Campaigns Against UN Court for E. Timor
Reuters, Jan 20, 2000 Eastern
Indonesia Campaigns Against UN Court for E. Timor
By Jonathan Wright
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab met Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Thursday on a mission to stop the United Nations from setting up an international tribunal to prosecute war crimes in East Timor.
Shihab told a meeting earlier in the day that an international tribunal could backfire by encouraging xenophobia and enabling Indonesians who violated human rights in East Timor to wrap themselves in the cloak of extreme nationalism.
The minister also predicted that Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid could reach a compromise with the separatists in the troubled northern province of Aceh without allowing the province to secede from Indonesia.
Shihab spent Wednesday at the United Nations in New York, explaining Indonesia's opposition to a tribunal to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and to the ambassadors of the United States, Russia, China and Japan.
Indonesia has set up its own national commission and has promised a thorough and credible inquiry into last year's killings in East Timor, which is moving toward independence from Indonesia. East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was occupied by Indonesia in 1975.
Annan was reviewing a report from a special U.N. inquiry into abuses in East Timor and he planned to make recommendations for further action, the United Nations said last week.
After a speech at Washington's School of Advanced International Studies on Thursday morning, Shihab said his government wanted the national commission on human rights to take the lead in dealing with abuses in East Timor. Pro-Jakarta militiamen, working with elements of the military, embarked on a wave of destruction after the territory overwhelmingly voted for independence from Indonesia in August. Hundreds of people were killed in the violence and hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes.
Shihab said: ``An international tribunal could be counterproductive because then it would trigger xenophobia or an excessive spirit of nationalism that could only allow those who violated human rights to wrap their bodies in flags.''
``This will be a disadvantage both to the international community and to the (Indonesian) administration,'' he added.
Washington's ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, said last week that the Indonesian military must cooperate with probes into human rights abuses in East Timor, or pressure would mount for the international tribunal.
A State Department official said the United States wanted to see accountability. He added, ``We do not endorse a particular mechanism for accountability but continue to support a mechanism that is thorough, credible and transparent.''
Shihab said Wahid was committed to punishing violators, and if the national commission did not meet international standards, Indonesia would have to accept an international court. ``But that would be the last resort,'' he added.
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