A human rights group has criticized the presidential candidacy of a former Indonesian general who has been accused of widespread human rights abuses in Timor Leste and several Indonesian provinces.
Prabowo Subianto commanded Indonesia’s special forces from 1980 to 1998 and is said to have been the architect of the 1991 massacre at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, a watershed event captured on film by foreign journalists that for the first time provided evidence to Indonesia’s often brutal rule over then East Timor.
“Today, Prabowo Subianto is advancing his way toward the Indonesian presidential election, continuing to enjoy impunity and avoiding formal accountability for his actions,” said a statement issued on April 5 by the Timor Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal.
Indonesian parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 9, the first step in determining the country’s next president.
The alliance said Prabowo was guilty of “crimes against humanity” and that his possible election to the Indonesian presidency would lead to “destroying the values of democracy and human rights.”
The alliance issued its statement as thousands of Timorese gathered in Liquisa outside Dili on April 5 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of an attack on a Catholic church by pro-Indonesia forces that led to the deaths or disappearances of more than 200 people.
On April 5, 1999, a coalition of Indonesian police, military and paramilitary groups attacked a group of pro-independence Timorese who had taken shelter in the St. John de Brito church.
The incident served as a prelude to the widespread violence and alleged human rights abuses that occurred leading up to a UN sponsored referendum in August that year, which effectively ended Indonesia’s rule over East Timor.
Sisto de Santos, alliance coordinator, said this year’s event was different from past commemorations.
“About 280 human remains were gathered by a state-commissioned team from different locations - including victims of the Liquisa massacre - and reburied in a special ossuary at a newly dedicated state cemetery for anyone killed during the fight for independence,” de Santos told ucanews.com on Monday.
De Santos said that victims’ family members continue to suffer because they say justice has not been done for the perpetrators of the violence in pre-independence East Timor.
“What is disappointing is that the families of victims are living with uncertainty because the perpetrators of the Liquisa massacre continue to enjoy impunity and freedom,” de Santos said.
Additionally, victims’ families complained about the lack of involvement by a forensic team to properly identify remains. In some cases, three or more bodies were buried in a single coffin, the alliance said.
Timor Leste, a former Portuguese colony, was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and annexed the following year. An armed resistance fought Indonesian forces for a quarter of a century until the 1999 UN referendum paved the way to Timorese independence. It is one of only two predominantly Catholic countries in Asia, the other being the Philippines.