Subject: JP: International scrutiny looms over rights trial

International scrutiny looms over rights trial

The Jakarta Post December 11, 2002

Debbie A. Lubis and Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The country's failure to conduct a fair and impartial human rights trial will become the subject of an international discourse next year, including at the International Human Rights Commission in Geneva, a rights activist warned on Tuesday.

Asmara Nababan, former secretary-general of the National Commission on Human Rights, said that such discourse would take place as the country had shown irregularities and deviations in its court system.

"We cannot predict how the conclusion of the discourse might affect us. But one thing is certain: the latest trial over violations of human rights in East Timor has proven that impunity still exists in the country," he said.

Asmara was commenting on the poor performance of the country's ad hoc tribunal trying the gross human rights violations that took place in East Timor following a vote of independence on Aug. 30, 1999.

Many believe that the Military, as well as the National Police, were involved in the violence that claimed hundreds of innocent lives. But the Court has failed to send any security officer to jail.

Only civilians -- former East Timor governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares and former commander of pro-Jakarta militia Aitarak Eurico Guterres -- have been declared guilty over the violence.

Asmara said that the international court was the only option if the national court mechanism did not uphold justice.

"We used to believe that impunity would be abolished through the human rights trials, which are part of the national court mechanism. But we have seen the trial of East Timor cases and will also see the same thing happen again in the Tanjung Priok trials next year," he said.

Agung Yudha Wiranata of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsham) criticized the rights tribunal for not sending Eurico to jail immediately.

"The Court has sentenced Eurico to 10 years' imprisonment. Even though it is a minimum jail term it shows the seriousness of the crimes committed by Eurico," Agung told The Jakarta Post.

Asmara then urged the public and the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to demand that the government take firm measures to protect and promote human rights in the country.

"A failure to maintain human rights would be a black mark on the record on the current government and discredit the country before the international community," he said.

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