Subject: SMH: Justice closer for those behind mayhem

Thursday, March 2, 2000 Sydney Morning Herald

Justice closer for those behind mayhem By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili

The United Nations mission in East Timor, UNTAET, has prepared a draft legal and human rights agreement with Indonesia that could prove crucial in bringing to justice suspects wanted over last year's murders, arson and mass deportation of civilians.

The landmark agreement could help close the net on prominent Indonesian military and government officials and pro-Jakarta militia figures implicated in the violence which followed the August 30 ballot on self-determination. Indonesia has said it will put on trial those responsible.

The draft agreement was among the most important issues approved by the Indonesian President, Mr Abdurrahman Wahid, during his historic visit to East Timor on Tuesday, said the UN's head of political affairs in Dili, Mr Peter Galbraith.

Mr Galbraith, a former United States ambassador to Croatia, said the agreement provided for serving subpoenas on witnesses in the other country and mandatory taking of testimony, and allowed lawyers from one country to appear in the courts of the other in human rights cases.

The agreement was one item of a 12-point communique signed by the UN on behalf of East Timor and Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Mr Alwi Shihab, aimed at normalising relations between the two countries.

Item 12, not included in Tuesday's announcement, covers the establishment of a joint UNTAET-Indonesian commission that will act as a trouble-shooting mechanism for any disputes between the two countries.

Mr Galbraith said Mr Wahid's acceptance of the general terms of the legal co-operation agreement showed his commitment to a transparent and internationally acceptable criminal process against those responsible for last year's violence in East Timor.

"We're dealing with a Government we believe is operating in good faith. East Timor always has the option of indicting any of the individuals, any of the people responsible for the crimes here," he said.

The UN Security Council has backed Indonesia's promise to put on trial those accountable for the violence but has warned that it reserves the right to hold its own tribunal if due process in Jakarta does not meet international standards. The legal agreement is expected to be signed by the end of the month.

Mr Wahid had also promised that Indonesia would do its best to return property which was stolen during the mayhem, including cultural artefacts from the Dili museum, Mr Galbraith said.

While household possessions such as televisions and refrigerators may never be recovered, prospects for East Timorese to get back stolen vehicles was much better.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the UN military in East Timor said Indonesian military officials in West Timor had agreed to a resumption of family reunion visits at the Motaain border checkpoint on Saturday.

Family reunion visits at the western border, hailed by the UN refugee agency UNHCR as one of the most successful ways for East Timorese stranded in camps to make up their minds whether to return home, were suspended last month after Indonesian troops fired warning shots to stop East Timorese throwing rocks in response to taunts by militiamen on the West Timor side.

Transport links between East Timor and Indonesia will improve after Indonesia's Merpati Airlines decision to resume flights to Dili, with a twice-weekly service to Bali.


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