|Subject: Independent: UN Under Pressure To
Try Men Behind Timor Terror
The Independent [UK] 15 April 2001
UN asked to try men behind Timor terror
By Richard Lloyd Parry
The UN is under pressure to establish an international tribunal on crimes against humanity in East Timor, amid concerns that the Indonesian government has abandoned attempts to bring to justice the perpetrators of the militia violence.
Last week, a UN investigator submitted a report supporting what Timorese and human rights organisations have always claimed that the bloody rampage which followed East Timor's 1999 referendum on independence was a conspiracy, planned by Indonesian generals. Indonesia's steps to prosecute those responsible appear to have ground to a halt, provoking calls for the job to be taken over by an internationally-run war crimes tribunal.
"I've made a very firm statement that what happened in East Timor was not a spontaneous response by Timorese who wanted to stay with Indonesia, it was a virtual conspiracy led by a number of Indonesian generals," said James Dunn, a former Australian consul to East Timor, who presented his report to the UN last week. "I name 24 Indonesian officers as key people involved in the issue."
Privately, some diplomats express doubts about the international will to set up another special tribunal, a costly and politically complicated process that alarms certain UN member states with human rights problems. But recently, Jose Ramos Horta, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and president of East Timor's National Council, insisted that a war crimes tribunal remained "a strong option" if Indonesia failed to deliver justice.
"To those who say the Security Council, because of Russia and China, would not pass such a resolution to set up a war crimes tribunal, I would say they might be mistaken," Mr Ramos Horta said. "I have met all permanent members and all non-permanent members, the 15 who would make a decision, and I am confident we would have a simple majority to create such a court."
After months of violent intimidation by pro-Indonesian militias, East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia in a UN-supervised referendum in August 1999. Within hours of the result being announced, the militias, armed and directed by the Indonesian military, began looting, burning and killing. By the time international peacekeepers landed three weeks later, more than 2,000 people had been killed and most of the population of 800,000 had fled to the mountains, or been forcibly deported to Indonesian West Timor.
Indonesia claimed the violence was the spontaneous reaction of angry Timorese who opposed separation from Indonesia. But several investigations show that Indonesian generals, including the then defence minister, Wiranto, were behind the violence.
In East Timor, now administered by the UN pending full independence, three people have been convicted of murder and 20 others charged. But they are small fry; the masterminds remain in Indonesia. "Those who planned, organised and directed the campaign of violence remain outside the jurisdiction of East Timor," says Sergio Vieira de Mello, head of the UN administrative body.
In Washington, human rights activists brought a private case against General Johny Lumintang, after The Independent published secret military documents, including a letter from him which set out the plan to forcibly deport the Timorese. But the American court has no power to enforce its verdict against anyone who remains outside the US.
Seven months ago, the Indonesian attorney general named 22 people as suspects, but they remain free and it is increasingly unlikely they will face justice, amid bureaucratic and political confusion.
Last month, after much prevarication, the Indonesian parliament formally proposed to the Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid, the creation of an ad hoc human rights tribunal to hear the cases. But President Wahid is struggling to avoid impeachment, and it is in his interests to do as little as possible to avoid alienating the politically powerful Indonesian armed forces.
"I think he would prefer it was all quietly forgotten," a diplomat said last week.
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