Subject: Age: Indonesian war crimes court a sham, says lawyer

The Age March 30, 2002

Indonesian war crimes court a sham, says lawyer

By Jill Jolliffe

An Indonesian human rights lawyer has criticised a special court appointed by President Megawati Sukarnoputri to hear war crime charges on East Timor, accusing it of running "show trials".

Eighteen suspects, including four generals, went on trial in Jakarta on March 20, after two years of international pressure. The charges relate to militia violence in 1999 during Indonesia's withdrawal from the territory.

Mr Hendardi, a former trial lawyer for nationalist hero Jose "Xanana" Gusmao, visited East Timor this week before leaving for Geneva to address the UN Human Rights Commission.

He was invited to East Timor by NGO Forum, a council representing Timorese non-governmental organisations.

He said the Indonesian Attorney-General's office had dropped the name of former defence minister General Wiranto from a list of accused, as well as that of former intelligence chief General Zacky Anwar. Their prosecution had been recommended by Indonesia's human rights commission, which conducted investigations in East Timor in 1999.

"They have been given impunity because international pressure is weak," Mr Hendardi said. "Power in Indonesia is not in President Megawati's hands, it's still held by the military."

He said the drop in international pressure for vigorous prosecutions over East Timor was also related to the courting of the Megawati government by the US in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Mr Hendardi said the ad hoc tribunal did not meet international standards of independence and impartiality, and should be substituted by an international court.

The prosecution of defendants such as former Timor governor Abilio Soares and former police chief Timbul Silaen represented a bid to deflect attention from more senior figures, he said. "Soares and Timbul must be held responsible for their actions, but Wiranto was the real power behind the 1999 killings."

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