Subject: LUSA: Vieira de Mello, Ramos Horta Welcome Jakarta Human Rights Trials

14 Mar 02 19:46 East Timor: Vieira de Mello, Ramos Horta Welcome Jakarta Human Rights Trials

Indonesia began its first trials Thursday of senior officials accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor before and after the territory´s UN-sponsored 1999 independence plebiscite.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, chief of the UN transitional administration in East Timor, applauded the judgements, stating in a Thursday press release, "We consider welcome any efforts to guarantee total justice for the victims of atrocities committed in East Timor in 1999".

The UN considers it crucial that a "credible response to these crimes is assured in accordance with international principles of human rights", said the Brazilian diplomat.

In a separate communication, East Timor`s Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta said the trials were unprecedented and an encouraging step forward. He said Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri`s government had a key role in the matter.

"We must control and avoid early judgement of the results due to our worries or scepticism. The fact is that this is a unique process in Indonesia`s history and the credit goes to President Megawati", said Ramos Horta.

In two separate trials in Jakarta, prosecutors accused former Governor Abilio Osorio Soares and police commander Brig. General Timbul Silaen of having allowed the killing of more than 100 East Timorese in a series of massacres in Dili and provincial towns.

Both defendants, the first of 18 officials - including three generals - indicted for crimes against humanity to be tried, denied any responsibility for the rampages carried out by anti-independence militias and Indonesian security forces.

Soares and Gen. Silaen are accused of having allowed officials under their control to carry out systematic atrocities, including murders, arson and forced deportation.

The court adjourned both cases until next week, when the defense will present arguments.

If found guilty, the defendants could face sentences ranging from 10 years imprisonment to the death penalty.

International observers and human rights activists attended the opening sessions of the trials, while about 100 nationalist militants demonstrated outside the court, protesting what they called Jakarta´s bowing to international pressure.


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