military structures below sub-district level. [Gatra, 1 September 2001]. In discussions outside the TNI, academics and military watchers agreed that the military territorial structure should be gradually dismantled.
The territorial structure functions as a shadow government, often more powerful than the regional administration. The territorial structure or koter (komando teritorial) was initially the foundation of the Indonesian army. In the early days of the young republic, military units were primarily organised in regional battalions and officers were identified by their territorial affinity. After a big overhaul in 1984, kotama forces, Kostrad and Kopassus became the backbone of the army. Financial constraints transformed the territorial commands into cesspools of criminal activities. Regional commands increasingly involved themselves in mafia practices instead of concentrating on security matters.
The separation of the police from the TNI strengthened the view among civilians that koter had become redundant. The police are now responsible for law and order. The downgrading of the position of Kaster (Kepala Staf Teritorial, chief of staff of territorial affairs) into an assistant position at the general staff was another indication that territorial affairs would be sidelined.
But in the end, the results were very different, with a big victory for the military. Instead of downsizing koter, the army top is determined to maintain or enlarge the territorial structure. Lt. General Ryamizard Ryacudu bluntly told a journalist: 'Like it or not, the glue of the nation nowadays is the TNI. If people want to dismantle the state, go ahead and abolish the territorial units. If the Trikora military command in Irian Jaya were dissolved, Irian Jaya would be independent' [Tempo, 7 April 2002].
The new military territorial command in Aceh, Kodam (military area command) Iskandar Muda set up in February 2002 is the latest example of the army's determination to expand rather than downsize koter. In May 1999, Kodam Pattimura was re-established in Maluku while two other kodams, Tanjung Pura in West Kalimantan and Lambung Mangkurat in Central and South Kalimantan are in the pipeline. With the creation of new provinces, a string of new districts and subdistricts are emerging. The TNI Information Centre recently said this might lead to the creation of new district and subdistrict military commands.
Since the establishment of kodams in Maluku and Aceh, military operations have continued in both regions, primarily by kotama forces under the command of the headquarters in Jakarta. The operations in Aceh are run by a special command called Kolakops, similar to the military operation in East Timor while operations in Maluku are in the hands of Yongab, the joint battalions.
The real reason for the expansion of the territorial commands lies elsewhere. Firstly, finances. Territorial commands can siphon off money from the provincial budget. In particular the autonomy law can, in practice, provide more money for the regions. Regional 'projects' like offering protection for local companies or vital projects can be co-ordinated by the command through a special unit called PAM Provit (Pasukan Pengamanan Projek Vital, Troops Securing Vital Projects).
So-called self-financing by the military can for a great part function through the local commands. Lack of funding by the state is used to justify efforts to find other sources of money. Local businesses have become more viable thanks to the autonomy law. The territorial commands can play a crucial role in these business activities. A more sinister role for commands is the recruitment and deployment of militia groups in conflict areas. Despite the disastrous experience in East Timor, the military top continue to consider militia groups as part of their security doctrine. Increasing the number of territorial commands is another example of how the military have gained leverage over civilian politics.
The intelligence agency
While kotama and koter are primarily in the hands of the mandiri group, the intelligence community is a much more complex entity. Retired General Hendropriyono, the new intelligence supremo, is an important exponent of the political generals and is often at loggerheads with the mandiri generals. Since the start of civilian rule in the post-Suharto era, the need was felt to reorganise the intelligence agencies and bring them under overall control. The several intelligence outfits functioned as small empires and have became the playground for influential officers or politicians. At one point President Wahid felt that he could no longer rely on information from the intelligence services and decided to have his own private intelligence outfit.
Reorganisation of the military and civilian intelligence agencies started in April 1999 when the notorious military intelligence body BIA was reorganised and renamed BAIS (Badan Intelijen Strategis, Strategic Intelligence Agency). The police intelligence and the intelligence service of the defence ministry were also overhauled. Then, BIN (Badan Intelijen Negara, State Intelligence Agency) emerged and Hendropriyono was appointed its chief when Megawati announced her cabinet in July 2001. The retired general was given a seat in the cabinet and his role can be compared to the director of the National Security Council at the White House, a pivotal decision-making job. Previously the head of BAKIN (Badan Koordinasi Intelijen, Coordinating Body of the Intelligence) was the president's top advisor on intelligence matters but functioned like a sphinx. Hendropriyono functions much more openly, not unlike the high profile of national security advisors in Washington like Kissinger, Brzezinski and Condoleeza Rice.
When Hendropriyono accepted the job, he knew he would need to revamp the entire intelligence structure and promised 'to repair our intelligence world so that we produce better intelligence data" (Jakarta Post, 10 August 2001). Hendropriyono is a typical political general in the mould of General Wiranto. His background as an intelligence operator and ruthless Kopassus combat soldier, has ensured a successful career but also many enemies. A highly ambitious man, he joined Megawati's party, the PDI-P, so as to have the ear of the president. Mandiri generals at TNI headquarters openly disagree with him and prefer the old structures where military intelligence was dominant.
While Hendropriyono's achievements are not impressive, the 11 September events shook the intelligence community profoundly. There has been an increase in contacts with intelligence agencies abroad, including the CIA and MI6 but is it not known whether BIN agents are being trained abroad to improve their lamentable skills. For Hendropriyono the 11 September tragedy provided the pretext to join the Bush bandwagon in his crusade against terrorism. In October Hendropriyono claimed that Al Qaeda units were training in South Sulawesi, echoing statements by the hawks in Washington and by Singapore's senior politician Lee Kuan Yew who complained that not enough has been done to track down potential extremist groups in Indonesia. But statements by Indonesian ministers contradict Hendropriyono's claims and deny that there is any evidence of terrorist activities in the country.
The conflict between Hendropriyono and the mandiri generals is growing. The suggestion that the US should send troops to Indonesia is very controversial and has been used by the mandiri officers to raise the banner of nationalism. 'We can deal with our own affairs and don't need foreign intervention' blared headlines while the BIN chief was portrayed as too friendly with the Americans. The hawks in Washington, notably under-secretary of defence Paul Wolfowitz, have strong reasons to seek to restore contacts with the TNI, which were cut back in 1999 after the events in East Timor. But the black-and-white Bush doctrine, 'you are either with us or against us' doesn't go down well in Indonesia where there are many shades of grey.
In March, Robert Mueller, the FBI chief, visited Hendropriyono. BIN has been quite helpful to the Americans by handing over a Pakistani terror suspect. Wolfowitz is trying to undo the legislative restrictions that were imposed on arms supplies to Indonesia by proposing new schemes of co-operation between the two militaries for counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics programmes. Yet, the State Department and Congress continue to insist that the officers responsible for the devastation in East Timor should be punished before ties can be normalised. The average TNI officer is deeply hurt by this attitude which could threaten Hendropriyono's position if he gets too close to the Washington hawks.
