Subject: AFP: Bishop Belo vows never to appear at Indon rights court

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Agence France Presse

December 20, 2002

Bishop Belo vows never to appear at Indonesian rights court

DILI -- East Timor's outgoing bishop, Carlos Belo, hit back Friday at accusations he had made a fool of an Indonesian human rights court hearing charges against Indonesian military officers, saying he would never appear before it.

Belo vowed in a written statement to reporters that he would only testify before a United Nations court, amid widespread criticism that the legal proceedings in the Jakarta court were a sham.

"I will only give evidence in front of an international court carried out by the United Nations in East Timor," Belo, a Nobel peace prize winner, said in a statement written in Portugese.

The Jakarta court expected Belo to testify through a live television link with East Timor this week.

His absence sparked an outburst from Binsar Gultom, a judge of the human rights court, who accused Belo of "making a fool of the court."

Quoted in Thursday's Kompas daily in Jakarta, Gultom said Belo's testimony was badly needed to explain discrepancies between statements in the official investigative report and witness testimony.

"If he doesn't appreciate the court then he doesn't need to be appreciated. It's useless for him to become bishop," Gultom was quoted as saying.

A World Bank-funded satellite link was set up for three days this week for witnesses in Dili to appear before the Jakarta court but Belo said no one had bothered to ask him to testify.

"Not even one person has contacted me as an individual to give testimony in the ad hoc court," Belo said.

"Not even one person told me how, where and when I am to give testimony."

Belo said rather than his showing a lack of appreciation for the court, the court itself has shown no appreciation for the victims and people of East Timor.

Jakarta's rights court has been trying military and police officers, as well as militia members and civilians, charged with human rights abuses surrounding East Timor's 1999 vote for independence from Indonesia.

However human rights workers have criticized the Jakarta trials as a sham.

The most senior Indonesian officers were not charged in connection with the violence and nine army or police officers and one civilian tried before the court have so far been acquitted.

Two East Timorese civilians have been sentenced to prison but they remain free pending appeal.

The international community has threatened to convene an international court if Indonesia's efforts at justice are deemed unsatisfactory. However many foreign observers now consider such a tribunal unlikely.

United Nations officials and Indonesian human rights investigators have said the pro-Indonesian militias were armed and organized by the Indonesian security forces.

They carried out a brutal campaign of intimidation before East Timor's August, 1999 vote to break away from Indonesia and a revenge campaign of murder, arson, looting and forced deportation afterwards.

An estimated 1,000 people died that year and much of the territory was laid to waste.


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