Subject: AFP: Nine East Timorese fail to testify at Indonesian rights court

Agence France Presse

August 27, 2002 Tuesday

Nine East Timorese fail to testify at Indonesian rights court


Nine victims of violence in East Timor in 1999 have failed so far to testify to Indonesia's human rights court because of apparent safety fears, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

"East Timorese chief prosecutor Longhinus Monteiro said that some did not want to come out of security fears and that is nonsense since we have had several East Timorese witness here and nothing happened to them," prosecutor Rusmanadi told reporters.

The prosecutor said some were willing to give evidence but only around the end of September while others were only prepared to give video testimony.

"This brings me difficulties because all victims who could testify are in East Timor, " he said during the trial of former Dili military commander, Lieutenant Colonel Sujarwo.

Sujarwo is one of 18 military and police officers, officials and civilians who have faced charges of gross human rights violations by failing to prevent or halt massacres by subordinates in April and September 1999.

In widely criticised verdicts the court has already acquitted six officers including the former police chief and sentenced the former governor to just three years in jail. The others are still on trial.

Last Friday UN human rights chief Mary Robinson said in Dili she had heard reports of intimidation of East Timorese witnesses "who have taken the brave step of giving evidence" to the Jakarta court.

She said the UN would consider any intimidation "an extremely serious matter."

Two witnesses at Sujarwo's trial, including a police officer, said soldiers and police were not on hand to tackle violence in Dili in 1999.

pro-independence supporters sheltering in Dili diocese and the bishop's residence in September 1999 because he only arrived after the violence subsided.

He confirmed making an earlier statement that police and troops were never on hand to halt violence.

But he said no one had expected that attacks would be launched against widely revered religious institutions in staunchly Roman Catholic East Timor.

Sitompul said that although he had arrived late in both attacks he had helped keep people safe.

Another witness, a former pro-Indonesia teacher Marcelino Martins Ximenes, said that in both incidents he also came late and did not see how the attacks had started.

He also said that despite arriving late at the scene of both incidents, he did not see soldiers or police there.

Pro-Indonesian local militias, who were armed and organised by the Indonesian military, launched a brutal campaign of intimidation before the August 1999 vote to break away from Indonesia and a revenge campaign afterwards. An estimated 1,000 people were killed that year.

The trial resumes next Tuesday.

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