While this conflict persists, the intelligence agencies continue to malfunction. The lack of transparency for outsiders, a universal problem in dealing with intelligence agencies, plus lack of control by parliament, points to the problems the country's political elite still has to cope with.
TNI reforms at a dead end
Soon after the fall of Suharto, the TNI launched its own internal reform programme, called 'repositioning, redefining and refreshing' the role of TNI. While giving the impression that it had accepted the principle of civilian supremacy, things were quite different. Although the mandiri group has agreed to abandon the political arena by leaving parliament in 2008, they still play a dominant role in Indonesian politics. The expansion of the territorial command system shows that the military are not prepared to take a few steps back; still worse, they hope to use the system as an economic and political tool to influence local conditions. The refusal to be questioned by human rights investigators is another sign of the TNI's refusal to assist in efforts to deal with grave past abuses.
The strong re-emergence of TNI on the political scene largely reflects the weakness of civil society and the deep economic crisis, strengthening the bargaining position of the military vis-à-vis the civilians. Still worse, civilian members of parliament now accept the dominant role of the military and fall over themselves to win their support.
On key issues like fighting separatism, the military have closed ranks, but on most other issues, they remain deeply divided. The political wing is convinced that the old style of working closely with the political establishment produces the best results. But the present batch of commanding officers loathe politics and prefer to stick to military affairs. What this means is ignoring the civilian administration and continuing to implement their own doctrines and concepts.
The chances of the military accepting the democratic principle of returning to barracks are still a long way off.
In February Liem Soei Liong, TAPOL co-editor, made a brief visit to Aceh. Aceh has been a focus for TAPOL for many years. Serious human rights violations have been going for well over a decade and since 2001 troops have flooded into Aceh, inflicting heavy casualties on the population. The daily death toll has reached twenty, mostly civilians, and there are no signs that Jakarta is about to reverse its policies.
From the moment of arriving at the airport of Banda Aceh, it is clear that it is a war zone. Heavily-armed police are everywhere and on the short journey to the city we passed several road blocks, both military and police. The Acehnese have learned to live with this but for an outsider like me, it certainly looks abnormal. According to reports, there are scores of road blocks on the main road from Medan to Banda Aceh. The streets in Banda Aceh also show all the signs of war. A wide variety of tanks and armoured personal carriers are part of the regular traffic. Street patrolling by military and police is also common; more often than not, the soldiers wear army trousers, casual t-shirts and baseball caps, with semi-automatic rifles dangling from their shoulders. A grim scene indeed. Security people are present in such big numbers that it is impossible not to notice them when taking a stroll in the centre of the city
A few days after my arrival in Jakarta before leaving for Aceh, heavy fighting broke out between TNI and GAM in the GAM stronghold of Pidie. In a battle that lasted for days, the GAM commander Abdullah Syafei, was killed together with his wife. Abdullah Syafei, or Teuku Lah as he was fondly known to the Acehnese, was very popular, a much-loved person whose passing was mourned by the majority of Acehnese who saw it as the passing of a martyr.
A week later a new territorial command, Kodam Iskandar Muda, was installed by the TNI chief of staff General Endriartono Sutarto. These events forced me to postpone my departure for Aceh and I finally arrived in Banda Aceh the day after the installation of the new command.
The TNI has achieved a string of military successes over the past year and in many regions the armed wing of GAM has retreated to the mountains. But the political wing of GAM has spread its influence all over Aceh. According to a recent statement by the Indonesian police, at least one third of Acehnese villages are strongholds of GAM sympathisers.
Most people I met in Aceh showed an amazing vitality with a strong dose of civil courage. Although I had previously met very few of the local activists, I quickly got along very well with everyone I met and had many intense discussions during my short stay.
After the huge mobilisation of support for a referendum in 1999 and 2000, the military stepped in with a vengeance and it became impossible to organise mass meetings or rallies. The democratic space provided by the civilian administration in Jakarta came to an end. The military authorities concluded that the danger of Indonesia's disintegration was imminent. A series of military operations were launched in 2001 and 2002. The aim was clear: to drive AGAM, the military wing of GAM, out of the villages and towns while striking hard at civil society organisations. When I arrived in Banda Aceh many activists groups were still assessing the worsening conditions and strategising on how to cope with the new situation.
Despite the huge presence of the military, the situation in Banda Aceh was less tense than I had expected. The string of military successes had probably led the TNI top to conclude that it would be advisable to lift the lid for a while. The recent tense atmosphere in Aceh has had a very deleterious effect on economic activity. Shortly before I arrived, dozens of women held a protest about difficulties marketing goods and complaining about the levies taken from traders on their way to market. Shops and streets stalls close quite early with the result that the 24-hour economy that exists in most Asian cities is less apparent in Banda Aceh. But I sometimes strolled in the streets after 10pm and life seemed to be gradually returning to normal.
The stories I heard about the countryside are much worse. More often than not, people are told by the authorities to stay at home after dark which amounts to an unofficial curfew.
Background of the visit
After the fall of Suharto in May 1998, there was an explosion of social activities in Aceh. A dazzling array of new NGOs/CSOs (civil society organisations) emerged and from 1998 till the end of 2000 civil society in Aceh flowered and the political arena was full of vitality. Acehnese people organised themselves on a variety of issues. They held conferences and rallies, there were gatherings organised by victims of human rights abuses, rallies against military brutality and against violence against women, and in 1999, a mass rally calling for a referendum.
This period brought to an end the gruesome decade (1989-1998) known as DOM (Daerah Operasi Militer), Military Operations Zone, when Aceh was under virtual military occupation and numerous human rights violations occurred . Within just two years, the Acehnese, despite a continuing reign of terror by the military, managed to give voice to their call for peace and justice. This brief 'Prague Spring' reached a climax in November 2000 when an estimated one million people rallied for peace in Banda Aceh, organised by SIRA (Centre of Information for a Referendum in Aceh), with the active support of the many civil society organisations. One year earlier, a similar peaceful rally was held in Banda Aceh, attended by half a million people. These rallies marked a turning point for Aceh civil society. But such was the impact that the security forces were bent on doing whatever necessary to prevent such a thing from happening again.
