Subject: Jakarta must punish E.Timor perpetrators -Australia

Jakarta must punish E.Timor perpetrators-Australia

ADELAIDE, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Australia urged Indonesia on Sunday not to allow a possible amnesty for past human rights abuses to protect those who committed atrocities during last year's violent independence vote in East Timor.

``Make no mistake about this, we want those people who were responsible for human rights abuses in East Timor in September last year and during the course of 1999 to be brought to justice,'' Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.

Speaking on Network Seven television, Downer said Australia would seek to establish what would be covered by a constitutional amendment passed by Indonesia's top legislature, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), on Friday.

The amendment prevents people being charged under any laws which did not exist when a crime took place, even if legislation specifically states it can be applied retroactively.

It appears to apply to any type of crime, but has been seized upon by human rights groups who fear it could protect those who committed atrocities during the military-backed rule of former President Suharto, who stepped down in 1998.

``I'm not at this stage entirely sure how far this amnesty extends and we will have to examine that during the course of this coming week,'' Downer said.

Indonesian legislators have said the amendment would not affect probes of gross human rights abuses, including atrocities committed in East Timor by pro-Jakarta militias which were backed by elements of the Indonesian military and police.

Hundreds of people were killed, more than 250,000 were forced to flee their homes, and much of the territory was looted and destroyed after East Timor voted for independence last year.

Downer said Australia, which led an international force into East Timor last September, had been helping an inquiry by Indonesia's Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman into atrocities in the former Portuguese colony, which Indonesia invaded in 1975.

Darusman's office is expected to soon name military and civilian suspects over last year's violence.

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