Asia Pacific Report newsdesk
The Civil Society Alliance — which is made up of a number of organisations in Indonesia and Timor-Leste — is urging President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to revoke the Bintang Jasa Utama (1st Class Star of Service) award for “civil bravery and courage” in times of adversity which was given to former East Timorese pro-integration militia leader Eurico Barros Gomes Guterres.
“[We] urge President Joko Widodo to revoke the decision to give the Bintang Jasa Utama award to Eurico Guterres,” said Alliance representative Fatia Maulidiyanti, reports CNN Indonesia.
Bestowing this award added futher to the injury felt by victims of gross human rights violations and was like reaffirming impunity, she said.
“Today President Joko Widodo gave the Bintang Jasa Utama award to Eurico Guterres, which is like rubbing salt into the wounds of [his] victims.
“Once again, the space is narrowing for efforts to resolve gross human rights violations which continues to suffer pressure and recession.”
In 2002, Guterres was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor. The decision was upheld in an appeal with the Supreme Court.
Guterres was found guilty of crimes against humanity.
Released early from jail
However the deputy commander of the pro-Indonesia militia in East Timor was released following a judicial review in 2008.
Maulidiyanti added that giving the award to Guterres was a serious betrayal of humanitarian values and morality and sidelines justice for the victims.
The decision showed that the administration of Joko Widodo and Vice-President Ma’ruf Amin had lost any legitimacy as a government with good intentions, she said.
“To cite the maxim of Immanuel Kant on the morality of the categorical imperative – that ‘actions must be based on moral goals which are objective’.
“Meanwhile conferring this award clearly places the victims as just tools of power, not the goals let alone the raison d’etre of this government,” she said.
She said that Widodo’s move clearly showed an authority which denied the experience, aspirations and advocacy efforts by civil society and the victims of human rights violations in realising the values of justice and efforts to prevent a repetition of such violations.
“Giving an award to Eurico Guterres sets a bad precedent for the democratic process in Indonesia after emerging from the shackles of authoritarianism.
Rooted in impunity
“On the contrary, this award in fact proves how deeply rooted the practice of impunity is, especially after more than two decades of reformasi,“, said Maulidiyanti, referring to the political reform process that began in 1998.
The Civil Society Alliance is made up of number of organisations, including the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial), the Institute for Human Rights Studies and Advocacy (ELSAM), Asian Justice and Rights (AJAR) and the Indonesian Association of the Families of Missing Persons (IKOHI).
Individual representatives include Roichatul Aswidah, Miryam Nainggolan, Sri Lestari Wahyuningroem and Uchikowati.
Earlier, Widodo through Presidential Decrees Numbers 76, 77 and 78 TK/TH dated August 4, 2021, gave the Bintang Mahaputera (Star of Mahaputera), the Bintang Jasa Utama and the Bintang Budaya Parama Dharma (Cultural Merit Star) decorations to a number of figures.
Aside from the Bintang Jasa Utama given to Guterres, who is the general chairperson of the Timor Aswa’in Union Congress (UNTAS) and the East Timor Fighters Communication Forum (FKPTT), Widodo also awarded the late former Supreme Court Justice Artidjo Alkostar and 325 healthcare workers with the Bintang Mahaputera Utama.
The Palace itself has not yet responded to the accusations against Guterres.
Australian human rights defender Patrick Walsh writes: “It is unthinkable that the President, once applauded for championing ordinary people, would not have been briefed on Guterres criminal record.
“Is it also unlikely that Jakarta would not have cleared the award first with the authorities in Dili or ignored their protests?
“What is this really all about? Why are victims and justice being treated so shabbily by Jokowi’s government for which such high hopes were once held?”
Eurico Guterres is a former pro-integration militia leader recruited by the Indonesian military during East Timor’s bid for independence between 1999 and 2000.
He was involved in several massacres in East Timor and was a chief militia leader during the post-independence killings and destruction of the capital Dili.
Guterres was tried by the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor for crimes against humanity on charges of murder and persecution along with 17 other defendants and subsequently sentenced to ten years imprisonment in November 2002, for which he was imprisoned in 2006 until 2008.
On December 15, 2020, Guterres also received a National Defence Patriot medal and certificate from Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto.
Translated by James Balowski for Indoleft News. The original title of the article was “Kasus HAM, Jokowi Didesak Cabut Bintang Jasa Eurico Guterres”.