Indonesia: The Implications of the Timor Trials
Indonesia: The Implications of the Timor Trials
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report 16 / Asia

Indonesia: The Implications of the Timor Trials

As East Timor moves toward independence on 20 May 2002, trials are proceeding in Jakarta against Indonesian army and police officers and civilian officials accused of serious human rights violations in connection with the 1999 violence there.

I. Overview

May 2002, trials are proceeding in Jakarta against Indonesian army and police officers and civilian officials accused of serious human rights violations in connection with the 1999 violence there. Within Indonesia, the trials have generated little interest, nothing approaching the attention given to the prosecution of Tommy Soeharto, the former president’s son. Abroad, the delays in getting the trials underway, the high-ranking position of some defendants, the inexperience of the judges in trying human rights crimes, and the government’s pointed lack of interest in addressing military impunity have raised doubts that any of the accused will be convicted.

The problem is not so much with the way the cases are being judicially conducted. Inexperienced as they are, the judges have thus far exceeded expectations, rejecting military arguments and demonstrating a willingness to use international human rights law in a way that defies a common perception of them as incompetents or political hacks. Rather the problem, as revealed in court documents obtained by ICG, is with the limited mandate of the ad hoc court and the very weak way in which the indictments have been drawn up and presented by the prosecution. In particular:

  • the events of 1999 are portrayed as resulting from civil conflict between two violent East Timorese factions in which Indonesian security forces were essentially bystanders;
  • there is a failure to address the way in which the military’s creation and use of militia forces contributed to human rights violations: the military role is presented as failing to prevent violence rather than actively orchestrating it; and
  • though purporting to identify crimes against humanity, the indictments as drafted suggest little more than criminal negligence on the part of the accused.

In these circumstances, regardless of whether the defendants are ultimately convicted, these trials may well produce the following consequences in Indonesia:

  • the near-universal image within Indonesia of     the conflict as a civil war between two equally matched factions of East Timorese will be reinforced. With the prosecution failing to produce any evidence suggesting active involvement of high levels of the Indonesian government in the 1999 violence, the pro-independence victory is difficult to explain except in terms of ill will toward Indonesia on the part of the international community. Had the indictments been better prepared, they not only might have helped illuminate the political dynamics in East Timor in 1999, but might have led to more effective policies in Aceh and Papua;
  • the United Nations in particular will continue to be seen as a biased and manipulative actor, further reducing the already slim chance that it could be an acceptable mediator or facilitator in future conflicts;
  • the involvement of Indonesian military in creating, equipping, training, and funding the pro-integration militia forces in East Timor will remain unexamined, reducing the likelihood that there will be any deterrent to the continued or future use of such forces;
  • efforts to curb human rights violations in areas of separatist conflict will have been portrayed as anti-nationalist, to the extent the role of the security forces is portrayed not just by the defence but more subtly by the prosecution as defenders of Indonesian unity. The linkage in these trials between pro-Indonesia violence and patriotism on the one hand, and human rights campaigning and near-treason on the other may well bolster resistance to demands for accountability; and
  • the concept of crimes against humanity in Indonesia will have been trivialised.

There are several policy implications for those inside and outside Indonesia interested in accountability, military reform, and democratisation.

