The indictment of TNI officers for violations in East Timor

16 Jun 1999

The continued presence of the TNI, the Indonesian army, in East Timor in the run-up to the UN-conducted Consultation on 8 August 1999, is a major factor keeping the territory in a state of fear and tension. It is very regrettable that the Accords signed by Indonesia and Portugal under the aegis of the UN Secretary-General on 5 May 1999 did not provide for the withdrawal of TNI but said only that its forces should be 'redeployed'. To create an environment conducive to the free and fair conduct of the Consultation, the TNI should be withdrawn in its entirety. In the meanwhile, it is clear that troops and armed civilian militia under the command of TNI officers have been responsible for grave violations in the past few months. These men should be dismissed and brought to justice.

Indonesian military are not only involved in organising armed civilian militia death squads in East Timor but are also directly responsible for the killing of innocent villagers. If peace is to be restored in the territory prior to the ballot on 8 August, it is essential for some of the worst perpetrators to be removed from their positions and brought to justice.

This is essential 'to ensure that a peaceful environment exists for the holding of a free and fair ballot', as required by the Memorandum on Security for the Consultation signed by the UN Secretary-General on 4 May 1999. Moreover, Paragraph 3 of the Memorandum requires the 'prompt arrest and prosecution of those who incite or threaten to use violence against others'.

Lt Colonel Asep Kuswani, commander of Kodim 1638/Liquisa (District Military Command 1638/Liquisa). Military registration number, NRP 29468

The reign of terror in the district of Liquisa district has been extensively monitored by church and human rights sources. Liquisa is located some 50 kms west of Dili. Disturbing reports about army and militia violence there were already circulating in January 1999. The violence culminated in a bloodbath on 6 April in and around Liquisa church. It is clear from all the evidence available that Lt Colonel Asep Kuswani and his territorial troops were directly involved in the killings. (A detailed account of the atrocity by the human rights group, Yayasan HAK is available in English translation from TAPOL.)

Lt. Colonel Asep Kuswani, an infantry officer, was appointed Dandim 1638/Liquisa (Military Commander 1638/Liquisa) on 1 October 1997. The territorial structure under his command includes three Koramil (military sub-district commands).

The militia gang operating in the district for which he is directly responsible has a reputation for extreme brutality. Set up in January this year, Besi Merah Putih (Red-and-White Steel) has been involved in numerous acts of violence, terror and intimidation against the population throughout the district of Liquisa. The attack on 6 April was directed against two thousand evacuees from Maubara, a sub-district of Liquisa, who had fled the day before, following assaults on their villages by Besi Merah-Putih militia in a joint operation with local troops. The attack on the church involved troops from Battalion 143 stationed in Kodim 1638, from Koramil Liquisa (Military Sub District Liquisa), the police, Brimob (police commandos) and the BMP militia. The identities of 59 people who died during this attack have been established while many more disappeared. This attack was clearly the responsibility of Lt. Colonel Asep Kuswani, the highest military authority in the district, without whose help and supervision it could never have occurred.

With the militia firmly entrenched in the district, Liquisa is by far the worst area for human rights violations in East Timor at present. Many thousands of East Timorese villagers are being held captive by the military/militia and the atmosphere is one of widespread fear, far removed from the calm environment needed to conduct the ballot on 8 August.

Lt. Colonel Asep Kuswani should be held responsible for the atrocities in Liquisa, discharged from the army and brought to justice for his involvement in killings and now the holding captive of thousands of Timorese.

Lt. Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian, commander of Kodim 1636/Maliana (Military District Command 1636/Maliana), Military registration number, NRP 29334

The Maliana district which is adjacent to the border with West Timor is another area where violations have been grave. The commander, Lt. Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian, hails from the cavalry and was appointed Dandim 1636/Maliana (Military Commander 1636/Maliana) on 1 October 1997. There are six Koramil (military sub-district commands) under his command. Halilintar ('thunderbolt') the militia gang which is operating in this area, is known to carry standard army weaponry such as semi-automatic M16s and FCNs.

The acts of violence against the people in Maliana are mostly conducted by joint forces including Kodim troops, the police and Halilintar militia. Kopassus (elite army commandos) have also infiltrated across the border from West Timor and are part of the joint operations. There have been reports of random shootings at houses in the Maliana district, resulting in deaths and injuries among the villagers. On 21 March, a joint action was carried out by the three forces to seal off the entire area, setting up road blocks around the town and on the Atabae-Maliana and Kailaku-Maliana roads.

In the second week of April, actions by the Halilintar militia reportedly led to the deaths or disappearance of seventy villagers, following which, on 13 April, the car in which a militia leader and members were travelling, was attacked by members of the Falintil armed resistance. A militia leader named Manuel Soares Gama was killed in the attack. Others in the car may also have been killed. In reprisal, Lt Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian selected five villagers at random and ordered their execution which took place in the home of Manuel Soares Gama.. [See report by Fortilos, an Indonesian support NGO, quoting Yayasan HAK, dated 18 April 1999.]

Lt. Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian has been quoted by a source close to TAPOL as openly defying President Habibie's policy to allow the people of East Timor to choose their future status in a ballot. He told this source that Habibie would not remain president after Indonesian elections in June. If he had his way, there would be no change in the status of East Timor.

