|Subject: IHT: Jakarta
Setting Stage For Army Prosecutions
also: [Reuters] Indonesia Campaigns Against UN Court for E. Timor; [Kompas] Draft human rights court law will render trials for ET violations impossible
International Herald Tribune Saturday, January 22, 2000
Jakarta Setting Stage For Army Prosecutions
Wahid Faces Test Over East Timor Abuses
By Michael Richardson International Herald Tribune
SINGAPORE - Indonesia is laying the groundwork to prosecute senior military officers implicated in mass killings and other human rights abuses after East Timor voted for independence in August, according to officials and analysts. Such a trial is being demanded by the United States and other governments that provide vital support for Indonesia as it battles sectarian and separatist conflict as well as an economic crisis.
But it will be a key test of whether the government of President Abdurrahman Wahid - the first to be democratically elected in Indonesia in more than 40 years - can assert firm civilian control over the still powerful military, the analysts said.
Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab of Indonesia has assured UN and U.S. officials that an almost completed Indonesian inquiry into the violence will be thorough and credible and that the reformist Wahid government is committed to punishing human rights violators whoever they might be.
Six Indonesian generals, including the coordinating minister for security and political affairs, General Wiranto, were summoned recently for extensive questioning behind closed doors by the Indonesian commission of inquiry. This followed its interim report into the post-vote violence in East Timor, which concluded that the military was involved in the killings and forced relocation of people carried out by militias opposed to independence.
General Wiranto, a protégé of former President Suharto, who was forced to resign in 1998, was the armed forces commander and defense minister when East Timor voted to break away from Indonesia.
He and the other generals questioned by the commission reportedly denied involvement in the violence and destruction.
Robert Lowry, a former Australian military attaché in Jakarta who is now a visiting fellow at the Australian Defense Studies Center in Canberra, said that Mr. Wahid had prepared the ground for relieving General Wiranto of his cabinet post and that a showdown with hard-liners in the military was imminent.
Mr. Wahid said Wednesday that General Wiranto would have to step down if he was implicated in the final report of the East Timor commission of inquiry.
Foreign Minister Shihab, on a visit to the United States, this week asked members of the UN Security Council to delay any further action on a UN inquiry into abuses in East Timor until the Indonesian investigators present their final report and recommendations to the government by Jan. 31.
''An international tribunal could be counterproductive,'' he said Thursday in Washington, ''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 said.
The foreign minister said, for the first time, that if the Indonesian commission of inquiry on East Timor did not meet international standards, Jakarta would have to accept an international court.
He said that 70 percent of the military supported the government but ''we are at a critical juncture with some of its members who enjoyed privileges in the past.''
The Indonesian commission's final report will determine whether there is a case to try the six generals and other military and police personnel in connection with the systematic campaign of destruction and violence in East Timor.
Hundreds of people were killed and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes.
East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was seized by Indonesia in 1975.
--------------- 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.
-------- [received from Tapol]
Kompas, 21 January 2000
Draft human rights court law will render trials for ET violations impossible
A draft law to create a human rights court in Indonesia to be presented to Parliament by the Indonesian government stipulates that grave human rights abuses committed before the creation of the court will be dealt with by a truth and reconciliation commission. This means that none of the violations committed in East Timor will ever come before the human rights court.
This was explained to Dutch foreign minister Jozias van Aarsten who raise the question of human rights courts during a meeting with Asmara Nababan and HS Dillon, members of the National Human Rights Commission.
Nababan explained that Article 32 of the draft law states that 'serious cases of human rights abuses that were committed before the setting up of the human rights court shall be taken to the truth and reconciliation commission'.
The government is due to submit a draft law on the truth and reconciliation commission some time soon.
The Dutch foreign minister expressed the view that if the law is formulated like this, it raises the whole question of whether human rights violations in East Timor can be tried in a human rights court.
Nababan said that the law on human rights courts should be made retroactive and the length of time could be a matter for negotiation.
Responding to the remarks of the Dutch foreign minister, Nababan said that there was little that the National Human Rights Commission could about all this as it all depends on parliament and the government. He said that the Commission had proposed that the human rights courts law should be a retroactive for a period of 15 years.
He also said that if the draft becomes law in its present form, it will be difficult for the general public and in particular the victims, to understand. It would therefore be better if the law were to be retroactive.
He added that if the cases are to be handled by a truth commission, this would create further problems in cases where the explanations of the person appearing before the truth commission were unacceptable. 'This should mean that the case ought to be taken to the court but the court will say that they cant hear the case because it does not have retroactive powers. The mechanism is therefore very confusing,' he said.
Kompas adds to this report a summary comparing the provisions of Perpu No 1 1999 (the presidential decree introduced in September by Habibie on the creation of human rights courts) which will be replaced by the draft law to be submitted to parliament by the government. The most critical comparison is as follows:
The Perpu (which was also not retroactive) states that those violations that occurred before the court is set up will be tried in accordance with the criminal code whereas the draft law states that violations that occurred prior to the court being set up will be placed before the truth commission.
(This appears to us at Tapol to be a serious setback as compared with the Habibie decree.)
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