The Indonesian Human Rights Court for East Timor: Liability for Crimes Against Humanity
Trials for International Crimes in Asia, Kirsten Eve Sellars, ed., Forthcoming
37 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2015
Date Written: February 24, 2015
In early 2002 a special human rights court was convened in Jakarta, Indonesia to try a Indonesians suspected of committing human rights crimes in connection with an independence referendum held in East Timor in 1999. A total of 18 Indonesian military and civilian officials were charged with crimes against humanity. All of the defendants were charged on a theory of command responsibility for crimes committed by persons under their command and control. While six of the 18 defendants were convicted at trial, all of the accused were exonerated on appeal. Several studies have shown demonstrated that the trials before the East Timor human rights court failed in the goals of identifying and punishing those responsible for the abuses committed in East Timor. This paper examines the trials for what they reveal about the Indonesian legal system. A close examination of the way law and fact were analyzed and argued in the East Timor trials shows that the truth of what happened in East Timor and the law of command responsibility and crimes against humanity had little importance at the trials. The eventual outcome of the prosecutions was guaranteed by the fact the military that committed the crimes in 1999 was still in power when those who directed the violence were tried in 2002. Nevertheless, some of the participants refused to bow to the inevitable, and struggled to bring to light evidence that the Indonesian military had formulated and executed a campaign of violence against East Timorese supporters of independence.
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation