The United Nations today indicted Indonesia’s former armed forces commander, General Wiranto, for crimes against humanity during East Timor’s bloody 1999 vote for independence.

Gen Wiranto, regarded as the man principally responsible for the bloodletting that swept the former Indonesian territory during the UN-sponsored referendum, was indicted alongside six other senior generals and the ex-governor of East Timor, Abilio Soares.

However, it seems doubtful that Indonesia will hand over any of those indicted to the court in Dili, East Timor’s capital. Jakarta has so far refused to honour UN arrest warrants, and today said it would “simply ignore” the latest UN request.

“He [Gen Wiranto] is a free man … Why take action?” said Indonesia’s foreign minister, Hassan Wirayuda. “Who gave [the UN] the mandate to indict Indonesians, under what basis, what authority?”

The UN said in a statement: “The accused have all been charged with crimes against humanity for murder, deportation and persecution.”

The alleged crimes “were all undertaken as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against the civilian population of East Timor and specifically targeted those who were believed to be supporters of independence for East Timor”.

The mandate for the Dili court covers all crimes committed in 1999 in East Timor, irrespective of whether the suspects are East Timorese or Indonesian. So far it has indicted 178 people, but 106 of those – including 12 Indonesian soldiers – remain free in Indonesia. Thus far Indonesia has not sent any of its nationals to East Timor to face trials in such cases.

Prosecutors in Dili have sent the warrants for the latest eight indictments to the attorney general’s office and will forward them to the international law enforcement agency, Interpol. Under East Timorese law, the charges carry a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment.

“I accept that we can’t at the moment effect those arrest warrants,” said Stuart Alford, a prosecutor with the serious crimes unit in Dili. “But that doesn’t mean we are the only people who can play their part in this. It’s now up to other people outside the prosecutor’s office in East Timor to decide what direction this investigation and prosecution will take.”

Human rights groups, which have long called for Gen Wiranto to be held accountable for the events of August 1999, praised the indictment but said they will only be satisfied when the UN establishes an international tribunal for East Timor, similar to that used to prosecute war crimes suspects in Rwanda and Yugoslavia.

“This is more of a political victory than a legal victory,” said Agung Yudhawiranata, a court observer for the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy, an Indonesian human rights group.

“We know Wiranto will not be handed over to the Dili court but hopefully it will send a shock to the Indonesian government, which has failed to indict Wiranto and put pressure on the international community to set up an international tribunal.”

Lawyers for the men, all of whom are believed to be in Indonesia, said they had yet to receive the indictment and declined to comment.

The indictment charges Gen Wiranto, six generals who were responsible for security in East Timor and ex-governor Soares with funding, training and arming the pro-Indonesia militias that joined the Indonesian military in killing more than 1,000 people and forcing 250,000 Timorese to flee their homes before and after the referendum.

The six generals are Major General Zacky Anwar Makarim, Major General Kiki Syahnakri, Major General Adam Rachmat Damiri, Colonel Suhartono Suratman, Colonel Mohammad Noer Muis and Lieutenant Colonel Yayat Sudrajat.

Last year Indonesia established a special human rights court to handle cases covering the violence in East Timor. Several of those indicted today were among 18 military and police officials already facing trial in Jakarta for their alleged involvement in the violence. Soares has been sentenced to three years, but remains free on appeal, while the trials of Mr Damiri and Mr Suratman are continuing. Mr Sudrajat has been cleared of all charges.

Jakarta points to the trials as proof of its commitment to assure justice. But human rights activists have criticised the trials as a whitewash. In total, only four suspects have been found guilty.

Today’s indictment accuses the men of involvement in 280 killings in 10 separate attacks. Among them were a church massacre in Liquica, an attack on a rally in Dili and an attack on a church compound in Dili.

In 1975, Indonesian forces invaded East Timor, annexing the former Portuguese colony the following year. After 24 years of Indonesian rule, East Timorese voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence in August 1999, despite the bloodshed by pro-Jakarta militias in which more than 1,000 people, most of them independence supporters, are thought to have died. The UN indictment says the militias acted with military backing.

The UN ran East Timor after the August 1999 vote until the territory was declared formally independent in May last year, but it still has a mission there that provides government advisers, several hundred policemen and about 2,500 peacekeeping troops.

Around 300 UN peacekeepers combed mountains and beaches in East Timor today, searching for unidentified gunmen who opened fire yesterday on a crowded minibus and a truck, killing two people and injuring five. The UN said the incident, the latest in a series of violent episodes since East Timor became independent last May, appeared to be a botched robbery.

