Subject: JP: Judges insist human rights trial must go on

The Jakarta Post April 10, 2002

Judges insist rights trial must go on

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The human rights tribunal decided on Tuesday to proceed with the trial against five middle-ranking military and police officers accused of committing crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999.

Brushing aside technicalities brought up by the defense, presiding Judge Cicut Sutiarso insisted that the court had the right to hear the case.

The judges pointed out that Law No. 26/2000 on human rights tribunals did not contradict Article 28 (i) of the amended 1945 Constitution, which protects citizens from retroactive prosecution.

"The court cannot accept the defense's objections ... Article 28 (i) should be taken in conjunction with the subsequent clause (j). Thus. we may conclude that the rights tribunal law is based on Article 28 (j)," Judge Cicut Sutiarso said.

Article 28 (j) states that everybody has to comply with the law to ensure the protection and the promotion of the human rights of others.

"The value of justice is higher than legal certainty ... where the non-retroactive principle can be set aside. Should there be any dispute over legal certainty, then we should opt for justice," Cicut told the court.

It was the fourth hearing for former Covalima regent Col. Herman Sedyono, former Suai military commander Lt. Col. Liliek Koeshadianto, his successor Lt. Col. Sugito, former Suai military command chief of staff Capt. Achmad Syamsudin and former Suai Police precinct chief Lt. Col. Gatot Subiaktoro.

They are charged with omission in the killing of at least 27 civilians, including three Catholic priests, who took refuge in the St. Ave Maria Church on Sept. 6, 1999, two days after the results of the independence vote in East Timor were announced.

The defense filed an appeal with the appeal court against the court's decision, but agreed to proceed with the hearing.

One of the defense lawyers, Erman Umar, was determined to challenge the court's decision in the higher court and insisted that the trial be suspended pending a decision. He was outvoted, however.

The trial was adjourned until April 16 to hear six witnesses, including victims.

Defense lawyer Ruhut Sitompoel asked the court to call former Armed Forces chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto, former Udayana military commander Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri and former East Timor Police chief Brig. Gen. Timbul Silaen to the court as defense witnesses.

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