In 2000, CJA sued a senior Indonesian general for crimes against humanity for his army’s murderous rampage in Timor-Leste. In 2001, a U.S. judge found General Johny Lumintang liable for abuses and ordered him to pay $66 million to six survivors. While the judgment was later reversed on a technicality, the case serves as a concrete step towards legal redress for the survivors and victims of this brutal period in Timor-Leste.
In 1999, the island of Timor-Leste voted for independence from Indonesia. Within hours of the announcement, Indonesian military and paramilitary units launched a systematic campaign of violence against the people of Timor-Leste.
Major General Johny Lumintang served as Vice Chief of Staff of the Indonesian military and oversaw the violent crackdown.
Armed forces under Lumintang’s command targeted their violence against leaders of the independence movement, their families, and ordinary civilians. The forces killed an estimated 1,400 people and over 200,000 Timor-Lesteese—a third of Timor-Leste’s population— were forcibly displaced and held in detention camps.
The destruction also took other forms: buildings, homes, cars, and shops were blown up or burnt. Most schools were destroyed.
In 2000, CJA brought a civil suit against Lumintang on behalf of six Timor-Lesteese survivors. Our clients and members of their families were shot, executed, tortured, and beaten for their actual and alleged participation in the struggle against Indonesian occupation.
In 2001, the court entered a default judgment against Lumintang and awarded our clients $66 million in damages. He was held liable for crimes against humanity, torture, extrajudicial killing, and other abuses.
Lumintang, however, petitioned to overturn the judgment on the ground that the process server who had personally served him at Dulles Airport was within the state of Virginia and not within the District of Columbia borders.
In 2004, Judge Gladys Kessler acknowledged that this procedural technicality required overturning the judgment against Lumintang.