In May 2000 an unprecedented Peace Accord was signed in Davos, Switzerland facilitated by the Henri Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. But despite the accord, Aceh was plunged into an all-out war situation. The year 2001 was a very bleak year when dozens of civilians, most villagers, were killed, captured or 'disappeared' every week, when Acehnese activists were harassed, put on trial, or had to flee abroad; when NGOs/CSOs had barely any room to manoeuvre. As my hosts told me, it became urgent to make a re-appraisal of the situation in Aceh and in particular the strength and weaknesses of civil society.
Jakarta's attitude towards Aceh
As explained elsewhere in this issue, the Megawati government in Jakarta has not shown the political will to assert its supremacy over the military, and has accommodated the military, allowing them to do what they like. This applies with a vengeance in Aceh. The Jakarta government has failed to provide the people of Aceh with a sense that justice is being done. On the contrary, the so-called comprehensive measures taken by Jakarta under the latest version of the 'presidential instruction' have only meant sending more troops. The thousands of horrific abuses that occurred during DOM and many more since DOM was lifted, have not been punished, leaving the Acehnese with a sense of deep betrayal.
According to official figures, between 20,000 and 30,000 troops are now stationed in Aceh but several local sources I spoke to say that the actual number is nearer to 60,000 troops. The number of daily killings continues to mount. In 2001 the average daily death toll was ten, with non-combatants accounting for the vast majority of victims. In the first months of 2002 it increased to an average of twenty deaths a day, with up to 1,700 deaths by mid April.
The military approach taken by Jakarta is a clear sign of weakness and, as shown in other parts of the world, will only lead to more violence. If the Jakarta government were confident that it had the support of the people of Aceh, a withdrawal of troops would be the logical step. The Wahid government tried unsuccessfully to find a peaceful solution to the Aceh conflict while the Megawati government has basically given free rein to the military to conduct military operations on a massive scale. Successive Jakarta governments have failed to understand the need for a policy that would resolve the conflict. The Indonesian authorities have ignored the political aspirations of the Acehnese, in particular their yearning for justice. The most basic questions have not been addressed. None of the massacres has been properly investigated and not one of the perpetrators of gross human rights violations has been brought to justice.
Instead, the Jakarta government decided to grant Aceh special autonomy status known as NAD (Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam). The Acehnese had virtually no say in drafting the special autonomy law and have overwhelmingly rejected it.
Two other schemes were foisted on the Acehnese: the introduction of syariah law and the re-establishment of the Aceh military command. A special Aceh desk was set up in Jakarta which has decided to use religion (Islamic concepts) as the solution for Aceh. This desk is under the direct control of General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the co-ordinating minister for political and security affairs.
Syariah law is expected to help solve the conflict in Aceh but many Acehnese disagree. Acehnese are already very devout in their religious beliefs and moreover, the conflict in Aceh is not about religion, but about sovereignty and justice. Still worse, the police have now taken it upon themselves to become a religious police, imposing penalties on women for not wearing the jilbab or keeping themselves 'suitable attired'. There is even talk about people being punished for not praying five times a day.
On 10 February 2002 a new Presidential Instruction was signed by President Megawati (Inpres No.1/2002) the stated purpose of which, like the two previous presidential instructions, is to find a 'comprehensive solution' to the conflict in Aceh. Megawati's presidential instruction continues in the footsteps of Inpres 4 and 7/2001 which both gave a free hand to the military and the intelligence to conduct military and counter-insurgency operations. It is evident that the Megawati government is bereft of new ideas on how to solve the political problems of Aceh. One of the crucial questions raised by this lack of vision is that, with the Indonesian economy in a state of virtual bankruptcy, how does the government think it can finance the running costs of what is likely to be a long-drawn-out war in Aceh?
Strategy of TNI
The re-establishment of the military command Kodam Iskandar Muda (which had been dissolved in 1985) is a victory for the military over the civilian government and Parliament. The lifting of DOM in 1998 and the growing strength of GAM seems to have persuaded TNI headquarters that the carrot-and-stick approach hasn't worked and the security approach - sending more troops - is the only option.
In the last three years, seven military operations have been launched: Operasi Wibawa '99, Operasi Sadar Rencong I, II and III, Operasi Cinta Meunasah I, II and III. In military terms, the TNI has been quite successful and, although it is difficult to make a proper assessment, it is true that GAM guerrilla units have been driven back from several areas in the last two years.
The 23-year experience of military occupation of East Timor and its ever-mutating military strategies is now being implemented in Aceh; the similarity is quite striking. The military operational command called Kolakops, established in April 2001, even bears the same name as the military operational command in East Timor in the late eighties and is also directly commanded from the army HQ in Jakarta, as was the case in East Timor.
The military power of AGAM is still considerable, and AGAM recruits enjoy better training and often have better equipment than their TNI adversaries, not to speak of their dedication to the struggle. In most parts of Indonesia, the police are responsible for law and order but in a war zone like Aceh, things are very different and the military are responsible for law and order.
Brig. General Djali Yusuf who was and still is commander of Kolakops, has been appointed commander of Aceh military command, while the chief of staff is Colonel Syarifuddin Tippe, formerly commander of the Teuku Umar sub-district military command. While Brig. General Djali Yusuf represents the traditional combat officer, focusing on standard military operations, Colonel Syarifuddin Tippe is an officer with well-honed social skills who makes a habit of mixing with the general public and prides himself on getting involved in more intellectual pursuits. He recently wrote a book called El Hur, where he uses examples from the conflict in the Middle East to suggest ways of achieving reconciliation in Aceh. One of his briefs will be using religion to woo the population. Another of his briefs will likely be to intensify the use of militia gangs, a sure way to try and stir up division among the Acehnese.
The Djali Yusuf gained high marks with the Jakarta authorities when his troops (mainly Kostrad elite troops) succeeded in killing the GAM commander Abdullah Syafei in January 2002. This is the approach that typifies the style of the post-Suharto professional officer. The Syarifuddin Tippe approach will pursue 'reconciliation' efforts or as described in Inpres No.1/2002 'to deal with social discontent' (original in English).
While old style political generals like Wiranto and Hendropriyono directly involve themselves in daily politics [see separate article], the new style officers 'just follow orders'. This attitude is taken as meaning, 'we are the guardians of the nation and we know best how to deal with rebels'. And the order from Kostrad commander Lt. General Ryamizard Ryacudu is very clear: 'No mercy for the separatists'.
Aceh and civil society in Indonesia
Most Indonesian NGOs adopt an attitude towards Aceh that can only be described as irrational or emotional. While understanding that there is widespread injustice in Aceh, they believe that pressing for accountability and bringing the perpetrators of abuses to court is all that needs to be done. The idea that the Aceh tragedy involves a political dimension, is simply not understood by most Indonesians.