Staff and agencies
Source: The Guardian.

PRESIDIUM DEWAN PAPUA International Relations


Leadership change in Indonesia and the threat of military power revival under the country’s new President Megawati Sukarnoputri will do little to dampen Melanesian nationalism in West Papua or diminish the province’s growing demand for self-determination and independence.

The statement, issued in Port Moresby today in the wake of Indonesia’s dramatic political developments of the past few days culminating in the forced dethroning of former President Abdurrahman Wahid and elevation of his one-time deputy, Vice President Sukarnoputri, to the country’s chief executive post, reaffirms the position of the Papua Council or Dewan Papua, the broad-based indigenous West Papuan organization spearheading the independence campaign.

“Irrespective of the power game unfolding in Jakarta, we remain unperturbed in our noble resolve to pursue every conceivable endeavor to reclaim our homeland and free our people from foreign domination, misery and annihilation,” the statement said, quoting Mr. Franzalbert Joku, Papua Council Presidium’s Papua New Guinea-based chief international spokesperson.

“No amount of persuasion or intimidation will sway us from our conviction that ours is a genuine and legitimate cause. We are seeking what is rightfully ours and we will not rest until that mission is fully accomplished one way or the other.”

In congratulating Ms. Sukarnoputri, Mr. Joku cautioned the new President against contemplating military solution over West Papua and other trouble regions such as Aceh and Maluku. Instead, in his statement, he appealed to the new Indonesian leader and her incoming Cabinet to support the Papua Council initiative on peaceful dialogue as a way to reaching an amicable resolution.

“I urge her (Ms. Sukarnoputri) and the new government of Indonesia to accept their responsibility to protect the basic rights of their citizens, including that of the people of West Papua, and make vigorous efforts at exploring alternatives to repression to resolve the multitude of political problems in that part of the world,” Mr. Joku said.

“Generally speaking, however, the change of leadership in Indonesia is a welcome development, as it is a matter of national, regional and international concern that a peaceful transition to democracy has a chance in Indonesia and its 200 million people saved from violent military rule and human rights violations.”

Franzalbert Joku International Relations Moderator Papua Council Presidium Telephone/Facsimile (675) 323-0832 E-mail:

Paul Barber TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 01420 80153 Email:  Internet:


West Papua – Still struggling for freedom

Sem Karoba is a student leader and representative of the West Papua Presidium Council (West Papua's alternative to the Indonesian government) who is on his second visit to Ireland, lobbying for international support for his people. More than 100,000 West Papuans have been killed in the last 41 years. For all these years, people in West Papua have fought for the right to self-determination.
Sem Karoba is a student leader and representative of the West Papua Presidium Council (West Papua’s alternative to the Indonesian government) who is on his second visit to Ireland, lobbying for international support for his people. More than 100,000 West Papuans have been killed in the last 41 years. For all these years, people in West Papua have fought for the right to self-determination.

However, their struggle and their rights have been ignored not only by the media, but also by the leaders of the international community, who worry more about how the possible “Balkanisation” of Indonesia would affect their economies than about the lives and future of West Papuans. The fact that West Papuans are sitting on some of the world’s richest deposits of oil, copper, gold and silver does not help. In fact, that is a large part of the reason they are suffering now.

Everything started back in the 1950s, when the Netherlands – which ruled West Papua since 1883 – recognised the Papuan right to self-determination in accordance with Article 72 of the Charter of the United Nation. Had not Indonesia interfered, West Papua would have achieved self-determination by 1970 – as happened to the eastern part of the island, Papua New Guinea, which gained full independence from the British in 1975.

But Indonesia wanted to integrate West Papua into its territories, and in 1961, Indonesian president Sukarno chose armed conflict to force the issue at a time when the first parliament had already been installed in West Papua and the national anthem and Papuan flag had been introduced. The Dutch government agreed with the US and Indonesia – with the support of the United Nations – to transfer sovereignty to Indonesia. After years of terror and repression, a fraudulent ‘referendum was held in 1969, when 1,025 people voted under duress, on behalf of a population of a million, to join Indonesia.

Since then, West Papuans have suffered genocide while the country’s resources have been taken away by US Free Port, mining gold and copper and by Britain BP’s gas projects. Their land and culture is under threat as the Indonesians keep implementing a very aggressive transmigration policy – with many similarities to the Plantation in Ireland.