The situation in the Maliana district remains extremely grave. According to a report from senior church sources in Dili on 13 June, there have been persistent human rights violations in Lolotoi, Bobonaro. The militias are reported to have cut off people's ears and forced the people to eat them, as well as putting people live into sacks and throwing them into the ocean.

This officer should be removed from his post, arrested and prosecuted for his many acts of violence against the people of the district of Maliana.

Lt. Colonel Muhamad Nur, military commander Kodim 1637/Ermera (Military District Command 1637/Ermera), Military registration number NRP 29478

The Ermera district is located in the mountains, to the south-west of Dili, another of the many regions in the western part of East Timor which are virtually occupied by the militia. Ermera is a prosperous coffee-growing area, as a result of which it has been difficult for the military to recruit local people to join the militia. Hence, all the violence in this district has been perpetrated by Lt. Colonel Muhamad Nur's troops. Lt. Colonel Muhamad Nur, an infantry officer, has been Dandim 1637/Ermera (Military Commander Ermera/1637) since 15 December 1997. His area of command includes three Koramil.

According to press reports, a two-pronged strategy was adopted, to create an atmosphere of fear among the population and then to target the local CNRT (the pro-independence resistance umbrella) leaders. In the middle of April, a wave of terror was launched by the local military. There was a massacre in the remote village of Talimoro, when at least six people were killed. The exact death toll could not be established as people in Ermera were too afraid to go and find out.

Then, in the third week of April, at least seven CNRT leaders were killed, including local councillor Antonio da Lima. They were shot in cold blood by soldiers from Kodim 1637/Ermera, according to local church sources. Among the victims was village head Bartholo Borromeu who was held and tortured, allowed to go home, then re-arrested three days later. He died on 21 April after being systematically tortured. According to the local priest, 'His skull was completely smashed'. The priest, Sancho Amaral, appealed in vain to Lt. Colonel Muhamad Nur to stop the atrocities. [The Observer, 25 April 1999]

The murders in Ermera are the direct responsibility of Lt. Colonel Muhamad Nur and the soldiers acting on his orders. Lt Colonel Muhamad Nur is typical of the majority of Indonesian officers who are actively or passively involved in the campaign of terror that is now obstructing the UN-sponsored peace process. He should be dismissed from his post, placed under arrest and brought to justice.

Major-General Adam Damiri, military commander of Kodam Udayana /IX (Udayana /IX Military Command) and Brig. General Mahidin Simbolon, Chief of Staff of Kodam Udayana/IX

Major-General Adam Damiri graduated from AMN, the State Military Academy, in 1972. Details about his military career are not available but it is known that in 1998, he was appointed Pangdam Udayana/IX (Military Commander of Udayana/IX), the military command based in Denpasar, Bali, which covers the territory of East Timor.

Brig. General Mahidin Simbolon was appointed Kasdam Udayana/IX (Chief of Staff of Udayana/IX) in 1998. He is an old East Timor hand and served as military commander of East Timor from June 1995 till May 1997.

He graduated from AMN in 1974 and in the following year took part in Operasi Seroja, the invasion of East Timor launched on 7 December, 1975. He has served six tours of duty in East Timor. He is a member of Kopassus, the elite army commandos, who are much feared by the East Timorese because of their brutality. During his many tours of duty in East Timor he operated as one of the top counter-insurgency intelligence officers. From 1993 till 1995 he was head of intelligence of Kopassus. For years, all counter-insurgency operations against the armed resistance, Falintil, and the unarmed political opposition have been spearheaded by Kopassus units operating in East Timor under the name, SGI (Satgas Inteligen, Intelligence Special Taskforce). Mahidin Simbolon has contributed significantly throughout his career to the activities of this intelligence network.

In 1992, Mahidin Simbolon, then still a major, led the unit that arrested Xanana Gusmao, the East Timorese resistance leader, after which he was promoted to the rank of colonel, skipping the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Mahidin Simbolon is known to have refined the strategy of using Timorese to fight Timorese. He was appointed Komandan Korem 164/Wira Dharma, (commander of the East Timor Resort Military Command) in 1996 and served in this position for more than a year. It was during his period as commander that the first militia groups were integrated into the army's territorial structure.

Whereas the military intelligence operation currently being conducted in East Timor is under the overall supervision of TNI headquarters in Jakarta, it is clear that Kodam Udayana/IX is the base from which all the major decisions are made regarding day-to-day operations, the recruitment of and support for the militia groups, logistical backup and so on. On 7 February this year, Major-General Adam Damiri following a meeting at his headquarters in Bali, told the press that the armed forces were supplying weapons 'in restricted numbers' to civilians who had been recruited in East Timor to help preserve peace and order. He denied that the purpose was to promote the pro-integration cause. It is estimated that, with the backing and encouragement of Major-General Damiri, many thousands of weapons are being held by civilian militia, despite the fact that it is unlawful under the Indonesian Criminal Code for civilians to bear weapons.

The military operation code-named Operasi Sapu Jagad (Operation Global Clean-Sweep) which was initiated in January to coordinate the terror actions of the pro-integration militia, is a combined SGI/territorial command/militia operation. These two ranking officers of Udayana are responsible for the operation and hence for all the gross human rights violations that have occurred in East Timor since the beginning of the year. To restore peace and tranquillity in East Timor, it is essential that these two men be removed from their posts and tried by a military tribunal.