In the past few years the Indonesian political community has become used to the idea that one day West Papua might become an independent state but the idea of an Acehnese independent state is too painful to contemplate. Emotionally there is a boundary in the mindset of many Indonesians. An independent West Papua would still keep Indonesia intact, they seem to think, but were Aceh to leave the fold, this would be the ultimate blow, leading to the disintegration of the Indonesian nation-state.
Many seminars are held in Jakarta openly discussing the issue of independence for West Papua and most Indonesian intellectuals tend to agree with the idea. But if Acehnese or Indonesians publicly speak out in favour of independence for Aceh, they are seen as traitors. The problem lies in the deeply ingrained idea of NKRI, the unitary state of Indonesia, among many Indonesians. Ever since the birth of the Republic up to today, there have been attempts in Aceh to break away from Jakarta. These secessionist movements had limited political agendas; they were either led by right-wing military groups or local groups who wanted Indonesia to become an Islamic state. Many Indonesians consider the idea of Aceh breaking away as being very negative. It will take time before Indonesians can learn to sympathise or at least behave less emotionally towards the idea of Acehnese independence.
The peace process
After a stalemate lasting seven months, the HDC conducted a new round of talks between the Jakarta government and GAM in Geneva. The meeting in the first weekend of February created new openings, notably the willingness on GAM's part to discuss the issue of NAD, the special autonomy law for Aceh. The GAM spokesperson at the Geneva talks, Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba, said afterwards that GAM regarded the results as satisfactory, welcoming the fact it has been agreed to resolve the conflict by democratic means. 'This is a good result for the people of Aceh. We are committed to implementing the agreement. We hope that the Indonesian side are similarly committed.' (Kontras No.176, 6-12 February 2002)
It was agreed that four points would be discussed in greater detail at a later stage (30 to 45 days after the February meeting):
(1) Cessation of all acts of violence.
(2) A transparent, all-inclusive dialogue to be held in 2002 or 2003.
(3) The election of a democratic government in Aceh through free and fair elections in May 2004, and
(4) Both sides conducting a review of the above points.
Things may look fine in Geneva, but the political atmosphere in Jakarta is quite different. The professional TNI officers who are dedicated to a military solution are implacably opposed to the talks; they see it as humiliating to negotiate with rebels who want independence. However, the political generals in the cabinet, notably retired General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, coordinating minister for political and security affairs, realise on one hand that a military approach will not result in a solution but at the same time want to avoid internationalising the issue. He is on record as saying that a 'Malino type' solution (used for the conflicts in Poso and Maluku) should be sought for Aceh. The Malino accords were concluded earlier this year between Muslim and Christian groups which have been fighting each other for years. Clearly such an approach has no relevance in Aceh.
In mid-April, in advance of the forthcoming HDC encounter at the end of April, General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono went to Europe on a mission connected with the Aceh conflict. There were reports that he was planning to hold 'informal' talks with a GAM delegation. He did indeed go to Sweden which is where the GAM leadership is based but to meet members of the Swedish government, not anyone from GAM. His mission, by all accounts, was to seek the help of the Swedish authorities to convince the GAM people to accept special autonomy.
A seminar which was due to take place in Banda Aceh on 4 May, to assess the progress in the resolution of the long-drawn-out conflict in Aceh was banned at the last minute by the Aceh chief of police, dealing a serious blow to freedom of expression.
The one-day seminar on the topic, 'Building a New Commitment in Aceh', was organised by the Aceh Civil Society Task Force and was aimed at discussing progress made so far in talks brokered by the Henri Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, and seeking ways of bringing Acehnese civil society into the process.
Another round of talks between the Indonesian government and GAM, the Fee Aceh Movement, was due to open in Geneva on 8 May. Until now, the talks have been exclusively the domain of the two sides in the armed conflict while civil society has been kept on the sidelines, although the conflict impinges so profoundly on the lives of the people of Aceh.
The seminar was to have been addressed by the vice-governor of Aceh and a representative of GAM, while representatives from a number of NGOs from Indonesia and overseas who had come to Banda Aceh to attend a meeting of SCHRA, the Solidarity Committee for Human Rights in Aceh on the following day, were eager to attend the seminar as well.
However, two days before the seminar was scheduled to take place, the police started harassing the organisers, the vice-governor announced that he would not address the seminar, and the Kuala Tripa Hotel which had agreed to provide a meeting place for the event, announced that they had changed their mind.
On 3 May, hours before the seminar was due to open, the police sent a letter to the organisers to say that the event was prohibited, forcing the organisers to announce the cancellation of the seminar. In a statement to the press that was widely reported in the local and national press, the organisers said that they had decided not to go ahead in order to prevent acts of repression. Given the extremely tense atmosphere in Banda Aceh and throughout Aceh, such caution is fully understandable.
The organisers said they had decided to hold the seminar in order 'to open up democratic space in Aceh, in our efforts to promote peaceful processes and to safeguard the interests of civil society'. The statement went on: 'It is in the interest of civil society that justice be upheld and a democratic society be realised, even though it is a fact that at present, democracy is not acceptable to all sides. Respect for freedom of expression in society must be the stepping stone for resolving the conflict in Aceh. Without this, democracy will be dominated by the Violence Mafia.'
Ban condemned by non-Acehnese NGOs
The police ban came under strong attack from non-Acehnese NGOs who had sent representatives to Banda Aceh for the occasion. At a press conference held on 4 May under the chairmanship of Bonar Tigor Naipospos of Solidamor (Solidarity Without Frontiers), Hendardi, head of PBHI, a leading Indonesian human rights advocacy institution, deeply regretted that laws were being used to trample on freedom of expression. He said that the letter from the police to the seminar organisers was 'an insult to the intelligence'. Ori Rahman, co-ordinator of Kontras, the Commission for the Disappeared and the Victims of Violence, attacked the authorities for duplicity, on the one hand allowing the talks to go ahead in Geneva, while denying the democratic space for Acehnese society to participate in the process.
Liem Soei Liong of TAPOL challenged the Indonesian authorities for trying to turn the Aceh conflict into a domestic issue. Globalisation of human rights means that places where serious human rights are taking place are by definition international affairs and international concern is more than justified.
Non-Acehnese NGOs and individuals who were in Banda Aceh for the seminar and the SCHRA meeting included seven Indonesian NGOs, one from the US, two from Europe (including TAPOL), two from Australia, one from Japan and one from the Philippines.
On 26 March, an international campaign to persuade UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan to review the UN's conduct in relation the 'Act of Free Choice' in 1968-69 was launched by West Papuans and solidarity activists at the UN in New York. A formal submission was made based on detailed research of official records, which confirm that the process was a complete sham and flagrant denial of West Papua's right to self-determination.
