Subject: Amnesty Int'l Urges Megawati to Rein in Police and Army

Amnesty urges Indonesia's Megawati to rein in police and army

JAKARTA, Aug 24 (AFP) - Rights group Amnesty International urged Indonesia's new President Megawati Sukarnoputri on Friday to bring policemen and soldiers to book for grave human rights violations.

The London-based group also complained of excessive delays in bringing to justice those suspected of "crimes against humanity" before and after East Timor's vote for independence in August 1999.

Amnesty said in a statement that it wrote to Megawati Friday, urging her to give hign priority to protecting human rights.

It welcomed her apology to the people of Aceh and Irian Jaya provinces for past rights violations during the battle against separatist rebels but called for practical steps to prevent future abuses and redress for previous victims.

Amnesty urged Megawati immediately to free all "prisoners of conscience". It said there were currently 29 of these compared to none in the previous two years but gave no details.

The rights group criticised both security forces and separatist rebels in Aceh, saying there are "daily reports of grave human rights abuses" by both sides.

Amnesty urged Megawati's government to bring police and troops to account.

It said the majority of cases involving grave rights violations, "including widespread unlawful killings, torture and 'disappearance,' have not been investigated at all.

"The result is an environment in which the security forces appear to remain free to operate outside the law."

It urged Jakarta to protect rights activists and humanitarian workers, saying their work in both Aceh and Irian Jaya "is being hampered by the constant threat of detention, torture or even death."

On East Timor, it noted that Megawati had amended an order setting up a human right court.

Although seen by some as a positive step, the amendment still limited its jurisdiction to just the two months of April and September 1999 and to just three out of 13 districts in East Timor, Amnesty said.

"This means that hundreds of victims of violations during 1999 throughout East Timor will be denied justice and the full truth of the events will not emerge."

Amnesty urged a review of the decision and for trials to begin without further delay.

On August 30, 1999 almost 80 percent of East Timorese voted to split from Indonesia.

Indonesian troops and the local militias they had nurtured killed hundreds of independence supporters and razed towns to the ground as they herded a quarter of a million people across the border into Indonesian-ruled West Timor.

Amnesty said tens of thousands of East Timorese remain in poor conditions in West Timor.

It called on Megawati to fulfil United Nations Security Council demands "to disband and disarm militias still operating in the area; provide secure conditions in which refugees can access all necessary information to freely choose whether to stay in Indonesia or return to East Timor; and facilitate the repatriation in safety and dignity of those who choose to return."

East Timor, currently under UN administration, will next Thursday hold an election for a constituent assembly as a prelude to independence expected by next year.


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