Subject: No International Rights Inquiry: Minister Shihab

Jakarta Post August 31, 2000

No international rights inquiry: Minister

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab said on Wednesday the government was adamant it would not accept an international inquiry into alleged rights abuses in East Timor, but was still open to the possibility of accepting foreign prosecutors and judges in the eventual trial.

Alwi told The Jakarta Post that despite a recent constitutional amendment which provides protection against retroactive charges, the government was insistent the legal process against all perpetrators in the East Timor case would continue.

"Pak Marzuki and myself have a common intention that the case continue. The international community just has to give us a chance," he said, referring to Attorney General Marzuki Darusman.

"We do not need an international inquiry (team) to come here because a sufficient investigation already exists.

"We understand the constitutional amendment gives doubts to the international community of our seriousness in dealing with the case. But we insist that all ongoing investigations on human rights abuse cases will continue," he said.

Article 28I of the amended 1945 Constitution has thrown doubt on whether Indonesia can really try those considered responsible for the violence that swept East Timor.

Many have pointed out that Indonesia's criminal code does not recognize crimes against humanity, omission and collective responsibility.

A new rights tribunal bill, which could have overcome these shortcomings, may now be deemed ineffective due to the nonretroactive clause guaranteed in the Constitution.

Last week, a senior UN spokesman in New York warned that the constitutional amendment could force the UN to reconsider holding an international inquiry.

Speaking on the possibility of foreign prosecutors and judges presiding over the East Timor case, Alwi said the government was open to the idea as long as there was an agreement from all related parties.

Alwi pointed out that Indonesia's judicial system still had many weaknesses and, thus, the presence of foreign prosecutors and judges seemed fair.

"Personally, I think maybe we should accept them because so far we have not shown an improvement in our judicial system. The presence of foreign prosecutors and judges may help to rehabilitate our country's image," Alwi said.

Earlier, in Dili, the United Nations top administrator in East Timor said he was confident Indonesia would bring to justice those responsible for last year's violence.

"I say patience," Sergio Vieira de Mello told reporters late on Tuesday. "Let's give them more time."

"I don't know what that amendment means because I have read so many different interpretations," de Mello said. "I must confess to you that I'm confused."

De Mello said he would be in Jakarta later this week to seek assurances that the amendment would not undermine Indonesia's commitment to justice.

Meanwhile, in the West Sumatra capital of Padang, a former East Timor militia member, Irwan Ribeiro, said on Wednesday that the next meeting between East Timor rival factions, the Indonesian Military (TNI) and UN officials would take place early next month in Bukittinggi, some 80 kilometers north of Padang.

East Timorese proindependence and prointegration leaders, TNI and UN representatives have been involved in a series of meetings to discuss the return of some East Timorese refugees remaining in East Nusa Tenggara.

The last meeting was held at the office of Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri, the commander of the Bali-based Udayana Military Command, in Denpasar last month. (28/byg/dja)


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