|Subject: SMH: Strapped For Funds, Wheels Of
Justice Grind Slowly
Strapped For Funds, Wheels Of Justice Grind Slowly By Mark Dodd in Dili
06/12/2000 Sydney Morning Herald
Do not expect shiny stainless steel tables or a laboratory filled with gleaming new equipment at the United Nations' forensic examination centre in Dili.
When the only forensic pathologist working in East Timor , Dr Raquel Del Rosario Fortun, received a recent batch of human remains for examination, she was forced to use gutter water to clean putrefying flesh from the bones because the laboratory plumbing system was in such disrepair.
In March, when a container of urgently needed equipment arrived in Dili port for the UN-run Dili District Court, UN staff refused to unload or deliver the cargo. In frustration, East Timorese judges drove to the wharf and unpacked it themselves.
In Dili, the Catholic relief agency Caritas provides ill-equipped UN police investigators with video cameras and film, while the UN's head of human rights has had to spend more than $A1,700 of her own money to provide tools and film for war crimes investigators.
This is all a far cry from the promise made by the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, when he visited East Timor earlier this year, that the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) would take the lead role in criminal investigations into last year's militia violence.
The long wait for trials has forced UNTAET to introduce legislation to allow the continued detention of prisoners after a deadline for their release loomed under the Indonesian criminal code still in force.
East Timorese victims of last year's violence were getting impatient for results, but the earliest date for a militia trial in Dili was August, UN sources said.
There is an added urgency for the trials. Jakarta's investigation into those responsible for last year's bloodshed is running out of steam. The evidence collected so far by investigators for the Indonesian Attorney-General, Mr Marzuki Darusman, looks too thin to convict and there are serious concerns about loopholes in Indonesia's criminal legislation.
Diplomatic sources say Mr Darusman has been leaning on UNTAET to provide evidence to bolster his case against the Indonesian generals behind the militia violence.
UNTAET's deputy head of legal affairs, Mr Hansjorg Strohmeyer, said last month that it was important not to rush to trial but to get East Timor 's courts and legislation properly organised.
``We can only start trials once we have democratic procedures in place. We have to be careful not to give in to pressure,'' said Mr Strohmeyer, who has since left Dili and returned to UN headquarters in New York.
When Indonesian soldiers and their militia lackeys rampaged through Dili, they destroyed most government buildings, including the courts.
``You cannot pretend to have a functioning legal system when the entire legal structure on the logistical side is in ashes,'' Mr Strohmeyer said.
Funding for the East Timor judiciary and its investigative arm appears to be bogged down in the quagmire of UN bureaucracy.
While Civilian Police beg for charity from aid agencies and Dr Fortun has to heave body bags of human remains onto makeshift tables at Dili morgue, her colleagues at Dili District Court are faring only marginally better.
The Dili District Court's president, Mr Domingos Sarmento, complained of a lack of transport for investigating judges to travel into the highlands to gather war crimes evidence, and of a shortage of tape recording equipment and video cameras for taking evidence. Before the court's only photocopier arrived a fortnight ago, staff had to walk to a nearby car hire firm to copy confidential court documents.
Last week UNTAET passed landmark legislation allowing for former pro-Jakarta militia held in East Timor jails to face charges of crimes against humanity. About 43 people are liable to be charged with war crimes, including murder or multiple murder, linked to last year's violence.
Diplomats say a fair trial would be seen as sending a strong message to Indonesia about the UN's seriousness in investigating those responsible for last year's mayhem, in which up to 1,500 independence supporters were killed and property worth tens of millions of dollars was destroyed. But East Timor 's senior judge is sceptical about Indonesian justice.
``We East Timorese have 24 years' experience of the Indonesian courts they are neither impartial or independent,'' Mr Sarmento said.
East Timor 's judges are determined that their judiciary shall be independent, although none has any court experience.
However, in recent weeks there has been increasing concern about the susceptibility of the East Timorese courts to pressure from pro-independence hardliners.
Legal sources said Mr Longuinhos Monteiro, the Dili court's vice-president and an investigating judge, had been told in no uncertain terms to back off from any investigations involving Falintil independence fighters.
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