For West Papuans, the so-called democratisation of Indonesia has not meant any change. The governments of Sukarno, Suharto, Wahid or Sukarno’s daughter’s, Megawati Sukarnoputri, have only brought them increasing suffering and repression.

But West Papuans feel that their time have come. They rely on the East Timor experience to know it is possible to break away from the Indonesian colonial power, but again, the international community’s role is crucial for their plans. This is the reason why Karoba is back in Ireland.

Phoblacht: The last time you visited Ireland, in the summer of 2001, Wahid was president of Indonesia. Since then, he has been deposed and Megawati Sukarnoputri has taken the reins of the country. How has this change affected West Papua’s situation?

Sem Karoba: The presidency of Megawati is like Suharto’s. The military are the main players in politics. However, they have changed their ways: they would ask Parliament to approve their bills, as some of their activities in Aceh and West Papua need parliamentary sanction. However, there are many army representatives who sit in parliament. They have money and power, and the reason they use to justify their actions is that this is the only way to preserve Indonesia as it is. This is the way of nationalism. So, the politicians do not have the strength to argue with them. Even Megawati cannot take any action against those members of the army who were behind the attack against her office in 1997. The army officer in command at the time of the attack is now on his second term as governor of Jakarta city.

AP: In 2001, you mentioned that there were possibilities of advancing the situation while Wahid was in power, as he was more of a negotiator. What about Megawati?

SK: Now the door is closed. They are not talking any more. Since the last time I was in Ireland, Theys Eluay, the leader of the West Papuan Presidium Council, has been killed (the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy reported that he had been abducted, tortured and assassinated). I left Ireland in October 2001 and I was still travelling when news of his death reached me in November. Another elder from the area I am from was also poisoned after attending a meeting on sustainable development in Bali.

Finishing off the leaders was the policy after Megawati came to power. She actually proposed this policy to Wahid – we have gotten hold of this document recently – who opposed it. As soon as she took power, she started killing the leaders in Aceh and West Papua.

Due to pressure from the international community – who are pushing for the idea of autonomy – she had to order the withdrawal of the Indonesian Special Forces from West Papua at the beginning of the month. This was due to their many mistakes, like the killing of two US citizens last year. So now, officially the Special Forces are not present in West Papua, but they are still there, and the militia is still there.

AP: What are West Papuans doing at the moment?

SK: What we are trying to do is bring our situation to the attention of the international community. The Indonesians are not interested in dialogue, so we need international pressure. They go to London, New York and Canberra to ask for opinion and these three countries are telling them that Indonesia should keep West Papua. If Indonesia took over West Papua when the Dutch left it was not only because they wanted to do it, but because the international community allowed them to do it. So now we are going to the international lobby to ask them to force Indonesia into dialogue.

AP: The problem is that the international community is now too focused on what is happening in relation to Iraq to actually worry about West Papua.

SK: Our strategy is to lobby quietly now, so when out time comes we will be ready. We have increased the number of our grassroots supporters in England, for example, and I expect to do the same in Ireland, so we can send a clear message to the politicians in relation to the situation in West Papua.

AP: How has 9/11 and the new international scenario of war affected the situation of West Papua?

SK: Indonesia is the biggest Islamic state in Asia. Many members of the Muslim Jihad and Muslim extremists have gone into hiding in Indonesia. I have personally come across some of them in West Papua and in Indonesia. Examples of their activity are the bombing in Bali and the increased killings in West Papua. Now, in the name of Islam, they are giving guns and coverage to all these people, telling them that to defend the integrity of Indonesia is the same as defending Islam, that is the message they are sending. Maluku and West Papuans are Christians and the Indonesian government is sending all those Jihad troops to these areas. So, this is one of the reasons why the international community is listening more to us.

The support of the international community for our cause it is not clear yet, because most of the international powers have important business dealings with Indonesia.

AP: You have met several politicians here in Ireland. What has their reaction been?

SK: Their reaction has been positive, because they have a historical knowledge of why independence is so important. They welcome our presence; they support our cause as long as we defend it in a democratic way. But to make it work we need their support.

Indonesian politicians do not even reply to our approaches, but they will listen to international opinion.

I am here to learn about the Irish process and the Good Friday Agreement negotiations. I want to listen to those who were involved in the negotiations and I want to meet those who worked behind the scenes. A process of this kind is very difficult, but they started it and they are on the way to completion. We want something similar to take place in West Papua.

It is difficult, and many people in my country, and mostly in the area I am from, would not support any kind of dialogue with Indonesians, and that is what I want to learn, how to deal with all these situations.