Subject: JP: Indon rights trial regulations to be 'signed before first hearing'

The Jakarta Post March 8, 2002

Rights trial regulations 'signed before first hearing'

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Annastashya Emmanuelle, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

To let the human rights trial proceed unhindered, the government plans to issue two regulations on witness protection, along with rehabilitation and compensation for victims of human rights abuses, before the tribunal begins on March 14.

Deputy Cabinet Secretary Erman Radjaguguk said on Thursday that the two regulations would be submitted to President Megawati Soekarnoputri for approval shortly.

"We want to see that the two regulations take effect, so that when the trial begins, all witnesses and victims receive equal treatment," Erman told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The ad hoc tribunal was established to try 18 military, police and civilian officials in connection with the atrocities which took place in East Timor after a popular vote for independence in September 1999.

The much-awaited trial was initially supposed to start in September. But the government delayed the proceedings on a number of occasions -- most recently last week, when the government asked for more time to complete the two regulations.

The regulation on witness protection obliges the state to provide witnesses and victims with protection from any physical harm or psychological threats.

The government regulation on the rehabilitation and compensation says that the state will pay for the hospital or any treatment needed by victims of human rights abuse.

"Of course there are certain requirements to claim the payment, apart from the tolerable limits on the compensation," he continued.

During a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Minister for Justice and Human Rights Yusril Izha Mahendra urged the President to issue the two regulations as soon as possible to ensure the effectiveness of the tribunal.

Technicalities in the draft, such as the conduct of the while in the witness protection program and granting the police authorization to execute the program, are among the items being finalized at the State Secretary's office.

"I told the President that we hope that the two government regulations be endorsed before the trial commences," Yusril told reporters.

Yusril admitted that failure to enforce the regulations before the tribunal would hurt Indonesia's credibility in the eyes of the international community.

The minister is scheduled to attend the human rights convention in Geneva at the end of this month.

"We're racing against time. I must be able to explain what is being done in Indonesia at the Human Rights Commission convention," he said.

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