War crime suspects get promoted

On Friday, an Indonesian court sentenced six for the 1999 murders of three foreign UN aid workers.

Several of the Indonesian officers named as suspects in crimes against humanity, following the military's bloody withdrawal in 1999 from the former Indonesian-occupied territory, have since received promotions.

Along with light sentences handed down on Friday to six Indonesians connected with the murder of three United Nations aid workers in Indonesian West Timor last year, the promotions round out a picture of almost complete impunity for Indonesian soldiers and their militia proxies, UN officials and human rights workers here say.

Generals and policemen accused of masterminding the violence have been given expanded responsibilities, and one Indonesian diplomat, who worked closely with the soldier accused of being the architect of the violence, is now working in the Indonesian Embassy in Washington.

At the end of last month, Indonesia dropped its investigation into the murder of former Monitor contributor Sander Thoenes, despite a UN investigation (and witnesses interviewed by this paper) that indicated he was murdered by members of the Indonesian Army's Battalion 745.

Over the past two years, Indonesia has promised to deliver justice itself over the military's rampage, which followed a 1999 UN-sponsored independence vote, thus staving off demands for an international war crimes tribunal.

"Indonesia has been making us look foolish for two years now,'' says a diplomat in Jakarta who focuses on East Timor. "These promotions are proof that there is zero will to hold anyone accountable.''

The six men sentenced Friday, members of a pro-Indonesia militia created by the military, were convicted of "fomenting violence'' in the murder and mutilation of three workers for the UN's High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) in West Timor last September.

Though at least three of the six convicted had confessed to stabbing the victims, Judge Anak Agung Gde Dalem ruled there was not sufficient evidence to find them guilty of murder. Indonesian state prosecutors may appeal.

The deceased workers - from the United States, Ethiopia, and Croatia - were aiding East Timorese refugees driven into Indonesian West Timor by the post-ballot violence. They were mutilated by a mob of knife-wielding militias who dragged their bodies through the streets. The militias blamed the UN for East Timor's independence vote. It was one of the worst attacks on UN civilian personnel in the organization's history.

The convicted - East Timorese who consider themselves Indonesian citizens - were sentenced to 10 to 20 months each for the murders.

The decision drew outrage from the UN. "The sentences make a mockery of the international community's insistence that justice be done in this horrific case," the UNHCR said in a statement.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called the verdict "a wholly unacceptable response to the ultimate sacrifice.''

But political and economic pressure for international trials that existed two years ago has now almost completely evaporated, with world leaders concerned about isolating Indonesia during its fragile transition to democracy.

And President Abdurrahman Wahid's government has been reluctant to press prosecutions, because most Indonesians see the military and militias as patriots, and East Timor's independence as a national humiliation.

Even in its diplomatic choices, Indonesia has signaled that it's not too concerned with international opinion. Last year, Dino Patti Djalal, who was spokesman for Indonesia's security task force during the East Timor referendum, was named head of the Political Affairs Department in the Indonesian Embassy in Washington. It's a key posting in the Indonesian foreign service.

Though not accused of any crime, Mr. Djalal acted as a coordinator and creator of a militia front group called the Forum for Unity, Peace and Democracy.

"Without enough international pressure, there won't be enough domestic political will for justice,'' says Asmara Nababan, the head of Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights.

Last year, Mr. Nababan helped write a report for the government that recommended senior generals and militia leaders be tried for crimes against humanity, among them former Armed Forces Commander in Chief, General Wiranto. Many of the officers were named suspects in crimes against humanity by the Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman more than a year ago, but continue to be given expanded roles.

Mr. Darusman last month dropped efforts to charge Wiranto, now honorably retired from the military, citing lack of evidence. Wiranto has been focusing on his singing career, releasing his first album last year, a collection of love songs called "For You, My Indonesia."

But the attorney general continues prosecution efforts against Major Gen. Adam Damiri, Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman, Brig. Gen. M. Nur Muis, and police Brig. Gen. Timbul Silaen.

General Damiri was the most senior general with direct command in East Timor in 1999. He has been promoted to Army assistant of operations. In March he was made the senior officer in charge of a troop deployment against rebels in Aceh. His direct subordinate, General Suratman, who was the senior commander in East Timor for most of 1999, was promoted to colonel after leaving East Timor.

General Muis replaced Suratman in 1999, and was the controlling authority during the rampage in the territory in September. He was promoted from colonel to brigadier general. Silaen was the senior police officer in East Timor in 1999, and was promoted to brigadier general. He is currently head of the national police's antinarcotics taskforce.

Yacob Sarosa, the commander of Battalion 745, the unit believed to have murdered Thoenes, has been promoted from major to lieutenant colonel. The government has not pressed charges against any member of Battalion 745.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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