Indonesia: indicted war criminal dispatched to West Papua

From East Timor & Indonesia Action Network, June 28:

The presence in Papua of a senior Indonesian army officer indicted on crimes against humanity charges in East Timor (now Timor-Leste) endangers human rights defenders and political activists and is a sign of the Indonesian government’s lack of commitment to justice and accountability a coalition of Indonesian and international human rights organisations said today.

In an open letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, the organisations called for Col. Burhanuddin Siagian, commander of the Jayapura sub-regional military command (Korem 172) in Papua, to be withdrawn immediately and suspended from active duty. They urged the Indonesian government to review all evidence against Col. Siagian and other high-level East Timor suspects to determine whether proceedings should be commenced and to extradite to East Timor those indicted by Dili’s Special Panel for Serious Crimes.

“It is shocking that a government supposedly committed to military reform and fighting impunity would appoint an indicted officer to a sensitive senior post in Papua,” said Paula Makabory, the spokesperson for the Institute for Human Rights Study & Advocacy West Papua ELS-HAM.

“Papuans will continue to have their rights trampled on until the civilian authorities exert control over military behaviour and ensure accountability for past abuses,” she added.

Responding to Papuan demands for a review of their history, Col. Siagian last month reportedly threatened to “destroy” anyone who “betrays” Indonesia. This echoes similar statements he allegedly made when based in Maliana as military commander of the Bobonaro district of East Timor. Two indictments issued in 2003 state that he made speeches threatening to kill East Timorese independence supporters and was responsible for the deaths of seven men in April 1999

The organisations pointed out that Papuans who campaign peacefully are not betraying Indonesia as alleged by Col. Siagian, but simply asserting their right to express their political views. It called upon President Yudhoyono to show his commitment to freedom of expression and support this right.

Col. Siagian is not the only person accused of serious crimes in East Timor who has continued in an active position of command responsibility. In April this year, Major General Noer Muis, former military commander of East Timor, controversially co-directed a joint military training exercise with the United States. In 2003, Timbul Silaen was appointed chief of police in Papua despite being indicted on charges arising from his occupation of the same position in East Timor in 1999. A number of senior suspects, including Major-General Adam Damiri former military commander of the East Timor region, were involved in military operations in Aceh.

Indonesia’s ad hoc human rights court tried 18 defendants (not including Col. Siagian) on charges relating to crimes against humanity in East Timor, but the proceedings were widely regarded as a sham. Twelve defendants were acquitted and five had their convictions overturned on appeal. The only conviction still standing is that of East Timorese militia leader, Eurico Guterres. The UN-established serious crimes process in East Timor indicted 392 suspects, but Indonesia refused to co-operate and more than 70 per cent of those indicted, including all the non-East Timorese nationals, remain free in Indonesia.

“We are dismayed by Indonesia’s lack of respect for the rule of law and its apparent determination to perpetuate a cycle of impunity that encourages military personnel to believe they will escape justice for past and future violations of human rights,” said Matthew Jamieson Secretary of the Institute for Papuan Advocacy & Human Rights in Australia. “Indonesia has failed to keep its obligations under international law and Indonesian domestic law to prosecute Col Siagian for his alleged crimes.”

See our last posts on the Indonesia, West Papua and East Timor.