The delegation launching the campaign, including TAPOL's Carmel Budiardjo and representatives of West Papua's leading human rights organisation, ELS-HAM, presented a petition to senior UN officials and met with the influential US Council on Foreign Relations and diplomats from a number of Pacific Island missions who agreed to monitor Kofi Annan's response. The eight-page petition is supported by thirteen original documents on which the petition is based. (Several years ago, the UN conducted investigations into the UN's conduct in Rwanda and in Srebrenice.)
During their meetings the delegation stressed how the 'Act of Free Choice' - which led to West Papua's incorporation into Indonesia - had condemned the West Papuan people to more than three decades of brutality and repression at the hands of the Indonesian military, culminating last November in the assassination of independence leader, Theys Eluay [see separate article].
The campaign, organised following a decision taken at the Second International Solidarity Meeting on West Papua in Germany in October 2001, was launched simultaneously in several countries, including the UK, Ireland and Australia. It has been endorsed by 40 organisations around the world.
UN complicity in 'Act of No Choice'
Under an international agreement between the Netherlands (the colonial power) and Indonesia, brokered by the UN and the US in 1962 (the New York Agreement), the UN was under an obligation to 'advise, assist and participate' in an 'act of self-determination in accordance with international practice',
The act was conducted in 1969 by Indonesia, which had occupied West Papua since May 1963. International practice at the time required universal adult suffrage, but in the event, just 1,022 people, out of a population of around 800,000, were forced to vote under duress for their country to become part of Indonesia. The process is known as the 'Act of Free Choice', but to this day is condemned by West Papuans as the 'Act of No Choice'.
In November 2001, the former UN Under Secretary-General, in charge of the UN's mission in West Papua, Chakravarthy Narasimhan, condemned what happened as a 'whitewash'.
The documents presented to the UN in March were based on detailed research of hitherto classified official records by historian Dr John Saltford. They reveal the extent to which the UN turned a blind eye to the manipulations of the Indonesian military in order to satisfy US requirements that the territory should become Indonesia's 26th province. The US was desperate to satisfy Indonesia's claims over West Papua, to prevent Indonesia becoming a cold-war ally of the Soviet Union.
A small UN team arrived in West Papua in 1968 to help Indonesia prepare for the promised act of self determination. By then, the West Papuans had already experienced five years of Jakarta's repressive military rule. One American diplomat noted that the Indonesians 'had tried everything from bombing to shelling and mortaring, but a continuous state of semi-rebellion persists'. The UN had acquiesced in its exclusion from West Papua between 1963 and 1968 in clear breach of the New York Agreement. This meant there was no mechanism to safeguard the human rights and political freedoms guaranteed by the Agreement.
The UN team was supposed to comprise at least 50 members, but following pressure from Jakarta, the total never exceeded 16, including administrative personnel.
Aware of their deep unpopularity, the Indonesians declared in January 1969 that a referendum was impractical because the people were too 'primitive'. They then selected 1,026 or so West Papuans to act as representatives of the population (four were unable to participate 'due to illness').
Rather than protest, the UN chose to co-operate. Unsurprisingly, given the level of intimidation, the West Papuan representatives unanimously declared their love for Indonesia and their desire to join the Republic.
Despite the farcical nature of the process, there was no objection from the UN and little international interest. It is clear that the intention of the UN Secretary-General's representative, Ortiz Sanz, had been to ensure that West Papua remained with Indonesia. The US embassy in Jakarta had noted in 1968:
'He is therefore attempting to devise a formula for an "act of free choice" in West Irian which will result in affirmation of Indonesian sovereignty...Ortiz recognizes that the problem facing both him and the GOI [Indonesia] is the risk that the Irian representatives, however they might be constituted, would vote against remaining in Indonesia. He concedes that it would be inconceivable from the point of view of the interests of the UN as well as GOI, that a result other than the continuance of West Irian within Indonesian sovereignty should emerge.'
After the event, the British Foreign Office noted 'that the people of West Irian have no desire to be ruled by the Indonesians who are of an alien (Javanese) race, and that the process of consultation did not allow a genuinely free choice to be made.'
Despite this, the UN General Assembly, with opposition from a small number of African countries, simply voted in November 1969 to 'take note' of a UN report of the Papuan declaration of loyalty, and with that the UN washed its hands of responsibility for the West Papuan people.
Organisations and others are encouraged to support the campaign by contacting West Papua Action, Ireland at firstname.lastname@example.org , http://westpapuaaction.buz.org/unreview, where the petition and supporting documents can be accessed.
After much delay, the trials of seven men charged with crimes against humanity in East Timor finally began before an ad hoc human rights court in Jakarta on 14 March. There is little evidence, however, that the proceedings will satisfy East Timorese demands for justice. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson has once again recommended an international tribunal for East Timor and that remains the only real option for meaningful justice.
Those currently on trial in Jakarta include former governor of East Timor, Abilio Soares, former East Timor police chief, Brigadier General Timbul Silaen, four middle-ranking Indonesian military officers and one police officer.
The charges relate mainly to the attacks on Liquica Church on 6 April 1999, on Manuel Carrascalao's house in Dili on 17 April 1999, on Bishop Belo's house in Dili on 6 September 1999 and on the Suai Church compound on 6 September 1999.
Each of the accused is charged under the principle of command responsibility for acts committed by his subordinates. In each case, it is alleged that the accused failed to exercise proper control over his subordinates, and either had, or deliberately ignored, information that showed his subordinates were committing or had committed serious human rights violations. Furthermore, the accused did not take the necessary steps to prevent or stop those acts or to surrender the perpetrators to investigation, prosecution and punishment.
The following commentary is not intended to imply anything about the guilt or otherwise of the accused, who are all innocent until proved guilty.
Case 1: Abilio Soares
In the first case, former governor Abilio Soares is charged under Articles 9(a) and 9(h) of Indonesia's Law on Human Rights Courts (Law 26/2000) with crimes against humanity for killings and acts of 'persecution' committed by subordinates during the four incidents in April and September 1999.
Persecution (in some unofficial translations of the Law the word used is 'terrorisation') is defined by Article 9(h) as 'persecution of a particular group or association based on political views, race, nationality, ethnic origin, culture, religion, sex or any other basis, regarded universally as contravening international law'. The offence has been copied largely from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which further defines persecution as the 'intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the group or collectivity'.
However, since the Indonesian word for persecution is similar to the word for assault, it seems that this offence is being used primarily for alleged assaults. In practice, what seems to be happening is that Article 9(a) is being used in relation to victims who were killed and Article 9(h) is being used in relation to victims who were injured (i.e. assaulted), but survived.
