While analysing genocide in East Timor, it is necessary to consider some fundamentals concerning the issue of discussion. First of all, it should be pointed out that genocide is recognised to be one of the most terrible crimes a government can commit in relation to its people. As far as genocide was proclaimed an international crime, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (UHCG) was established.
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Generally, there is a wide range of definitions genocide involves. Social definitions are of particular importance, as they reveal the type of government a country is controlled by. Thus, on the one hand, genocide can be regarded as government’s intentions to commit crime against its citizens on the basis of their group membership.
On the other hand, genocide can be regarded as government’s intentions to abolish population on the basis of any reasons. One is to keep in mind that genocide is mostly associated with certain internal disruptions, war, etc.; so, one can conclude that if government is in danger, democide commitment provides excuse for the worst moral crime1.
East Timor’s genocidal grounds
Some of the historians are of the opinion that genocidal grounds were basically pre-planned. In the 17th century, the territory of East Timor was colonised by the Portuguese; in times of the Second World War, there were the Japanese, who controlled the territory.
In the early seventies, the Portuguese decided to reestablish their control over the country, and the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor (Fretilin) took a decision to form an independent community. In the mid of the seventies, Fretilin political force got the majority of voices in the local elections; so, the Indonesian government started its military actions and soon declared East Timor’s annexation2.
Keeping in mind a brief overview, one can probably conclude that the Indonesian government’s intentions to murder East Timor’s population involved political reasons; although a deep analysis of further actions the Indonesians followed give us an opportunity to suppose that both social definitions of genocide can be applied to the current case study.
The Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (CPPCG) and its relation to the case study
According to the CPPCG, genocide is considered to be any act, which main purpose is to destroy certain groups. Such events in the case study as a) killing representatives of a national group (the population of East Timor), b) causing bodily and mental harm to representatives of a national group, c) “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”3, d) imposing certain procedures to stop births within a national group (gendercidal massacres of men), and e) transferring children to another groups can be all applied to genocide according to the Convention.
A critical overview of the Article II of the CPPCG
Some alternative definitions, however, cannot be neglected too. Thus, taking into account the acts of genocide the Convention includes, it becomes evident that the acts can be divided into two major groups. The points of the Convention from a) to c) belong to the so-called physical genocide. As far as Timorese population experienced starvation and suffered a severe lack of any medical services, one can state that the kind of genocide goes beyond descriptions that are pointed out in the CPPCG.
Therefore, killing representatives of a certain national group can be regarded whether as a simplified definition or as a definition that cannot fit for genocide atrocities, which occurred in East Timor. In other words, the Article II of The Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide involves some general definitions of one of the worst moral crimes a government commits against humanity.
The points of the Convention from d) to e) belong to the biological genocide. So, preventing births seems to be an exhaustive definition; although the original Convention contained no data on violence targeting women4. Gendercide in East Timor, in its turn, covered horrible spectacles with the execution of females. In our days, the execution of women is recognized to be one of the legal definitions of genocide.
Other acts not covered by The Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide involve cultural genocide and political genocide. Lawrence Davidson is of the opinion that when people are unfamiliar with the culture outside of their national group, “they are unable to accurately assess the alleged threat of others around them. Throughout history, dominant populations have often dealt with these fears through mass murder”5. East Timorese population was forced to study a new Indonesian language, which was formed on the basis of the Malayan language. Keeping in mind that the Indonesian government wanted to impose linguistic restrictions on the population of East Timor, one can probably notice that the Timorese also experienced cultural genocide.
Of course, political genocide in East Timor cannot be ignored. It was mentioned that the reasons of the conflict between the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor and the Indonesian party Apodeti were of political origin. Thus, Apodeti was mostly interested in East Timor’s annexation by Indonesia. Therefore, political genocide was unavoidable6.
It seems to be obvious that the Article II of The Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide does not depict the issue of genocide in detail. For this reason, one can state that the general definitions the Convention involves are to be expanded. The most generic definition of genocide was given by Israel W. Charny. He pointed out that the worst international crime in its common sense is considered to be the mass annihilation of human beings7.
As far as genocide is regarded rather ambiguously, some important points on an international crime are to be clarified. So, it must be noted that not only a government, but also various military and international organisations can be also considered as the perpetrators of genocide.
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The most widespread motives of genocide include:
- the annihilation of those, who are hated,
- the destruction of those, who are regarded as the threat to a political regime,
- the desire to establish a new order,
Charny, I. Encyclopedia of Genocide, Santa Barbara, California, 1999.
Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Hrweb.org, 1997. Web.
Cribb, R. The Indonesian Killings, Clayton, Australia: Monash Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, 1990. Print.
Davidson, L. Cultural Genocide, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2012. Print.
Jones, A. Case Study: East Timor (1975-99). Gendercide.org, 2002. Web.
Kiernan, B. Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007.
Melson, R. Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide, UK: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
Rummel, R. Genocide. Hawaii.edu, n.d. Web.
1 R Rummel, Genocide. Hawaii.edu, n.d.
2 A Jones, Case Study: East Timor (1975-99). Gendercide.org, 2002.
3 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Hrweb.org, January 1997.
4 B Kiernan, Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007.
5 L Davidson, Cultural Genocide. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2012. Print.
6 R Cribb, The Indonesian Killings. Clayton, Australia: Monash Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, 1990. Print.
7 I Charny, Encyclopedia of Genocide. Santa Barbara, California, 1999.
8 R Melson, Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide. UK: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.