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  • Where Are They Now?The Careers of Army Officers Who Served in East Timor, 1998-99
  • Douglas Kammen (bio)

In 1998-99, the Indonesian Armed Forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) organized and armed pro-integration militias and oversaw and participated in widespread violence before and after the United Nations-sponsored referendum in East Timor. The violence left at least 1,500 people dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced from their homes, many forcibly relocated to Indonesian West Timor. Basic infrastructure was devastated, homes were destroyed, and livestock killed. In the face of international condemnation, the Indonesian military eventually withdrew its troops from the territory, and the Indonesian government agreed to relinquish its claim to East Timor. Human rights activists called for an international tribunal to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice, but there was little support in the United Nations for such an initiative, which was soon dropped in favor of piecemeal measures. Several Western powers cut off ties with the Indonesian military and pressured the Indonesian government to act on the findings of the National Human Rights Commission's fact-finding team. In 2001, the Indonesian government did so, establishing an Ad Hoc Court for Human Rights Violations in East Timor that tried eleven army officers, four police officers, and three civilians. Of these, three army officers, one police officer, and three East Timorese civilians were convicted, but all were subsequently acquitted on appeal. In Dili, meanwhile, the United Nations established a Serious Crimes Unit to investigate human rights abuses and crimes against humanity, and a Special Panel for Serious Crimes was created to try those [End Page 111] indicted. A number of low-level militiamen were brought to trial, but because the special panel had no jurisdiction over suspects in Indonesia, the major indictment against senior and middle-ranking Indonesian military officers never made it to court.

The half-hearted and now stalled initiatives to bring the perpetrators of human rights abuses in East Timor to justice have been the subject of intense scholarly scrutiny, so they will not be summarized here.1 Instead, I would like to ask what has happened to the careers of those Indonesian army officers who served in East Timor in 1998-99. This is particularly important in light of the debate over foreign—including US—engagement with the Indonesian military and ongoing human rights violations. In a 2007 diplomatic cable arguing in favor of resuming US cooperation with Indonesia's special forces, Cameron Hume, the US Ambassador to Indonesia, argued that Kopassus (Komando Pasukan Khusus, Special Forces Command) forces "play an essential role in Indonesia's ability to protect US official, civilian, and commercial interests." Ambassador Cameron approvingly cited the argument posed by the commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces that "younger officers [should] not be penalized for past transgressions."2 Such lobbying eventually paid off. In June 2010, the United States and Indonesia signed a defense cooperation agreement for military-to-military cooperation, and a month later the US resumed ties with Kopassus. Commenting on the US-Indonesian security partnership at the time, security analyst John Haseman noted that "[m]ost of the individuals involved in these incidents [in East Timor and the abduction of activists] have already retired or left the service, and Kopassus has not been credibly accused of a major human rights violation in at least the last five years."3

The data presented here are limited, as they concern only the two most senior army officers in the Bali-based Udayana Military Command and army officers who served in East Timor in 1998-99. Senior officers in the army and armed forces headquarters in 1998-99, most of whom were already approaching mandatory retirement age, and officers in the police and mobile brigade are not included. In all, sixty-two officers are listed. It is essential to note at the outset that the data presented here were collected from publicly available sources. Much of the information is from Indonesian newspapers and magazines that, now electronically accessible and searchable, regularly report on appointments, promotions, and the activities of the army. Further information has been obtained from the myriad military websites that not only report military...


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