Subject: DPA: Nearly one year later, Indonesian prosecutors to visit East Timor

Deutsche Presse-Agentur July 10, 2000, Tuesday, BC Cycle

Nearly one year later, Indonesian prosecutors to visit East Timor


Nearly a year after pro-Jakarta militias launched an orgy of violence in East Timor, Indonesian prosecutors will finally visit the ravaged territory to investigate possible war crimes, U.N. officials in Jakarta said on Monday.

The announcement came amid worries the Indonesian government was reneging on its promise to the United Nations and Western nations to prosecute militia members and their backers in the armed forces for a murder and arson spree following the territory's vote for independence last August 30.

A team from the attorney-general's office is scheduled to leave for East Timor on July 17 to interview witnesses and visit at least five sites of alleged atrocities, said Lakhan Mehrotra, head of the U.N. Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) office in Jakarta.

A government-appointed commission implicated more 30 than officials in the violence, including former armed forces chief General Wiranto and five other senior police and military generals.

But Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman, inundated by a continuing corruption investigation in Jakarta of former president Suharto and shaken by a bomb blast at his office last week, has done little to probe the violence in East Timor aside from appointing a 70-member team in April.

Prosecutors questioned several military, police and civilian officials who were in East Timor at the time of the U.N.-sponsored referendum, but have not kept pledges to begin trials this summer.

"We are watching the progress that the government of Indonesia has installed," Mehrotra told a Monday morning news conference. "The attorney-general has promised us very soon to send a team. We do trust that they will go on the 17th."

The United States and other U.N. Security Council members have warned Indonesia that they will recommend establishing an international tribunal if Jakarta does not prosecute those responsible, including powerful members of the armed forces.

More than 1,000 East Timorese were killed and 260,000 forced to flee to neighbouring Indonesian West Timor after the militias, supported by the Indonesian military, went on a rampage following the nearly 80 per cent vote of the territory's residents in favour of independence.

East Timor is an abandoned Portugese colony that Indonesia invaded in 1975 and annexed a year later in a move not recognised by the United Nations, which now administers the territory as it prepares for statehood.

An international peacekeeping force led by Australia landed in East Timor last September to restore order to the territory, which was reduced to a shell of destroyed villages, mass graves and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has vowed to bring those responsible to justice, including powerful members of the country's military.

However, there are fears the government does not want a confrontation with the military, which Wahid has spent months trying to subjugate, and is hoping that calls for trials will eventually subside.

"It doesn't look very good," said one U.N. official. "I would certainly hope we will see some progress soon or I would lose faith."

After they arrive in East Timor, Indonesian investigators are to sit in on interviews with victims and witnesses to the violence, but will not be allowed to ask their own questions because of a previous agreement with the U.N.

Separately, UNTAET is preparing trials in Dili, East Timor's capital, for dozens of militiamen arrested after the international peacekeepers restored order.

The Indonesian team was is also to visit the towns of Suai and Liquica, where two of the worst massacres occurred, as well as the home of Bishop Carlos Belo in Dili, where a number of people were executed after the house was razed.

Mehrotra said the U.N.'s agreement with Indonesia would allow them to share evidence, including forensic materials, with the visiting team. dpa jc wp

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