|Subject: JP: Accountability key to restore
military ties: U.S.
The Jakarta Post August 16, 2002
Accountability key to restore military ties: U.S.
Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The top U.S. military officer in the Pacific has praised Indonesia's ongoing democratization process, but warned that improved defense ties would depend on the Indonesian Military's internal reforms.
Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, applauded the success of the recent amendments to the 1945 Constitution, calling them "historic signs of reform" as it ensured the exclusion of the Indonesian Military (TNI) from the country's lawmaking bodies.
He also praised the country for its cooperation in the global war on terrorism and recognized the TNI's role in ensuring peace and security in the region.
"I think terrorism is a very tough problem ... I think Indonesia is on the right track and we appreciate the cooperation."
Fargo said the U.S. and Indonesia had began the process of improved military ties, but warned that future cooperation would depend on reform of the TNI.
"The future progress will depend on the TNI continuing to transform itself into an institution that fully represents the democratic principles of this great nation," Fargo said.
The U.S. suspended military ties with the TNI in 1999 following TNI-backed violence that swept through East Timor after the former Indonesian province voted for independence.
Legal proceedings against 18 military, police and government officials, allegedly involved in the bloody violence, are being closely scrutinized internationally.
So far the U.S. has considered the proceedings satisfactory. However, on Thursday the ad hoc human rights tribunal cleared former East Timor police chief Brig. Gen. Timbul Silaen and five middle-ranking security officials of all charges.
It was not immediately clear whether the recent developments will influence the U.S. as it tiptoes towards normalizing military cooperation. The verdict was announced a few hours after Fargo's press briefing.
On Wednesday, the court sentenced former East Timor governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares to three-years jail for human rights violations.
When asked to comment on the ongoing ad hoc tribunal, the commander said that it would be inappropriate to do so.
"But obviously a large part of our efforts is to encourage accountability and reform. Certainly we believe that a professional military is one that adheres very closely to civilian control of the military, to human rights and to the rule of law," he said.
Fargo was appointed to lead the largest unified command of the U.S. armed forces in May 2002 and is on his two-day visit to Jakarta.
During the visit, Fargo met foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda, Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Minister of Defense Matori Abdul Djalil.
He also held meetings with President Megawati Soekarnoputri and is scheduled to fly back to his base in Hawaii on Friday.
The Wall Street Journal August 16, 2002
Indonesian Acquittals Complicate U.S. Stance
By TIMOTHY MAPES Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Acquittals and light sentences handed to Indonesian officers accused of human-rights abuses could complicate U.S. plans to make Indonesia's military a closer ally in the global war against terrorism.
The Bush administration has identified Indonesia -- with the world's largest Muslim population -- as a top priority in its counterterrorism campaign, and has moved rapidly in recent months to restore ties with Jakarta's military. Those ties were severely curtailed when the force was implicated in massacres, rapes and looting in East Timor after it voted for independence in 1999.
In response to concerns in Congress about the plan, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other officials have stressed that a better relationship depends on Indonesian efforts to make its military more accountable to democratic authorities. In particular, U.S. officials have called the East Timor trials a gauge of Jakarta's commitment to that process.
But verdicts handed down this week show little progress in that direction. Thursday, Indonesian courts acquitted six current or former officers -- including the territory's last police chief under Indonesian rule. Courts also cleared two active colonels and two majors in the Indonesian army and police, as well as a retired army colonel.
All were charged with allowing men under their command to commit atrocities, including rape, murder and mass expulsions of Timorese from their homes. The judges handling the cases said they had seen no evidence that linked the accused to such activities.
Thursday's acquittals followed a three-year sentence given Wednesday to the territory's last Indonesian governor for his role in the bloodshed. Eleven other cases are pending.
The judgments so far have outraged human-rights groups, who say they show that Indonesia's military remains above the law despite Jakarta's professed commitment to reform. Even before the verdicts, they note, government prosecutors had failed to assemble convincing cases of military involvement in abuses, despite the existence of what the groups say are documents, eyewitness accounts and other evidence that directly ties security forces to the violence.
Sidney Jones, Indonesia director for the International Crisis Group, a Brussels think-tank monitoring the Indonesian military, said the verdicts show "there's been no change in terms of impunity for the military," and are "a slap in the face of the U.S. at a time when it is trying to restore ties with the military."
