E. Timor Inquiry Taints Top Brass ; on Jan. 31 Indonesia's Own Human Rights Report Implicates in The

By Dan Murphy, | The Christian Science Monitor, February 2, 2000 | Go to article overview
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E. Timor Inquiry Taints Top Brass ; on Jan. 31 Indonesia's Own Human Rights Report Implicates in The


Dan Murphy,, The Christian Science Monitor


General Wiranto, Indonesia's current minister of security, former armed-forces chief, and once the handpicked successor of Indonesia's fallen dictator Suharto, was supposed to be dangerous when pushed. A guy who could pose a threat to Indonesia's fledgling democracy.

Yet in response to the National Commission on Human Rights finding that he is culpable for "crimes against humanity" in East Timor, his expected defiance was muted. He only promised to "fight for the truth.'' Told of President Abdurrahman Wahid's stated intention to fire him, all he had to say was that he hadn't heard the news.

Hardly the words to strike fear into the hearts of men. For good reason. Wiranto, the subject of coup rumors for months, was outflanked by Mr. Wahid, a genial Muslim cleric who is one of Indonesia's canniest political operators. Wiranto's political career, analysts say, appears to be at an end.

Those afraid of a coup should take a cue from Wahid himself, who's on a two week trip abroad, analysts say. Wahid felt confident enough to let Wiranto know of his plans through a television interviewer in Davos, Switzerland. "I will ask him, to use a polite word, to resign,'' he told Reuters Television.

The findings of the four-month government inquiry into the East Timor rampage were stunning. They held Wiranto, five other generals, and 27 militia leaders, political figures, and junior officers responsible for aiding a campaign of rape, murder, and torture in the wake of the territory's August vote for independence. "Wahid has been setting this one up for months," says a political analyst in Jakarta. "It's quite clear the intention all along was to use the human rights inquiry as a wedge to solve his problem with the military.'' After the announcement, chief military spokesman Air Force Rear Marshall Garito Usodo promised the military would respect the legal process.

The commission presented its findings to Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, a close ally of Wahid's. Mr. Darusman promised to pursue further investigation that could lead to a prosecution but hasn't set a timetable.

Of course, acceptance hasn't been total. On Feb. 1, lawyers for the five accused generals attacked the accuracy of the report and threatened a libel suit against the commission's members. The lawyers, led by former human rights crusader Adnan Nasution, said in a statement that the allegations against the military were not supported by the evidence presented.

The plan, according to members of the investigating team, was to couple international pressure with hard evidence of military guilt to draw potential public support away from the generals. The announcement of the domestic inquiry's results came just days after United Nations investigators recommended a tribunal be set up to try those accused of war crimes in East Timor, the former Portuguese colony that gained independence after 25 years of Indonesian rule.

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