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Doe v. Lumintang

EAST TIMOR: ATROCITIES DURING THE INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM

Doe v. Lumintang

EAST TIMOR: ATROCITIES DURING THE INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM


IN BRIEF | BACKGROUND | LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

IN BRIEF


Doe v. Lumintang is a federal civil action against the former Vice Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Army, Johny Lumintang. Filed in March 2000, the suit seeks redress for six East Timorese activists who were targeted by the Indonesian military in a systematic campaign of violence following the September 1999 referendum on independence for East Timor.

On September 10, 2001, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered a default judgement against Lumintang. The court cumulatively awarded the plaintiffs $6 million in compensatory damages and $60 million in punitive damages. Lumintang, however,petitioned to overturn the judgement, and on November 9, 2004, the judgment was vacated on basic jurisdictional grounds: namely, that the court's assumption of personal jurisdiction over the defendant satisfied neither the requirements of constitutional due process nor the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

BACKGROUND


East Timor was invaded and annexed by neighboring Indonesia on December 7, 1975. In an effort to subdue the occupied Timorese population, the Indonesian military  engaged in a relentless campaign of human rights violations, killing an estimated 200,000 East Timorese.

In 1999, the U.N. conducted a referendum, referred to as the "popular consultation," to allow the people of East Timor to determine their national status. On August 30th, 1999, affirmative vote carried by 78.5%.  During the five days of the U.N. ballot count, violence escalated, as hundreds of East Timorese were killed and many fled their homes to the relative safety of the hills and mountains.

Within hours of the announcement of the results of the "popular consultation," Indonesian military and pro-Indonesian paramilitaries carried out coordinated assaults on the capital Dili and across the countryside, killing an estimated 1,400 individuals. This systematic campaign of violence forcibly displaced some 200,000 people into detention camps in Indonesian West Timor and destroyed an estimated 75% of East Timor’s private buildings and infrastructure.

During the same year, Defendant Lumintang served as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Indonesian military.  In this position, Lumintang oversaw the Indonesian military's coordinated program of eliminating all social, political or religious activities that challenged the illegal Indonesian occupation of East Timor.

In June 1999, then Vice Chief of Staff General Lumintang signed a Covert Operations Manual for Kopassus which provided for the training of Kopassus intelligence troops in propaganda, kidnapping, terror, agitation, sabotage, infiltration, undercover operations, wiretapping, photographic intelligence and psychological operations tactics.  Kopassus operatives have been linked to the surveillance, kidnapping, torture and extrajudicial killing of East Timorese activists both prior and subsequent to the independence "popular consultation."

CJA’s clients – whose identities remain concealed for security reasons – are survivors and relatives of the victims killed by state-sponsored violence under Lumintang’s watch.

LEGAL PROCEEDINGS


Complaint

Alerted to the fact that Lumintang was scheduled to deliver a talk in Washington D.C. at a symposium of the United States–Indonesia Society, the plaintiffs requested that CJA and the Center for Constitutional Rights file a civil suit against Lumintang on their behalf. In March 2000, an attempt to serve the summons and complaint at the symposium was thwarted, but Lumintang was followed to Washington Dulles Airport and served while waiting to board his plane. Lumintang left the United States, and has never returned.

The complaint – which alleged, inter alia, crimes against humanity; torture; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and extrajudicial killing – was filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Default Judgment & Damages Hearing

Lumintang failed to answer or otherwise appear, and on November 8, 2000, District Judge Gladys Kessler entered a default judgment against him. A hearing on damages was held from March 27 to 29, 2001.  In the evidentiary hearing, CJA’s clients gave sobering testimony, including that of a young man whose foot was amputated after he had been shot by Indonesian soldiers who had detained and beaten him.

On September 10, 2001, Lumintang was found liable for torture, wrongful death, summary execution, assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiffs were awarded compensatory damages varying in amounts from $750,000 to $1,750,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $10,000,000each. 



Judgment Vacated

On March 25, 2002 Lumintang filed a motion to vacate the judgment. Magistrate Judge- Alan Kay-  issued a Report amd Recommendation on March 3, 2004, recommending that Lumintang's motion to vacate the judgment be denied.

However, on November 9, 2004, District Judge Gladys Kessler issued an order to vacate the default judgment, finding that the service of the summons and complaint on Lumintang at Washington Dulles International Airport in Fairfax County, Virginia, did not give the District Court in the District of Columbia personal jurisdiction over the defendant.

Judge Kessler concluded: "The events in East Timor were a terrible tragedy. It is with great regret that the Court concludes that basic principles of United States jurisprudence compel the conclusion that the Report and Recommendation denying Defendant's Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment and Order and Judgment on Damages must be overruled and that Defendant's Motion must [be] granted."