Subject: AFP: Once silent US now 'disappointed' by handling of Indonesian rights cases

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Agence France Presse August 19, 2002

Once silent US now 'disappointed' by handling of Indonesian rights cases


The United States said Monday it was "disappointed" by Indonesian prosecutors' handling of human rights cases that ended in acquittals last week, belatedly issuing a critical statement after having first declined to comment on the matter.

Deputy State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said Washington was not pleased with the prosecutions of the seven defendants, six of whom were found not guilty of committing abuses in East Timor in 1999.

"Without commenting on the specific verdicts, which are subject to appeal, the United States is nevertheless disappointed that prosecutors in these cases did not fully use the resources and evidence available to them from the United Nations and elsewhere in documenting the atrocities that occurred in East Timor," he said.

On August 15, Reeker had declined to offer an opinion on the cases, calling only for the Indonesian government to redouble efforts to prosecute abuses by its security forces in East Timor.

Those comments followed the acquittal of a police chief and five others on such charges by a special court set up to look into alleged atrocities committed in the run-up to and after the 1999 East Timor independence referendum.

At least 1,000 East Timorese are estimated to have died in 1999 and whole towns were burned to the ground.

The court has convicted only one person -- former East Timor governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares -- who was sentenced to three years in jail for failing to control his subordinates from committing crimes against humanity.

But that sentence was widely criticized as too light, and was far below the 10 years and six months recommended by prosecutors.

Reeker said the United States would continue to press for vigorous prosecutions of those charged with abuses and praised Jakarta for its "bold step" in setting up the tribunal.

"We strongly encourage the Indonesian government to build on that positive step by mounting effective and credible prosecutions of the remaining cases that meet international standards of justice and utilize the wealth of available evidence to bring to justice perpetrators of atrocities in East Timor, " he said.

Washington wants Indonesia to account for abuses that occurred and has placed a high priority on bringing those responsible to justice if it is to move to resume and expand suspended direct military-to-military ties.

Secretary of State Colin Powell restated the US position during a visit to Jakarta earlier this month.

Shortly before Reeker's statement was issued on Monday, the court adjourned the trial of a former district military chief in East Timor after two victims of the 1999 bloodshed failed to appear to give evidence.

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