Subject: AP: East Timor Foreign Minister Calls For Intl Tribunal In
Received from Joyo Indonesia News
Associated Press December 22, 2003
East Timor Foreign Min Calls For Intl Tribunal In Iraq
JAKARTA (AP)--East Timor's foreign minister said Monday that Iraq should hold an international war crimes tribunal, and that his own country's recent experience with its bloody past showed the benefits of having a strong U.N. role in prosecuting such violence.
The U.S.-installed Iraqi Governing Council hopes to try Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials within the country.
But some want the trial held in a neutral country, and rights groups have questioned the Iraqi judicial system's independence and professionalism.
Also, the United Nations, the Vatican and other countries oppose a trial in any court that could impose death sentences - a possible outcome in Iraq, though the issue's not yet been finalized.
East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said Monday that "the long history of violence by the Saddam Hussein regime and extraordinary nature of crimes and number of people involved" would make an international tribunal appropriate.
"I fail to understand why there is a tribunal for Yugoslavia and Rwanda and not one for Iraq, where the crimes are far more serious, greater, and went on for almost two decades," Ramos-Horta said in an interview with the Associated Press.
"Iraqi authorities would be overwhelmed and will have difficulty proving their independence and integrity in pursuing justice," he said.
In Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the United Nations set up tribunals with international judges and lawyers and convened it outside the country.
Ramos-Horta also said Iraq could learn from East Timor, where Indonesian troops and their proxy militias allegedly murdered more than 1,000 people when the former province voted to break from Indonesia in 1999.
Trials for those accused over the violence have been taking place in both Indonesia and East Timor.
A human rights court in Indonesia, staffed only by Indonesians, has been widely dismissed as a sham. It convicted just six of 18 accused Indonesian military and government officials, and all six remain free pending their appeals.
In East Timor, a special panel created in 2001 with U.N. help has charged 367 people and convicted 43. International and Timorese judges and prosecutors oversee the cases.
Ramos-Horta and rights groups have credited the United Nations with providing the resources and expertise that enabled the courts to function.
"I would hope the (U.S.-led) coalition and the United Nations would have learned the lessons from Indonesia and opt for an international tribunal for Iraq rather than a domestic one," Ramos-Horta said.
But the Timor model has its problems. About 280 of those charged remain free in Indonesia, including at least 32 Indonesian commanders and the country's former military chief, Gen. Wiranto. Like many Indonesians, Wiranto uses a single name.
East Timor's courts don't have the power to convict defendants in absentia. Indonesia has said that it won't extradite anyone to East Timor who has been charged for the 1999 violence.