Release of Timor-Leste militia leader continues the “cycle of impunity”
13 April 2008 3:34 am
Last week, the Indonesian Supreme Court overturned a 10-year sentence for human rights violations imposed on Eurico Guterres, former leader of Dili’s Aitarak militia. The Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP), a FORUM-ASIA member, has expressed concern that there now remains not a single individual held legally responsible by the Indonesian justice system for the violence perpetrated upon the people of Timor-Leste by pro-Jakarta militias.
Last week, the Indonesian Supreme Court set free Eurico Guterres, former leader of Dili’s Aitarak militia. This overturns a 10-year sentence for human rights violations, served since judgment in 2006.
This acquittal has been justified on the grounds of new evidence that Guterres did not, in fact, have structural command to coordinate attacks at the time of Timor-Leste’s 1999 independence referendum.
With Guterres’ release, there now remains not a single individual held legally responsible by the Indonesian justice system for the violence perpetrated upon the people of Timor-Leste by pro-Jakarta militias.
Although Indonesia’s flawed Ad Hoc Human Rights Court originally indicted 17 others for crimes related to the 1999 bloodshed, all have been exonerated by the Supreme Court or other appellate courts.
This raises questions about present political commitments to address injustices committed in pre-independence Timor-Leste. There appears little willingness to acknowledge – much less to remedy – these issues.
The Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP), a FORUM-ASIA member, is concerned this finding may lend some credence to claims that human rights violations in Timor-Leste during the Indonesian occupation were incidental, rather than directed as part of a military campaign.
The report of the Commission of Truth and Friendship may well see this incomplete reading of history gain formal recognition. Political compromise, however, is unlikely to diminish popular calls for justice.
JSMP contends that the future security and prosperity of Timor-Leste depends in part upon its ability to come to terms with the conflict surrounding its rise to nationhood. This process is far from complete.
The re-establishment of a UN Serious Crimes Investigation Team in Timor-Leste provides an opportunity to dispatch lingering questions of culpability. JSMP anticipates with interest the issuing of indictments.
We call on the governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia to end this cycle of impunity and to work together in implementing reparation programs for the victims of conflict, as proposed by the Chega! Report.
For further information please contact:
Timotio de Deus, Director of JSMP