Indicted Indonesian war criminal removed from West Papua

From the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), Aug. 21:

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) today welcomed the removal of Col. Burhanuddin Siagian from his command in West Papua. Siagian faces two indictments in East Timor for crimes against humanity committed in 1999. “Col. Siagian’s removal from Papua is a welcome move,” said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. “Indonesia should take the next steps and suspend him from any command and then hand him over for trial for the crimes he committed in East Timor.”

Siagian was the target of international campaign urging his removal from Papua and calling for his trial. As commander in West Papua, he made extremely incendiary remarks about Papuans engaged in peaceful protest. In May 2007, he reportedly threatened to “destroy” anyone who betrays Indonesia. This and other statements were similar to those he made while stationed in East Timor in 1999 during the referendum period.

“Unfortunately, the transfer of Col. Siagian has not ended the repression in West Papua. A little over a week ago Opius Tabuni was shot and killed by Indonesian security forces during a celebration World Indigenous People’s Day in Wamena,” said Ed McWilliams of WPAT. “Prisoners of conscience, like Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage, continue to serve outrageously long prison terms for engaging in peaceful protest.”

“The failure of the Indonesian government to extradite Siagian and his continued service in the Indonesian armed forces are signs of the Indonesian government’s lack of commitment to justice and accountability,” said Miller.

Siagian was replaced in late July as commander of the Jayapura sub-regional military command (Korem 172) in Papua. However, he remains on active duty, stationed in East Java.

Col. Burhanuddin Siagian has been indicted twice in East Timor for crimes against humanity. According to the indictments issued by a UN-backed court in 2003, Col Siagian publicly threatened to kill supporters of Timor-Leste’s independence and was directly responsible for the death of seven men. He is also thought to have been responsible for the creation of the Bobonaro militia, one of the most brutal in East Timor. Col. Siagian is named as a suspect in the report of Indonesia’s own Commission of Investigation into Human Rights Violations in East Timor, which investigated human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999.

In May 2008, members of the UN Committee Against Torture asked whether “Indonesia, as a member of Interpol” was planning to hand over people, including Siagian, for whom Interpol has issued red notices—notifications of international warrants. Interpol issued a Red Notice for Siagian in 2003.

Committee Expert Felice Gaer asked about Indonesia’s response to Interpol red notices for people currently residing in Indonesia indicted in East Timor for alleged crimes committed in 1999. The next day, she noted that Indonesia had failed to respond to her questions “about the legal proceedings concerning the individuals that were wanted by Interpol for their implication in the East Timor conflict. One of them was a colonel currently serving with the Indonesian military command. Was the Government planning to arrest this individual and respect its obligations under Interpol? Also, the question of sending such commanders from one hot spot to the other had not been addressed.”

In June 2007, a coalition of Indonesian and international human rights organizations wrote to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urging him to withdraw Col. Siagian from West Papua, suspend him from active duty, and extradite to East Timor those indicted by Dili’s Special Panel for Serious Crimes.

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