Subject: AFP: Megawati signs witness-protection decree in Timor rights trial

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Megawati signs witness-protection decree in Timor rights trial

JAKARTA, March 13 (AFP) - Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri on Wednesday signed two decrees on witness protection and victim compensation on the eve of a landmark tribunal for 1999 rights abuses in East Timor, a minister said.

"Hopefully tomorrow's trial can get off to a good start," Justice and Human Rights Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra told reporters after inspecting preparations at the Central Jakarta district court, where the trials are to be held.

Thursday's session is expected to hear cases involving former Jakarta-appointed East Timor governor Abilio Soares and the territory's former police chief Brigadier General Timbul Silaen.

Indonesia, under international pressure to bring offenders in the former Portuguese territory to justice, agreed in 2000 to set up a special human rights court but only did so last month.

Three army generals, a police general and several middle-ranking officers are among 18 defendants in the tribunal. They could face between 10 years in jail and death if convicted.

The tribunal will also hear cases related to the 1984 killing by troops of Muslim demonstrators in Jakarta's Tanjung Priok district.

In the months surrounding East Timor's vote for independence from Indonesia in August 1999, pro-Jakarta militias backed by Indonesian troops went on a bloody rampage.

They killed hundreds of people, burned towns to the ground and forced or led more than a quarter of a million villagers into Indonesian-ruled West Timor.

Two international rights groups, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have questioned Indonesia's determination to bring offenders to justice despite the rights tribunal.

Amnesty International has said that "basic measures to ensure that the trials in Indonesia meet international standards of fairness are missing."

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