Subject: AP: UN Indicts 15 Indonesia Soldiers For E Timor War Crimes

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

UN Indicts 15 Indonesia Soldiers For E Timor War Crimes

JAKARTA, Feb. 4 (AP)--The U.N. on Tuesday indicted 32 people- including 15 Indonesian soldiers - for murdering and torturing East Timorese during the country's bloody break with Indonesia in 1999.

It was the largest indictment so far by the U.N. Special Crimes Unit and accuses Indonesian officers of crimes against humanity for taking part in the violence.

Four officers and Joao Tavares, the head of a pro-Indonesian umbrella militia group, were among those charged for crimes allegedly committed at the time of a U.N.-sponsored independence referendum in 1999.

The U.N. indictment contradicts the view of Indonesian prosecutors, who have argued the military didn't actively participate in the bloodshed but instead simply failed to prevent the violence that led to the deaths of up to 2,000 Timorese.

Eric MacDonald, a prosecutor with the special crimes unit, acknowledged that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to bring the 32 to trial. All are believed to be in Indonesia, which so far has refused to honor U.N. arrest warrants citing its policy not to extradite its nationals.

Such cases, if they go forward, would be tried in East Timor. Previous cases involving suspects arrested in East Timor were tried by a three-judge panel in Dili headed by a U.N. judge. Appeals were lodged with East Timor's Supreme Court.

The U.N. governed East Timor for 2 1/2 years until the territory achieved independence last May. The U.N. still provides government advisers, several hundred policemen and about 2,500 peacekeeping troops in the world's newest nation.

"This is the most important (indictment) filed yet," said Eric MacDonald, a prosecutor with the serious crimes unit. "You have the leader of all the militias in East Timor being charged and a military commander indicted. These are not minor offenders."

Filing the indictments is important despite the barriers to a trial, MacDonald said.

"There is a certain sense of relief for the victims' families," MacDonald said. "Even though there might never be a trial, there still is a sense that the doing something to bring these people to justice."

The indictment paints a picture of top Indonesian officers working with their proxy militias to sow chaos in East Timor in 1999. They tortured pro-independence leaders, killed innocent civilians and forced entire villages to flee, according to the document.

The indictment said that Lt. Col. Siagian, the military commander for Bobonaro district and Lt. Sutrisno, his intelligence officer, were directly responsible for the deaths of six civilians in April 1999. It said that Joao Tavares, the commander of the pro-Indonesian East Timor Militia Forces, issued the order to kill the men.

The men also were charged with the killing of two schoolteachers and a village chief in the hamlet of Marco.

A spokesman for the Indonesian military in Jakarta could not be reached for comment about the indictments.

Nearly 150 suspects have so far been charged by the U.N., usually in groups of about a dozen. The suspects have included at least 24 Indonesian soldiers. About two dozen former militiamen have been tried and convicted in the past two years.

In a separate series of trials in Jakarta, 18 Indonesian military and police officials have been charged with war crimes. So far, four have been convicted and 11 acquitted.

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