Soares is accused of having overall responsibility for virtually everything that happened in East Timor. The specific allegation against him is that he had civilian command responsibility for the failings of his subordinates, namely the two bupatis (district heads), Leonito Martins of Liquica and Herman Sedyono of Covalima (which covers Suai), Eurico Guterres as deputy PPI commander (the over-arching organisation of pro-integration groups in East Timor), and groups of People's Volunteer Guards (Pam Swakarsa) popularly known as militias.
The alleged lines of responsibility to Soares and the connection between the subordinates and the alleged crimes are not entirely clear from the indictment, but these matters may be clarified during the course of the proceedings.
Case 2: Timbul Silaen
In the second case, former police chief, Timbul Silaen is charged under Articles 9(a) and 9(h) of Law 26/2000 with crimes against humanity for killings and acts of persecution perpetrated by subordinates during the same incidents and also for persecution in relation to an attack on the UNAMET (United Nations Mission in East Tmior) office in Liquica on 4 September 1999.
The indictment alleges that Silaen failed to secure public safety and security in relation to the four incidents and was liable for the crimes committed by way of police command responsibility.
The indictment further alleges that there was a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population committed by those under Silaen's power and control, including Aitarak, and BMP militias.
Case 3: Suai Church massacre
In the third case, the five accused are charged under Article 9(a) with crimes against humanity for failing to prevent killings perpetrated during the attack on the Suai Church compound (it is not clear whether they are also charged under Article 9(h)).
The five accused are:
Lieutenant colonel Herman Sudyono, former bupati of Covalima district;
Lieutenant colonel Liliek Koeshadianto, former commander Suai District military command;
Lieutenant, Colonel Gatot Subiyaktoro the former police chief of Suai;
Captain Achmad Syamsudin, former chief-of-staff, Suai district military command; and
Lieutenant Sugito, former commander, Suai military sector command.
According to the indictment, the actual attack was carried out by Mahidi and Laksaur militias supported by lower-level members of the Indonesian armed forces. The prosecution claims that approximately 27 people were killed in the attack, including three priests. The figure is disputed by East Timorese sources who say the number is closer to 200 [see JSMP/IPJET, 'Suai Church massacre trial starts in Jakarta', 21 March 2002].
The indictment alleges that the first three accused went to the church when shots were fired. They did nothing to stop the shooting and did not take steps to identify and assist victims, calm the situation, save people or notify families of victims. An Indonesian soldier has testified that he was ordered by his commanding officer, the accused Sugito, to transport and bury around 25 bodies following the atrocity [AFP, 23 April 2002].
No indictments have yet been issued against the remaining 11 of the 18 persons named by the attorney general's office as suspects in the East Timor violence, including the former regional military commander, Major-General Adam Damiri and militia leader Eurico Guterres.
The indictment in the case of the Suai Church massacre claims that charges will also be laid individually against militias involved in the attack, including some who are not on the list of 18 suspects (eg. Vasco da Cruz, Martins Dongki Alfon, Serda I Gede Santika, Sertu I Wayan, Praka Alfredo Amaral).
Although it is too early to make a proper analysis of the trials, it is fair to say that nothing has happened so far to counter the strong impression that they are little more than show trials designed to avoid the embarrassment of Indonesian military officers being called to account before an international tribunal. It certainly does not appear to be a process aimed at establishing the truth of what happened in East Timor.
In an editorial on 19 March, The Jakarta Post suggested that the trials 'may be seen largely as a response to outside pressure or an attempt to please the international community, rather than a genuine attempt to find the truth, uphold justice and punish the guilty'.
Serious flaws in the process remain and there is little sign that they will be addressed. The Indonesian government seems insistent that it will not extend the jurisdiction of the court, which is limited to crimes committed only in April and in September 1999 in Dili, Liquica and Suai.
There are indications that the authorities intend to proceed with just five cases in total [see Amnesty International press release 22 April 2002]. That would mean there will be no accountability for the thousands of crimes committed at other times and in other areas, including those relating to the forcible deportation of around 250,000 East Timorese to West Timor, the wave of violence and destruction which left up to 80 per cent. of the infrastructure destroyed, and atrocities such as the massacre at the Maliana police station on 8 September 1999 and at Passabe, Oecussi on 10 September 1999 in which dozens were killed. Much of the evidence of the systematic nature of the violence will also remain suppressed.
The Indonesian authorities may also be reluctant to prosecute in the case of the murder of Dutch journalist Sander Thoenes in Dili on 21 September 1999 despite convincing evidence implicating Indonesian army battalion 745 [Christian Science Monitor, 29 April 2002]. Their reluctance is most likely connected to the fact that the case exposes the role of the army and senior officers in systematic abuse against civilians. Sander Thoenes was one of twelve civilians allegedly killed by Battalion 745 in three days in September 1999 during its bloody withdrawal from East Timor.
UN and Dutch officials have carried out a detailed investigation into the case and a European Union diplomat has said: "This is probably the best documented atrocity in East Timor, and the one that most clearly demonstrates a pattern of abuse by the Indonesian military." Claims by the Attorney General's office that witnesses lack credibility have been rejected by UNTAET.
It is significant that the accused in the current trials are charged with failing to control their subordinates and no one has yet been charged with planning or orchestrating the violence. This fits in with the mendacious Indonesian version of events, which is being widely publicised during the trials. This version portrays the violence as either part of a civil war between the pro-Indonesia and pro-independence factions or as an instinctive reaction to the loss of the independence ballot and the perceived bias of the UN by militias acting beyond the control of the security forces.
A programme of technical co-operation between the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Indonesian government remains suspended because of the government's refusal to extend the jurisdiction of the court. As a result, much-needed judicial training is not being provided, justifying continued concerns about the lack of competence of the judges and prosecutors.
Inadequate witness protection
Just a day before the start of the trials, President Megawati signed a decree on witness protection, which is wholly inadequate. The decree only provides for three measures of protection - protection from physical or mental threat (it is not clear how that is to be achieved); anonymity of victims/witnesses; and provision for the giving of evidence out of sight of the accused. It is for the witness/victim to request protective measures from the court.
The need for proper protection has been underlined by the highly intimidating atmosphere of many of the court sessions to date. Senior generals have occupied the front rows of the public gallery while noisy demonstrators led by militia leader, Eurico Guterres, have made their presence felt in and around the court room, burning effigies of Australian prime minister John Howard and denouncing the UN.
It is questionable whether any victim or witness would want to testify in public in proceedings where there is no security in the courtroom, and where a rowdy, undisciplined and aggressive public audience, is repeatedly laughing and jeering at witnesses of whom they disapprove. According to observers, it has at times been difficult to hear the actual proceedings.