The U.S. reacted cautiously to the verdicts. State Department spokesman Phil Reeker said the U.S. is studying the acquittals and noted they are subject to appeal. "We strongly support the process of seeking accountability for the crimes committed in East Timor and encourage the Indonesian government to continue its effort to prosecute vigorously those responsible," Mr. Reeker said. "We'll continue to follow that process closely and reserve judgment on the outcome of the broader tribunal process as that continues."
Ms. Jones said the judgments could derail Washington's plans to direct as much as $50 million to Indonesia's police and military during the next several years. Those plans, announced by Mr. Powell during a recent visit, require congressional approval.
-- David Cloud in Washington contributed to this article.
Write to Timothy Mapes at email@example.com.
East Timor verdicts undermine tribunal
Calls for UN to step in after police chief is acquitted
John Aglionby in Jakarta
Indonesia's human rights tribunal for East Timor continued its run of astonishing verdicts yesterday by acquitting the police chief and five mid-ranking officers of some of the worst crimes against humanity committed during the violence in 1999.
The previous day it convicted the civilian governor of the territory at the time, Abilio Soares, of human rights abuses but jailed him for only three years, provoking international condemnation of the specially created tribunal.
The United Nations has joined numerous observers in describing the process as extremely flawed, although it has not gone as far as human rights organisations such as Amnesty International which are demanding the global body take action.
After consulting the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, the human rights commissioner, Mary Robinson, said in a long statement that the credibility and integrity of the trials was "in jeopardy".
Groups monitoring the trials of 18 army and police officers, civilian officials and militia leaders say the tribunal has become so ridiculous that the individual verdicts are virtually meaningless.
This was highlighted yesterday by the acquittal of Brigadier Timbul Silaen, the police chief during the carnage which surrounded the UN-sponsored referendum in which the territory vote overwhelmingly to end 24 years of Indonesian occupation.
To cheers and tears from the packed public gallery, the presiding judge, Andi Samsan Nganro, said: "The defendant cannot be proven legally... guilty of gross human rights violations."
He was accused of failing to prevent his subordinates taking part in the violence in which about 1,000 people died, 80% of the territory was destroyed, and 250,000 people were forcibly evacuated to Indonesia.
The head of the Jakarta office of the International Crisis Group, Sidney Jones, said the court's decision was correct.
"There's no way they could have convicted Timbul on the evidence presented, even though everyone knows the reality of what went on," she said.
A UN-sanctioned international inquiry in 2000 concluded that the murders, forcible evacuation and destruction were mostly part of a systematic campaign organised and run by the Indonesian security forces and their locally recruited militias.
The prosecutors have chosen not to use the evidence gathered by this and two other inquiry teams, including one by Indonesia's own human rights commission. Mrs Robinson is among those questioning these omissions.
Hours after Brig Silaen's acquittal, a different panel of judges cleared five army and police colonels and majors of being involved in a militia massacre of at least 27 people, including three priests, in the town of Suai, shortly after the referendum.
One of those acquitted was a direct subordinate of Brig Soares.
The head of the UN's mission in East Timor in 1999, Ian Martin, said yesterday that the Suai acquittals showed that the tribunals were a complete failure.
"That was the worst individual massacre in East Timor in 1999," he said.
"If you were going to get convictions of Indonesian military officers systematically acting with the militias to murder East Timorese, that was the case par excellence.
"The real point is that this is such a massively discredited process the individual verdicts are almost irrelevant."
He said he was willing to give evidence but had not been asked.
Amnesty International and East Timor's Judicial System Monitoring Programme, which has followed each day of the trials, echoed Mr Martin's views in a joint statement released yesterday.
They said the trials "have not been performed in accordance with international standards, and have delivered neither truth nor justice".
Among the "succession of serious procedural and other failures" noted by the two organisations were the weak and inaccurate indictments, inadequate protection for East Timorese witnesses, and the prosecutors' decision to ignore "key evidence regarding the direct involvement of the security forces in committing serious crimes".
But most western governments are saying it is too early to judge the tribunal.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday: "The important thing is that the East Timorese government and people have faith in the process."
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