Subject: JP: No hope of punishment military, police in rights cases

No hope of punishment military, police in rights cases

The Jakarta Post December 2, 2002

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Human rights activists see no hope that the ad hoc human rights court will uphold justice and punish military and police officers for their alleged involvement in the 1999 East Timor violence.

Ifdhal Kasim of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam) said on Saturday that judges and prosecutors had seemingly perceived officers as "their colleagues, who carry out duties to safeguard territorial unity, thus they must be protected."

"With such a view, no wonder prosecutors demanded minimum sentences for the officers and seemed uninterested in calling victims as witnesses, while judges had no courage, so just acquit the officers," he said.

"Judges and prosecutors must start thinking that the officers who are tried in the rights court are those who misused their power to commit human rights abuses."

Ori Rahman, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), agreed with Ifdhal, saying there was no improvement in performance from judges and prosecutors handling human rights cases.

"Their performances are very poor. Prosecutors still fail to present key witnesses, while judges have not upheld justice," he said.

"This court can't be expected to run properly anymore."

Ifdhal and Ori were commenting on the acquittal of a number of military and police officers of charges on crimes against humanity in East Timor.

Ten of the total 18 defendants have already been cleared by the human rights court. Nine of them are military and police officers.

So far only two civilians of East Timorese origin -- former East Timor governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares and militia leader Eurico Guterres -- were found guilty of human rights violations by the court. Even so, they both received below the minimum sentence.

Solahuddin Wahid of the National Commission on human rights (Komnas HAM) also expressed skepticism about the court because it only sentenced two East Timorese civilians, but acquitted Indonesian military and police officers.

"Why only East Timorese. Are they the most responsible ones?" Solahuddin said.

Ifdhal said the government must share responsibility for the acquittal of a number of military and police officers from charges of human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999.

Since the beginning, he said, the government was reluctant to bring officers to the court as none of the high-ranking officers, believed to be responsible for the chaos, were among those who were even named as defendants.

The government, through the Attorney General's Office, also failed to bring strong witnesses to the trial, which made it easy for the judges to acquit the officers.

Ifdhal also said that unknowledgeable and poorly trained judges and prosecutors made for very poor performance.

"The judges and prosecutors are not even given appropriate literature to learn about other human rights cases in other countries, although the information is very important to help them to take action.

"So only the creative prosecutors or judges, who will spend extra time and money to get the information can understand human rights," he said.

According to him, the relative decrease in international pressure on the ad hoc court amid the war on terrorism also gave a certain amount of leeway to the judges in acquitting the defendants.

"Although it's unlikely, we hope that the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights will declare disappointment over the Indonesian ad hoc court," he said

The UN Commission on Human Rights was instrumental in forcing Indonesia to establish the ad hoc human rights court to try those behind the carnage in East Timor.

Some human rights groups estimated that around 1,000 people were killed in East Timor before, during and after the East Timor self-determination ballot in August 1999.

The carnage was believed to be conducted by pro-Indonesia militias, which were supported by elements in the Indonesian military.

The U.S. government then penalized the Indonesian Military for the carnage by imposing an embargo on weapon sales to Indonesia. The U.S. has lifted the embargo on the sales of non-lethal equipment to TNI, but still maintains the embargo on other items including officer training.

The trials are a one of several necessary requirements of the Leahy Law and must be satisfied before the U.S. can restore full military ties with Indonesia.

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