It remains to be seen how all this will affect the judges, let alone witnesses traumatised by their experiences at the hands of the Indonesian military and their militia cohorts. Already one East Timorese witness has failed to turn up. It is not clear how many other East Timorese witnesses the prosecution teams intend to call, but the absence of substantive evidence from East Timor will raise further questions about the credibility of the trials.
Past crimes can be prosecuted
In one positive development, the judges in each case have overruled defence lawyers' arguments that the trials should not proceed because of the prohibition on retroactive prosecutions in the Indonesian Constitution [see TAPOL Bulletin No. 160, p. 16].
Although the judges' reasoning is somewhat confused, it appears to be ultimately correct. This is because Law 26/2000 does not create a new category of crimes, but recognises as crimes acts or omissions which were already crimes under international law (genocide and crimes against humanity), and provides a means of prosecuting those crimes under Indonesian law. It is, therefore, arguable that Law 26/2000 and prosecutions under it do not offend the principle of non-retroactivity in the Constitution.
The fact that the judges referred to international criminal law in their rulings is encouraging and could in itself be an important development for Indonesian jurisprudence.
Impunity for top brass
This positive development notwithstanding, the overall process is a travesty of justice. Leading human rights lawyer, Hendardi, is adamant that the blame for this lies squarely with the military and is certain that the highest-ranking officers implicated in the East Timor violence will not be brought to trial. 'They have been given impunity because international pressure is weak,' he said. 'Power in Indonesia is not in President Megawati's hands, it's still held by the military.' [The Age, 30 March].
The list of suspects does not include former armed forces commander-in-chief, General Wiranto and intelligence chief Zacky Anwar Makarim, both named in the January 2000 report of the Indonesian Commission for Human Rights Violations in East Timor (KPP-HAM).
Also excluded are former generals Feisal Tanjung who was Coordinating Minister for Security at the time and in overall charge of what happened in East Timor, AM Hendropriyono (currently Indonesia's supreme intelligence chief and a member of Megawati's cabinet) or Major-General Sjafrie Sjamsuddin (recently promoted as spokesperson of the armed forces), all implicated in the East Timor violence by recently-released Australian intelligence materials.
Far from facing justice, Wiranto has used his appearance in court - as a prosecution witness in the case against Timbul Silaen - to present a shamelessly self-serving and distorted version of events in East Timor. Describing his task in assisting with security for the popular consultation as a "mission impossible", he blamed the post-ballot violence on an "emotional response" by the pro-Jakarta camp to the perceived unfairness and dishonesty of the UN-administered process. Testifying in the same trial, former regional military commander, Adam Damiri, also blamed the violence on cheating by UNAMET.
Prosecution witnesses, such as Wiranto and Damiri, seem to have given evidence more favourable to the defence than the prosecution. This is not surprising given that prosecution lawyers are behaving more like defence counsel in their conduct of the trials.
Clearly witnesses such as these will use their day in court, in the blaze of Indonesian media publicity, to put forth their version of events and defend Indonesia's actions, knowing full well that the East Timorese version is unlikely to be heard by the court and the Indonesian public. They may also believe that the international community, which is anxious for closure on East Timor, will not make much of a fuss as long as there are a few token convictions.
International pressure weakens
Concerns about the weakness of international pressure on Indonesia, expressed by Hendardi and others, will have been reinforced by the shameful capitulation of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to Indonesian demands that the Commission should not be critical of the government's efforts in dealing with the East Timor crimes.
The Commission effectively gave a ringing endorsement to the Indonesian process in a Chairperson's Statement on 19 April 2002 by welcoming the start of the trials and the 'important steps' taken by the Indonesian Government in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The CHR Statement also welcomed the agreement of the Indonesian and East Timorese authorities to strengthen co-operation on judicial matters. It ignored the fact that Indonesia has so far refused to co-operate, most notably in refusing to transfer to East Timor suspects indicted there for crimes against humanity, despite an obligation to do so under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in April 2000.
The Statement made no reference to the flaws in the Indonesian process and exerted no pressure on Indonesia to ensure that justice is done. The Statement also took no account of the critical link between the crimes committed in East Timor and ongoing violations in Aceh, West Papua, and elsewhere in Indonesia. Grave violations are being committed by the same institutions, and in some cases the same individuals, as were responsible for serious crimes in East Timor. The continued freedom of prominent suspects encourages others to expect that they will enjoy impunity for past and future crimes, however heinous.
Significantly, the CHR also ignored a report made to it by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, which called upon the international community to 'reconsider the recommendations of the International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor, including that concerning the establishment by the United Nations of an international human rights tribunal'.
The East Timor NGO Forum and all major East Timorese NGOs have repeatedly called for an international tribunal and have expressed anger at Indonesia's lack of action against those responsible for organising the violence.
Indonesian NGOs who have followed the process closely have also concluded that an international tribunal is necessary. In a document prepared for the CHR, they referred to the establishment of the ad hoc court as paying 'mere lip service' to the implementation of human rights in Indonesia. They say it is clear that the ad hoc court is not capable of bringing justice to the victims of human rights violation in East Timor and call for the international community to take 'concrete steps in the preparation of an International Tribunal for East Timor' [see "Combating the climate of impunity: An end to the politics of violence and torture in Indonesia" - Indonesian NGO Delegation to the 58th session of the UNCHR, March/April 2002].
The legal and moral arguments in favour of an international tribunal are overwhelming. Indonesia's current process is not a means to justice, but a denial of justice. The international community must not betray the East Timorese once again by sanctioning the process and allowing the truth of what happened to remain suppressed forever.
With Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State, facing more warnings of indictment in more countries about his involvement in past crimes against humanity, new facts have come to light about his role in giving the go-ahead to the Suharto dictatorship to invade East Timor in December 1975.
On 6 December 1975, Kissinger and the US president, Gerald Ford, held a meeting with President Suharto during a brief stopover in the Indonesian capital. Less than 24 hours later, thousands of Indonesian troops descended on Dili, the capital of East Timor. This was the start of an act of aggression that was to last for more than 24 years, leaving at least 200,000 people, one third of the population, dead.
