Subject: ABC: Calls for international tribunal on East Timor atrocities

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INDONESIA: Calls for international tribunal on East Timor atrocities 06/08/2003 20:37:54 | Asia Pacific Programs

There are renewed calls for an international tribunal to re-investigate crimes committed in East Timor against independence supporters in 1999. A Jakarta tribunal has sentenced the last of 18 defendants to appear on charges related to a wave of militia violence backed by the Indonesian military.


DE MASI: Major General Adam Damiri is a former regional commander of the Indonesian military, and was responsible for security in East Timor while it was still Indonesian territory.

General Damiri is the highest ranking Indonesian to face the special Jakarta tribunal, and has been sentenced to three years in jail for what the court described as "gross human rights violations".

The sentence was widely unexpected, considering the prosecution had asked that he be acquitted due to lack of evidence.

Nevertheless, John Miller from the US-based East Timor Network in New York says the sentence does not fit the crime.

MILLER: Given the level of Damiri's involvement, which is known to be high in terms of planning, financing and directing the militia, not to mention his own troops, his culpability deserves well over the three years of the sentence, and no-one expects him to serve any of that sentence. It is true this is the highest ranking officer to be convicted in Indonesia and in some ways marks a bit of progress, but this process has done nothing to temper the Indonesian's military behaviour in Aceh or Papua so if the goal was to discourage the kind of abuses that happened in East Timor, unfortunately it's failed.

DE MASI: In fact, the Indonesian government established the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor amid calls in early 2000 for an international tribunal.

At the time, the United Nations said Indonesia must first be given an opportunity to prove it could bring those responsible for the violence to justice.

Marty Natalegawa is the Indonesian government spokesman.

NATALEGAWA: It's not for the government to respond or comment on a decision or sentence handed down by a branch of the judiciary here because of our keen interest to avoid impressions of political interference. We have noted the sentence against Major General Damiri, we understand the individual will appeal and we have to respect the process. DEMASI: Now that work of ad hoc tribunal is finished, there's been some criticism process was flawed. Is the government satisfied that crimes have been adequately prosecuted? On the contrary we feel the tribunal has proven capable of carrying out its tasks and carried out its mandate in an able manner.

DE MASI: Patrick Burgess was the first head of the Human Rights Unit of the United Nations in East Timor, including during 1999.

BURGESS: 60-thousand house burnings, 250-thousand people deported, over a 1000 people killed, hundreds of women raped, this is what happened in East Timor in 1999 and for the most senior Indonsian military official involved to be given a 3 year sentence is seen by most in East Timor as a slap in the face, although it is a step forward in terms of accountability in Jakarta. Most of the international observer groups Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others have labelled the Jakarta trials as a sham, so there's a lot of interest to see whether the idea of an international tribunal into what happened in East Timor will be proceeded with. Most East Timorese victims groups believe they have not been given justice for what happened here.

DE MASI: Meantime, the UN-sponsored Serious Crimes Court in Dili continues to investigate crimes committed in 1999.

It has so far indicted 300 people, 70 per cent of whom are in Indonesia.

Patrick Burgess says until this is rectified, there will be a lingering perception of injustice.

BURGESS: The major problem is the perpetrators cannot be reached by the process set up in East Timor, and the only mechanism in the world to date are tribunals similar to those set up for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda which are given authority under the UN charter to reach across national borders and approach perpetrators. The geopolitical situation at the moment provides some fairly major obstacles to that but from the human rights perspective , do we allow politics to stand in the way of justice and I think the answer to that always has to be no.

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06/08/2003 20:37:54 | Asia Pacific Programs

© 2003 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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