Subject: Indonesian trial on E. Timor violence to begin mid-March

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

The Jakarta Post March 1, 2002

Human rights trial to begin mid-March

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The much-awaited ad hoc human rights trial will begin in the middle of this month, with or without the government regulations on witness protection and rehabilitation and compensation for victims of rights violations.

Judge Andi Samsan Nganro, one of the judges who will preside over the trial of seven people charged with crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999, said a further delay to the trial will further tarnish Indonesia's already sullied image in the international community.

"What will the world say if we delay the hearing?" he asked.

The ad hoc trial was initially slated to start on Jan. 15, but was postponed as everyone was waiting for President Megawati Soekarnoputri to name the judges as required by the Law No. 26/2000 on human rights tribunal.

The judges were sworn in late last month. The delay sparked suspicion that Indonesian was not serious about conducting the trial at all.

On Wednesday, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra asked the court to delay the first hearing since the President had not yet signed the two supporting government regulations.

Judge Andi said ideally the government should enforce the two regulations before the court holds its first hearing.

"There may be some difficulties faced during the hearing in the absence of the regulations," Andi told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The court has set up three panels of judges to try the first seven defendants.

Without the regulation for witnesses protection, Andi expected a low turn-out from witnesses.

"Some witnesses could be afraid to testify against the defendants because there is no guarantee of their safety. They would probably refuse to appear before the court," Andi said.

The first group of defendants who will be brought to the human rights court include former East Timor Governor Abilio Jose Soares and former East Timor Police Chief GM Timbul Silaen.

The defendants are charged with genocide and crimes against humanity, both of which carry the death penalty.

Andi urged the government to sign the regulations soon as another delay in the hearing could increase suspicion among the international community.

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