Beloved Madam: Gender Issues at the Indonesian Ad-Hoc Human Rights Court

Authored by: Susan Harris Rimmer

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Democratization and Political Participation, Political Transitions, Transitional Justice
Country: Timor-Leste
Region: East Asia and the Pacific
Year: 2008
Citation: Rimmer, Susan Harris. "Beloved Madam: Gender Issues at the Indonesian Ad-Hoc Human Rights Court." In Timor-Leste: Issues of Justice and Human Rights, edited by William Binchy. Dublin: Clarus Press, 2008. 427-473.

Access the Resource:


Trials dealing with the international crimes committed in East Timor were held concurrently in East Timor and in Indonesia. In Indonesia, Law 26/2000 on Human Rights Courts was adopted by the Indonesian legislature in November 2000. The law provided for the establishment of four permanent Human Rights Courts and, for cases which took place prior to the adoption of the legislation, the possibility of establishing ad hoc Human Rights Courts and a truth commission. The new courts were to have jurisdiction over crimes against humanity and genocide, crimes which until then had not been included in Indonesian domestic law. Presidential Decree No. 96/2001 was issued by the newly installed President Megawati Sukarnoputri in August 2001 establishing an ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor. The jurisdiction was limited to only those crimes occurring in the districts of Liquiça, Dili and Suai, and only within the two months of April and September 1999. The trials were completed in 2004, and the appeal process in May 2006. This chapter will provide a gender analysis of the role, operation and jurisprudence of the Jakarta Court, the most controversial of the transitional justice mechanisms established to date to deal with international crimes in East Timor. I ask, as have many other legal commentators, whether the trials were a sham, and what the consequences were for women. The overall failure of the process has overshadowed the detrimental consequences for women, yet these are significant. A gendered analysis brings into focus the official silence in the indictments on gender-persecution, the intimidating court-room atmosphere, ill-treatment of female witnesses and judges, and the reaction of Timorese women’s groups to the trials.