At least for the moment, no amount of international or domestic pressure is going to produce justice for serious human rights crimes by military officers in East Timor. At the same time, it would send precisely the wrong signal to the Indonesian government and, for that matter, to supporters of military and judicial reform to ease existing restrictions on aid to the Indonesian military, as exemplified by the Leahy amendment in the United States.[fn]Section 572 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2002 (HR 2506), otherwise known as the Leahy amendment, reads:  (a) Funds appropriated by this Act under the headings “International Military Education and Training”: and “Foreign Military Financing Program” may be made available for assistance for Indonesian military personnel only if the President determines and submits a report to the appropriate congressional committees that the Government of Indonesia and the Indonesian Armed Forces are: taking effective measures to bring to justice members of the armed forces and militia groups against whom there is credible evidence of human rights violations in East Timor and Indonesia; taking effective measures to bring to justice members of the armed forces against whom there is credible evidence of aiding or abetting illegal militia groups in East Timor and Indonesia; allowing displaced persons and refugees to return  home to East Timor, including providing safe passage for refugees returning from West Timor and demonstrating a commitment to preventing incursions into East Timor by members of militia groups in West Timor; demonstrating a commitment to accountability by cooperating with investigations and prosecutions of members of the armed forces and militia groups responsible for human rights violations in East Timor and Indonesia; demonstrating a commitment to civilian control of the armed forces by reporting to civilian authorities audits of receipts and expenditures of the armed forces; allowing United Nations and other international humanitarian organizations and representatives of recognized human rights organizations access to West Timor, Aceh, West Papua, and Maluka; and releasing political detainees.Hide Footnote To waive those restrictions would be to reward an incompetent or obstructionist prosecution and a dissembling officer corps; it would also undermine those within Indonesia’s political elite and civil society who have been pressing for accountability as an essential aspect of military reform.[fn]See ICG Asia Report No. 24, Indonesia: Next Steps in Military Reform. 11 October 2001, Jakarta/BrusselsHide Footnote

Because the truth of what happened in East Timor in 1999 is so critical to Indonesian perceptions of conflict more generally, however, every attempt should be made to ensure that the kind of information the prosecution should have collected, but did not, is made available to the Indonesian public.

At one level, this means heightened pressure on governments whose intelligence agencies were actively monitoring events in East Timor in 1999 to release information they have on the role of Indonesian government agencies and individual officials in the violence. Information leaked to Australian journalists from Australian government intercepts and published on 14 March 2002, the opening day of the Timor trials, give some indication of the extent of Indonesian state involvement, but a more systematic release of information from the Australian, U.S., and other governments is needed.[fn]“Silence Over a Crime Against Humanity,” Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March 2002.
Hide Footnote

At another level, this means that funds should be made available from foundations or donor governments to ensure that Indonesian journalists and legal analysts have access to publicly available court documents from the crimes against humanity trials taking place in Dili, East Timor, although there have been serious shortcomings there as well. (Among other things, the early trials did not have a court recorder present.) There may be more information from Dili than from Jakarta about the extent to which militia commanders operated on the basis of orders from Indonesian officers.

The failure of the Timor trials in Jakarta to constitute a genuine domestic remedy for the 1999 crimes will inevitably generate new calls for an international tribunal on East Timor, similar to those in place for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Establishing such a tribunal would be both desirable and appropriate but with no known support for such an option from members of the UN Security Council, or even from the political leadership of East Timor, the chances of a tribunal being created are close to nil.  The slim prospects for justice make it more important to ensure that all available facts come to light while the memory of the 1999 destruction is still fresh, and before the efforts of senior army officers to change the historical record succeed.

Jakarta/Brussels, 8 May 2002

Op-Ed / Asia

Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force

My four year-old daughter recently came home from her Jakarta kindergarten with a story about a visit to the school from the head of our local police station. 'If there is a robber and he's running away, the policeman will pull out his gun, fire in the air, and if he doesn't stop then he will shoot him in the leg', she recounted breathlessly.

I have spent 25 years working in and around conflict zones, including more than a decade in Indonesia. My reaction might not have been that of the average parent. 'That', I replied, 'is a violation of Perkap Number 8.' Needless to say, my reference to Police Regulation Number 8 of 2009 regarding Implementation of Human Rights Principles and Standards in the Discharge of Duties of the Indonesian National Police was lost on her. She thought the visit was great.

I had recalled Perkap 8 when re-reading the Hansard of the recent sparring between Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr and Victoria Greens Senator Richard Di Natale over the police shooting of protesters in Papua. But it is not just in Papua where questionable use of deadly force by the Indonesian National Police (INP) takes place. It happens across the country. And this was what Perkap 8 was put in place to prevent.

