Subject: Guardian: Senior generals to escape trial for East Timor killings

also: Wiranto, the man not on the East Timor list

The Guardian [UK] Saturday September 2, 2000

Senior generals to escape trial for East Timor killings

John Aglionby in Jakarta

The senior Indonesian generals thought to be responsible for masterminding last year's orgy of violence in East Timor are likely to escape prosecution after their names were omitted from a provisional list of 19 suspects issued by government investigators yesterday.

The investigator, Muhammad Abdul Rachman, said that the fact that the list did not name General Wiranto, who was armed forces commander last year, General Faisal Tanjung, the then security minister, and Major General Zacky Anwar, the intelligence chief for East Timor, "did not close the possibility that they could be named later".

However, his tone suggested that neither they nor senior militia commanders, who carried out much of the killing but were also not on the list, would ever become suspects.

The campaign of army-backed militia violence in East Timor led to the murder of more than 1,000 people.

The East Timorese leader Jose Ramos Horta said it was "absolutely unacceptable" and that the United Nations now had no option but to insist on an international war crimes tribunal along the lines of those convened for Bosnia and Rwanda. The UN has thus far refused to establish a tribunal because officials say Indonesia should first be given the opportunity to bring those responsible to justice.

Those named yesterday included three low-ranking generals.The former civilian governor of East Timor, Abilio Soares, was also declared a provisional suspect, as were a handful of army colonels and a couple of junior militia commanders.

The government investigation examined five specific incidents: the death of the Financial Times journalist Sander Thoenes, the massacres at churches in the towns of Liquica and Suai, and the attack on the homes of the Nobel peace laureate Bishop Carlos Belo and the prominent pro-independence campaigner Manuel Carascalao.

Mr Rachman said questioning would begin next week but could give no date for when trials might begin. Indonesia's parliament has yet to pass the legislation which will create ad hoc human rights courts - required under Indonesian law to try the suspects.

In January a team from Indonesia's human rights commission completed an initial investigation into the atrocities for the government. They recommended that 33 people, including Mr Wiranto, Mr Tanjung, Mr Anwar and the militia leader Eurico Guterres should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

A separate UN panel concluded earlier that the violence "would not have been possible without the active involvement of the Indonesian army."

Wiranto, the man not on the East Timor list

JAKARTA, Feb 14 (AFP) - Indonesia's General Wiranto, the once-omnipotent head of the Indonesian armed forces, has long protested his innocence in the violence that ravaged East Timor after last year's independence vote.

And on Friday, the dapper 53-year old career military man's name was not included among the 19 -- three of them generals -- announced officially as "potential suspects" in the bloodshed.

The omission raised cries of 'whitewash' from human rights groups, investigators said more names could be added, and UN Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello said he saw the 19 names as "just a beginning."

But if Wiranto, who was held "morally responsible" for the violence in an earlier rights probe, is named -- he can be expected to fight back.

A one-time aide of former president Suharto, he has been out of the limelight since he was suspended in February from the cabinet until his name was cleared of the Timor suspicions.

"What is certain is that as a soldier I will relentlessly fight for my rights," he has said.

A master of bridge -- and of walking political tightropes -- Wiranto less than a year ago held presidential ambitions, and submitted his name as a candidate to the national assembly in October.

Before Timor ended all that, Wiranto seemed to have nowhere to go but up.

Against all odds he successfully jumped from one regime to another when his mentor Suharto fell from power in 1998, and positioned himself in the powerful position of Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security as the military's power was diluted by the post-Suharto reform movement.

The first man to KO him, was President Abdurrahman Wahid, the country's first democratically-elected president, who removed him from the cabinet in February after a dramatic battle of wills.

Polite to the last, Wahid said he accepted Wahid's decision to suspend him from the cabinet until the Timor matter, the albatross around his neck, was settled.

Wiranto was named as military chief by Suharto in the last months of his iron-fisted rule -- and became a hated and feared symbol for the thousands of protestors who swamped the streets to denounce the dying regime.

But, using his skills as a political survivor, he outlasted the ageing strongman and smoothly made the transition to work under his successor B.J. Habibie, who oversaw the beginnings of Indonesia's move towards democracy.

Wiranto had staunchly opposed the deployment of an international peacekeeping force in East Timor to quell the violence but later changed his mind after visiting the devastated territory.

Ironically he had served a tour of duty in East Timor, where hundreds of soldiers died during the 1975 invasion and the two-decade long rebel jungle campaign.

Born in Yogyakarta, an ancient cultural hub of Java, Wiranto graduated as a second lieutenant from the national military academy in 1968.

The doors to the higher echelons of the Indonesian military were opened to Wiranto when aged 42 he became Suharto's adjutant, paving the way for his subsequent swift rise through the ranks.

Far from admitting any blame for the atrocities by the military-backed pro-Jakarta militias, in which scores died and whole towns were razed to the ground, he continues to staunchly defend his role.

"I pushed all factions in East Timor to change from fighting with guns into becoming politicians without arms," he said. "We supported the ballot.

When the charges were first aired, he even went on television and showed film clips of himself presiding over a ceremony where pro-Indonesians shook hands with pro-independendists.

Furthermore, he argued, not one foreign UN staffer was killed in the violence, because his men protected them.

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