Subject: Indonesia, UNTAET affirm cooperation in rights probe

The Jakarta Post February 16, 2002

RI, UNTAET ties in rights probe to go on

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government has pledged to extend a 2000 Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), which has allowed the two sides to cooperate in their prosecution of alleged perpetrators of human rights violations in East Timor in 1999.

Acting special representative of the UNTAET secretary-general, Dennis McNamara, said here on Friday that such cooperation would include sharing evidence and information, and collaboration in respect of both countries' investigations into the incidents that took place in the former Indonesian province.

McNamara visited Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra at the latter's office. The delegation also met Attorney General M.A. Rachman and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda earlier in the day.

Yusril corroborated the extension of the MoU, saying it did not need the House's ratification since it was not a binding agreement but merely a technical arrangement on how the government and UNTAET could work together in the investigation and prosecution process.

The MOU was signed by former attorney general Marzuki Darusman and UNTAET in April 2000. It aroused controversy when UNTAET investigators -- through the Attorney General's Office -- summoned several top military officers for questioning as witnesses.

The House of Representatives deemed the MoU to be invalid as it had not secured the legislators' approval.

The same MoU had earlier been used by Indonesian investigators to question East Timorese as witnesses.

Under the MoU, four Indonesian investigators will fly to East Timor on Wednesday to question four East Timorese witnesses in connection with the reopening of the investigation into the killing of Dutch journalist Sander Thoenes, a correspondent for The Financial Times.

McNamara also clarified that there was no agreement with Rachman on whether to halt the investigation of the murder of five Australian-based journalists in Balibo, East Timor, which took place on Oct. 16, 1975, saying that UNTAET would keep it open it based upon requests from several governments.

Yusril, however, rejected UNTAET's request to closely watch over the process of the ad hoc trial for East Timor rights abuse.

"I told them they don't have the right to say that. We only took three years to investigate and to prepare the trial for the East Timor cases that took place in 1999. It's not slow compared to the trial against Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic," he remarked.

UNTAET has complained about the slow process of the investigation into East Timor human rights violations, for which 18 suspects will stand trial.

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