Article 47 of Perkap 8 says that 'the use of firearms shall be allowed only if strictly necessary to preserve human life' and 'firearms may only be used by officers: a. when facing extraordinary circumstances; b. for self defense against threat of death and/or serious injury; c. for the defense of others against threat of death and/or serious injury.' This is Indonesian law, taken from the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, and this is what should be used to assess police actions, wherever in the country they occur.

The fatal shooting on 14 June 2012 of Mako Tabuni, deputy head of the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB), in Jayapura, capital of Papua province, made Senate Estimates in 2012. The shooting of three protesters in Sorong on 30 April 2013, West Papua province, was mentioned in the testy 5 June 2013 exchanges between Senators Carr and Di Natale. You can watch it above.

In the first incident, detectives shot a suspect in the leg as he was running away and then left him to die in a hospital allegedly without making any effort to treat his wounds. In the second, police claim they were threatened by armed KNPB activists. Without more information it is difficult to judge if their response was disproportionate. Police always say they are shooting in self-defense, but it has become such a common excuse that it has started to lose its plausibility.

Cases outside Papua do not garner much attention in Australia, but lethal shootings happen all the time. On 1 September 2011 seven villagers were killed during a rowdy protest against police brutality in the Central Sulawesi district of Buol, a place so obscure even most Indonesians cannot find it on a map.

On 7 March 2013, soldiers burned down a police station in Baturaja, South Sumatra, after their off-duty comrade, First Private Heru Oktavianus, was shot dead by a police officer while speeding away from a traffic violation.

On 8 May 2013 police in Java killed six suspected terrorists in a series of raids. The police usually claim the suspects were armed and resisted arrest. But it is not always true, and many could have almost certainly been captured alive.

Ordinary criminals are shot with distressing frequency, as my daughter's visitor suggests, without any outcry at home or abroad.

Perkap 8 was signed by the then police chief Sutanto, a real reformer. It has not gotten very far. One foreign police officer working on a bilateral community policing program in a large metropolitan command told me he had once seen a copy of the Perkap on the chief's desk but suspected it had been disseminated no further.

Even when progressive regulations or orders are issued and disseminated, they are not always followed. In October 2012, the police chief of Papua, Tito Karnavian, former head of the anti-terrorism unit Detachment 88 (Densus 88), announced that he had banned police from using live ammunition when handling demonstrations in the region. This was progress and it was implemented for some demos, but the deaths in the Sorong case suggest live ammunition was used.

As Article 46 of Perkap 8 says, 'all officers must be trained in the use of power, equipment and firearms that can be used in applying force' and 'must be trained in non-violent techniques and methods.' Training almost 400,000 officers across 33 provinces is a logistical challenge, though it might be a good idea to start with elite units such as Densus 88 or personnel in the Papua provinces.

The new national head of the INP, about to be appointed, might breathe new life into two reforms already in place: implementation of Perkap 8 and Chief Sutanto's other landmark regulation on community policing, Perkap 7. The INP is a very hierarchical organisation that does follow firm orders from above. While its size makes complex reform difficult, its hierarchical nature makes implementing existing regulations with firm orders easier.

The first duty of the incoming INP chief, who reports directly to the president, will be to secure the 2014 elections. Making sure those deployed to safeguard this 'festival of democracy' are properly trained and equipped to use non-lethal force will be an important first step. After a new head of state is elected, he or she should consider issuing a directive that would see Perkap 8 properly implemented. The use of less deadly force could even be politically popular in some parts.

Outside help may also be needed, and this is where Australia comes in. A few decades back, the Victorian state police had a problem of using too much deadly force and created Project Beacon to try to rectify it. They changed the way they thought about the problem, overhauled training, and gave officers on the beat new tools, like pepper spray. Foreign assistance along these lines could help the INP improve performance and increase accountability. Crisis Group has long argued that the INP needs better orders, training, and equipment for the use of non-deadly force.

If the INP is to be more the service it aspires to be rather than the force it is, it needs to shed its military mindset, hold serious post-operation reviews after each fatal incident, and decrease reliance on shooting first and asking questions later, regardless of whether officers are following locally accepted standard procedure. When the time comes and the INP is ready to carry forward the reform of Perkap 8, Australia should be there to help.

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