A former Indonesian military leader alleged to have been involved in crimes against humanity during the East Timor crisis is scheduled to speak at a conference in Melbourne marking the 15th anniversary of the Australian intervention in East Timor.

The conference in Melbourne in September is being run by Military History and Heritage Victoria. It marks the 15th anniversary of Australian-led forces entering East Timor after mounting public pressure over the crisis in 1999.

Lieutenant General Kiki Syahnakri, listed to speak on the “Indonesian perspective on the 1999 East Timor Crisis”,  became martial law administrator of East Timor on September 7, 1999, just 13 days before Australian forces arrived in Dili. He has written a book on the crisis, Timor Timur: The Untold Story.

An indictment was filed against Syahnakri in 2003 for the crimes of murder, forced deportation and persecution. The Serious Crimes Unit, founded by the United Nations after the crisis, filed the indictment against him and seven others, including army general Wiranto, who made an unsuccessful bid for president. The SCU also requested a warrant for Syahnakri ‘s arrest.

Allegations against Syahnakri include “actively participating in the establishment and formation of violent militia groups” and failing to “take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the crimes being committed by his subordinates”. Under martial law in East Timor, the Indonesian military answered to Syahnakri, and the indictment alleges that he is responsible for the actions taken by the Indonesian military (the TNI).

Dr Clinton Fernandes, associate professor at the University of New South Wales in Canberra and specialist in Australian foreign policy, says “[Syahnakri] should not be speaking at a conference but in a court”.

Under the International Criminal Court (Consequential Amendments) Act 2002, which incorporated the Geneva Conventions of 1957, Syahnakri could be tried in Australia if the Australian Federal Police were to arrest him.

MHHV president Marcus Fielding says the organisation had no qualms about inviting Syahnakri to speak, as ” it would be remiss — given the stakeholders involved — not to have a perspective from Indonesia”.

“We don’t form any judgements but aim to allow a range of speakers to put forward their ideas with an idea to get the historical record on paper.”

Fielding says he doesn’t believe there is a current arrest warrant for Syahnakri and Syahnakri hadn’t communicated any problems to him.

East Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao is also scheduled to speak at the conference, although he is listed as “to be confirmed”; Gusmao announced earlier this year that he would retire as PM by the end of this year. Crikey contacted the East Timorese embassy to ask if Gusmao was aware of Syahnakri being listed on the bill, but did not hear back before deadline.

Dr Scott Burchill, senior lecturer in international relations, alerted Crikey to Syahnakri’s coming appearance.