Subject: DPA: Indonesia to try generals, militia leaders for East Timor

Deutsche Presse Agentur Date: 26 Oct 2000

Indonesia to try generals, militia leaders for East Timor

Jakarta (dpa) - Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said on Thursday that 22 suspects including senior Indonesian military, police and civilian officials would stand trial for a murder and arson spree in East Timor after the territory voted for independence last year.

Darusman said 14 military and police commanders, including three generals, would be defendants, as well as several pro-integration militia leaders, including notorious chief Eurico Guterres.

The attorney-general's office last week concluded a six-month investigation into the violence, which began after 78 per cent of East Timorese opted for independence from 24 years of Indonesian occupation.

"All the suspects will go on trial," Darusman told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

But he said the trials could not begin until parliament passed legislation establishing a special human rights tribunal to hear the 14 individual cases.

Parliament is in session until December, and the attorney general said he was confident the legislation would be passed by then.

However, some human rights monitors were not convinced the Jakarta government had the stomach to challenge the divided but still dangerous armed forces, which has been grumbling about the prospect of senior generals being thrown in jail.

"I think it's difficult for Markzuki to make a choice about defendants because Marzuki has a friendship with the military," said Munurman, coordinator of the Committee on Missing Persons and Victims of Violence.

He said the government had an obligation to investigate the violence and found out who ordered it, even if it meant the highest levels of the military.

More than 1,000 East Timorese were killed and up to 80 per cent of the territory's buildings destroyed by rampaging Indonesian soldiers and their militia proxies after the August 30, 1999 ballot.

More than 260,000 people fled or were forced at gunpoint into Indonesian-controlled West Timor during the violence, which ended only after a U.N.-mandated peace-keeping force led by Australia landed in late September to restore order.

Indonesia is under intense international pressure to prosecute those responsible for carrying out the systematic destruction of the former Portugese colony, or face the formation of a U.N. war crimes tribunal.

The Jakarta government has vowed not to cooperate with an international tribunal, and has refused to hand over one militia suspect to a court in U.N.-controlled East Timor, which is conducting a parallel investigation.

Darusman downplayed fears about a constitutional amendment passed by Indonesia's national assembly last August that prohibits citizens for being prosecuted retroactively for human rights abuses if a law was not in place at the time of the violations.

Some human rights monitors denounced the amendment, but the attorney general said it does not affect the trials of the 22 East Timor suspects, who will be tried under existing Indonesian law.

"That's not an issue," he told dpa. "It will not affect the East Timor case."

The highest-ranking suspect is army Major General Adam Damiri, whose regional military command included East Timor. One other army general will be tried, as well as former East Timor Governor Abilio Soares.

However, former armed force commander General Wiranto, who was implicated by an independence commission investigating the violence, was not named a suspect.

Guterres, the most high-profile of all the militia commanders, was added to the list of suspects earlier this month, and remains in jail in Jakarta on a separate charge.

He is alleged, among other things, to have led separate massacres that reselted in the deaths of at least 19 people in East Timor last year, before and after the ballot.

Prior to his arrest, Guterres continued to lead the Aitarak (Thorn) militia on Indonesia's side of the divided island. Militiamen there who are unwilling to accept East Timor's successful breakaway continue to launch cross-border raids into the U.N. territory.

The militias are also detaining some 120,000 East Timorese refugees who have been unable to return home, and allegedly killed three U.N. refugee agency employees based there last month.

However, in an apparent shift among the militia leaders, a group of 40 sent a letter to the U.N. offering to give evidence proving the Jakarta government and armed forces orchestrated the violence in East Timor, in exchange for protection and safe passage home.

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