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Indonesian generals linked to killings

Published Sep. 26, 2005

A government commission charged Monday that the Indonesian military and its militia surrogates carried out an orchestrated campaign of mass killing, torture, forced deportation, rape and sexual slavery in East Timor. It named six top generals _ including Gen. Wiranto, the former army chief _ for possible criminal prosecution.

The findings of the government commission of inquiry were more sweeping and harder hitting than had been expected, coming on top of a recommendation from a U.N. inquiry that the United Nations set up a special tribunal to try those accused of atrocities in East Timor. They brought to a head a confrontation between Indonesia's new democratic government, which has made human rights and accountability a major priority, and the powerful military establishment, which has seen its traditional role undercut.

President Abdurrahman Wahid, who is in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, said after the findings were made known that he will fire Wiranto from the Cabinet. "I will ask him, to use a polite word, ask him to resign," Wahid said.

Wiranto stepped aside as armed forces commander in October, after the violence against East Timorese that broke out in September over their decision to secede from Indonesia. But he still wields considerable influence in the military as Cabinet coordinating minister for political affairs and security.

The East Timorese resistance leader and Nobel laureate, Jose Ramos-Horta, said in Singapore that Wiranto should be tried and not just removed from the Cabinet. "In this day and age, you cannot kill hundreds of people, destroy a whole country, and then just get fired," he said.

The commission also said the military actively tried to cover up evidence of its "crimes against humanity," including moving victims' bodies to remote locations.

"The mass killings claimed the lives mostly of civilians," said the commission chairman, Albert Hasibuan. "They were conducted in a systematic and cruel way. Many were committed in churches and police headquarters."

Australian-led peacekeepers in East Timor have unearthed hundreds of bodies in scattered grave sites, many in the East Timorese exclave of Oe-Cussi near the Indonesian border. Villagers have said bodies were moved there before foreign troops arrived, but Monday's report provided the first confirmation of an effort to conceal the extent of the killings.

The commission forwarded the names of 33 people, including Wiranto, who it said should be investigated for prosecution, to Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, who promised to begin his own inquiry. Among those named are Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, the regional commander in charge of East Timor in the months leading up to the Aug. 30 U.N.-backed independence referendum; Zacky Anwar Makarim, the army intelligence chief in East Timor; and Tono Suratman and Noer Muis, the two commanders based in Dili, the East Timorese capital.

Also named were the commanders of various militia groups.

The bloodbath in East Timor sparked international outrage and turned Indonesia into something of a pariah state, criticized by friends and slapped with economic sanctions. Hundreds of thousands were forcibly deported to Indonesian-controlled western Timor, homes and buildings in Dili were looted and set ablaze, and the few foreigners left in the capital huddled inside the U.N. compound, along with frightened Timorese, with little food or water.

The violence continued until then-President B.J. Habibie bowed to international pressure and allowed in foreign troops to restore order. At the time, Wiranto conceded some Indonesian army troops, from two indigenous East Timorese battalions, were involved in the violence. But he repeatedly insisted the outbreak was spontaneous, that there was no evidence of widespread killings and that he was trying his best to bring the situation under control.

Monday's report found Wiranto "fully acknowledged and realized" the extent of the violence and destruction in East Timor but failed to act. "Therefore, General Wiranto, as the TNI (Indonesian army) commander, should be the one to take responsibility," the report reads.

Throughout the violence before and after East Timor's independence vote, military officials and Indonesian government leaders denied any link between the armed forces and the East Timorese militias. But the report said the militias were "directly and indirectly being armed, trained, supported, and funded by the civilian apparatus, military and police."

While the Indonesian attorney general deals with this report, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan must decide whether to accept the recommendation of the separate U.N. investigation and ask for a human rights tribunal for East Timor. Indonesia vehemently objects to any U.N. tribunal, saying the country is capable of punishing those responsible.