Saturday, May 19, 2007

General denies rights abuses

Friday, March 30, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

An Indonesian general has blamed the United Nations Mission in East Timor (Unamet) for unrest in the country in 1999, which occurred after the mission held what he labeled a short-notice referendum.

The general's comments come at a time when the Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) is gathering evidence on human rights violations reported during the Indonesian Military's (TNI) occupation of East Timor.

"We have done our best, but if anyone is to be blamed it's Unamet, which held the referendum at short notice. No country in the world could solve all their problems in three months," said Maj. Gen. F.X. Suhartono Suratman on Thursday.

The then colonel was installed as military commander of the Dili Regional Military Command of East Timor on June 10, 1999.

He rejected the previous testimonies of victims, perpetrators and witnesses, as well as legal documents, which alleged that TNI officers were involved in acts of violence, provided militias with firearms, posed as militia members and let militia groups commit acts of violence against pro-independence groups.

Earlier Thursday, the commission heard the testimony of Indonesian humanitarian worker Galuh Wandita, who worked in East Timor during and after the unrest.

She said data pertaining to acts of sexual violence that occurred in 1999 showed a pattern that could not be neglected.

"There were two peaks in the number of sexual violence cases in April and September 1999, both due to (the presence of) TNI members and militia," she said.

East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (known by its Portuguese acronym, CAVR) documented 853 cases of sexual violence between 1974 and 1999.

As many as 791 of these cases were allegedly committed by the TNI and militia forces, while 28 cases were said to have been committed by the resistance movement.

Of all reported sexual violence cases, 142 occurred during the violence surrounding the 1999 referendum.

Galuh said the figures were consistent with other recorded violations by the TNI and militias, with identical peaks in April and September 1999.

"This shows that rape didn't take place randomly, that there was a design, a pattern. In international jurisprudence, one case of rape which takes place in the context of a widespread, systematic attack on civilians is sufficient to prove that rape, as a crime against humanity, has taken place," she said.

Galuh said she hoped the CTF was able to reveal the truth behind the unrest, to prevent a reoccurrence of similar incidents in the future.

"I am giving this testimony in a personal capacity ... most human rights organizations in Indonesia and East Timor have refused to cooperate with the CTF because of the possibility that it will recommend amnesty to perpetrators of serious crimes, the fact that the CTF cannot make recommendations on justice," she told the hearing.

"But because I have some hope, because I can reveal the truth about what happened in East Timor in 1999 to the Indonesian public, I have chosen to accept the invitation to testify here." (02)

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