Subject: Megawati approves judges for E. Timor rights trials

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Megawati approves judges for E.Timor rights trials

JAKARTA, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Indonesia's president has given the go ahead for judges to sit on a special court that will try suspects including generals accused of major human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999.

Chief security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Megawati Sukarnoputri had signed off on the names, the last hurdle to opening sensitive trials scheduled to open this month which will be closely watched by the international community.

Asked by reporters if Megawati had signed her approval, Yudhoyono said. "Already, last week. It's been done."

Indonesia has been under strong pressure from foreign donors and human rights organisations to put on trial those responsible for the bloodshed in East Timor which occurred before and after the tiny territory voted for independence on August 30, 1999.

Diplomats have said a whitewash of the trials could prompt some key nations to review their relationship with Jakarta and trigger calls for reductions in vital aid, although some have played down suggestions funding might actually be cut.

Justice Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra said Megawati had approved 18 names. The Supreme Court had previously said 30 had been proposed to the ad hoc tribunal, although some of those might not have required Megawati's approval.

Judicial officials were not available to clarify, nor comment on whether this meant the trials would now convene this month following earlier delays.

Scepticism remains over whether justice will be meted out, partly because of a lack of political will to fully prosecute the cases.

Pro-Jakarta militias with support from the Indonesian army went on the rampage when East Timorese voted for independence in the U.N.-sponsored ballot.

The United Nations estimates more than 1,000 people were killed but no military officers or militia leaders have ever been brought to trial in Indonesia over the wave of violence.

Indonesian prosecutors in September 2000 named 19 suspects including three generals. However, the list of suspects did not reach right up the military chain of command.

Officials have previously said the human rights tribunal was needed because attempts to use the conventional court system had been impeded by technicalities.

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