Kissinger has always claimed that Indonesia's plans to invade East Timor were not discussed at the meeting, alleging on one occasion in 1995 that it was only 'at the airport as we were leaving that the Indonesians told us that they were going to occupy the Portuguese colony of Timor...So when the Indonesians informed us, we neither said yes or no.' He also alleges that Timor did not figure in US foreign policy and was much too insignificant to engage the attention of his State Department
In late 1975, the US was in the process of intensifying its economic and military ties with Suharto's Indonesia. After the humiliating collapse of the US war in Indochina in April of that year, it was strategically crucial for the western superpower to support the largest anti-communist power in South East Asia and help to rescue it from the $10 billion scandal that had struck its state petroleum company, Pertamina. Indonesia was certainly a major factor in US foreign policy and it goes without saying that Indonesian plans to stage an act of aggression against a neighbouring territory, then still a Portuguese colony, would have been monitored very closely by the US embassy and the State Department. To claim therefore, as Kinssinger has repeatedly done, that Timor was too insignificant an issue for him to pay attention to, it simply unbelievable, especially considering that the Indonesian army was at the time almost entirely dependent on military equipment from the US and bound, under US law, not to use this equipment for anything other than defence.
Yet, East Timor does not merit even a mention in the former secretary of state's memoirs or other books he has published recording his activities during his time in office. His attempts to airbrush East Timor from his accounts of the period shows that he knows he has a great deal to hide about his own role in encouraging the Suharto regime to embark on a military venture that has entered the annals of the twentieth century as one of the worst war crimes of that benighted century.
New documents released
Until now, little has been known about a meeting on 5 July 1975 between Suharto and Gerald Ford, attended by Kissinger, and its impact on Suharto's decision to go ahead with an invasion of East Timor.
Along with other hitherto classified documents, the official record of this conversation between the two presidents at the 5 July meeting has now been made public by the US National Security Archive at the George Washington University, under the title: East Timor Revisited: Ford Kissinger and the Indonesian Invasion. The two presidents discussed US military assistance to Indonesia, foreign investment and Portugal's decolonisation activities.
While paying lip-service to the principle of self-determination for East Timor, Suharto told the US president that independence was not viable. 'So the only way is to integrate [East Timor] into Indonesia,' he told Ford. While saying that Indonesia did not want to interfere in East Timor's self-determination, he implied that it might have to because 'those who want independence are those who are Communist influenced'. Immediately after returning home, on 8 July 1975, Suharto publicly expressed the view for the first time that an independent East Timor 'is not viable'. [Transcript of Staff Meetings of Secretary of State Kissinger]
By this time too, Indonesia's campaign of destabilisation in East Timor was well underway. In May, intelligence operatives had persuaded the UDT, the pro-Portuguese party, to walk out of its coalition with Fretilin. This led in August to a coup attempt by the UDT, instigated by Indonesia, to destroy Fretilin's growing popularity. These events were of course widely known to the international community and it comes as no surprise that East Timor was a topic of conversation when Suharto met President Ford and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger in that July meeting.
Another matter raised by Suharto was a request for increased military assistance from the US. He needed help to increase the mobility of his armed forces for dealing with 'insurgent elements', saying: 'Especially at this moment, intelligence and territorial operations are very important.' In response, Ford proposed setting up a joint commission to scrutinise Suharto's military request and left it to Kissinger to settle the details. Kissinger knew very well that US military equipment was supplied on condition that it would only be used for purposes of defence. In any case, by this time, ninety per cent of the equipment being used by the Indonesian army was from the US.
According to a declassified document recording discussions at subsequent State Department staff meetings, Kissinger, at a meeting on 12 August when the UDT coup was discussed, concurred with the view of one of his advisers that an Indonesian takeover would take place 'sooner or later' as they would not let a 'communist-dominated group' (ie, Fretilin) take over. Four days later, the Australian ambassador in Jakarta relayed a comment by the US ambassador John Newsom to the effect that, if Indonesia were to invade East Timor, it should do so 'effectively, quickly, and not use our equipment'. He must have known, as did his boss, Kissinger, that Indonesian troops could not possibly have mounted an action like that without using US equipment.
A memorandum to President Ford written by Kissinger on 21 November 1975 in preparation for Ford's visit to Indonesia gave East Timor a low priority, being last on the topics mentioned. The memo said that Indonesia was 'manoeuvering' to absorb East Timor through negotiations with Portugal and 'covert military operations in the colony itself'. Kissinger apparently did not expect an overt invasion, as this would violate US law regarding the use of US-supplied military equipment. An accompanying briefing paper suggested that this consideration had induced 'restraint' on Jakarta.
The 6 December meeting
While still in Beijing and about to depart for Jakarta, Kissinger received a cable from the State Department referring to Indonesia's 'plans' to invade East Timor. It would therefore have come as no surprise when Suharto brought up East Timor at the meeting with Ford on 6 December, claiming that the current situation would 'prolong the suffering of the refugees and increase stability in the area'. (The refugees were the pro-UDT East Timorese who had fled across the border into West Timor following a month of hostilities between the UDT and Fretilin following the UDT coup. UDT leaders had already been forced to sign a statement on 30 November, agreeing to their country's integration with Indonesia.)
The cable from the US embassy to Washington that reported on the discussion between Suharto, Ford and Kissinger, quoted Suharto as complaining that Fretilin had 'declared independence unilaterally'. He then said: 'We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action'. Ford's response was unambiguous: 'We will understand and will not press you on the issue'. Kissinger admitted that 'the use of US-made arms could create problems' but added: 'It depends on how we construe it; whether it is in self defence or is a foreign operation.' He then went on: 'It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly.' Here we have Kissinger conspiring with the Indonesian dictator to prevent the invasion from becoming a big issue.. 'If you have made plans,' he said, 'we will do our best to keep everyone quiet until the President returns.'
For Kissinger to claim, when questioned about his and Ford's talks with Suharto on 6 December, the day before the Indonesian invasion, that East Timor was not discussed and he only heard about it at the airport 'as we were leaving', is a blatant lie. The question had been put by Constancio Pinto, an East Timorese then living in the US, after Kissinger spoke at the launch of one of his books in New York.
The charade of halting arms sales
After returning to Washington from Jakarta, Kissinger had to deal with the problem of Indonesia's unlawful use of US-supplied weapons for the invasion. He discovered to his utter annoyance that senior members of his staff had written and circulated a memo setting out this problem and concluding that US military aid to the Indonesian armed forces would have to be cut off. This led to a fierce row between the secretary of state and his staff at a meeting on 18 December 1975.
Kissinger's main fear was that the memo would fall into the hands of members of Congress and journalists, and also lambasted his aides for revealing that he, their boss, was at odds with members of his staff. As to whether there should be a cut-off in arms deliveries because of the invasion, his staff asked what the Department should say to Congress if the matter was raised. Kssinger's reply was quite straighforward and blunt. 'We cut it off while we are studying it. We intend to start again in January.' Which is indeed what happened.
There is now clear and indisputable evidence that alongside his many other crimes, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger stands accused of giving the go-ahead to Indonesia's invasion of East Timor. One day, he will be forced to account for this, there is no doubt.