Subject: ABC: Militia leader among those charged over 1999 atrocities

EAST TIMOR: Militia leader among those charged over 1999 atrocities 06/02/2003 21:50:55 | Asia Pacific Programs


The U-N Special Crimes Unit in East Timor has charged former militia commander, Joao Tavares, and four Indonesian TNI, or military, officers for atrocities in the territory before and after a UN sponsored vote for independence from Indonesia in August 1999. They are among 32 people, including 15 TNI soldiers, accused of murder, torture, persecution and other crimes. No arrests have been made and with all of those indicted living in Indonesia, there are serious doubts that they will ever face an East Timorese court.


MACDONALD: It is significant because of the accused targetted by this indictment. You have first of all, the overall leader of all the militias in East Timor back in 1999, Joao Tavares that is charged, and also you have the Lieutenant Colonel Siagian, who is the commander of the TNI for the district of Bobonaro. You also have Lieutenant Sutrisno, who was the intelligence commander also for the district of Bobonaro that are charged. So these are basically big wigs are being accused with this indictment.

LOPRESTI: But none of these people are in East Timor, they're in Indonesia I presume?

MACDONALD: Yes that's right.

LOPRESTI: How will they be arrested?

MACDONALD: Right now the only way that we can arrest these people is once we have the arrest warrants if they come back to East Timor they will be arrested. Warrants will also be sent to Interpol so if they travel to other countries they can be arrested there and be extradited to East Timor eventually.

LOPRESTI: But if they stay in Indonesia they can escape arrest?

MACDONALD: That's right.

LOPRESTI: So has this been a complete waste of time for the United Nations? Has it been a waste of energy?

MACDONALD: I don't think so, you had atrocities committed back in 1999, you've had a whole country destabilised and you've had basically victims, because of their political views, killed. Now obviously the family members of these victims were affected by this and it's affected the whole country. And I think these indictments show that first of all the international community does not tolerate such crimes and number two, it might bring a sense of closure for the victims' families. Now we have East Timorese nationals coming back from West Timor almost every month and some of them do get arrested and are brought before the special panel to be tried.

LOPRESTI: But certainly the more significant people that you've indicted like Tavares, they're unlikely to return to East Timor would you not agree?

MACDONALD: Well I don't know, I don't know, maybe, maybe not, we will see in the future what happens. But for sure if Mr Joao Tavares wants to come back to East Timor well eventually he will be arrested and hopefully brought before justice.

LOPRESTI: And what are the chances of Jakarta cooperating with the unit? I mean Indonesia has already refused to hand over any suspects previously indicted by the UN?

MACDONALD: Obviously these are discussions that will be I guess between the government of East Timor and Indonesia and they will have to, I don't know, address this issue in the future.

LOPRESTI: If they never come to justice what do you think the implications are for East Timor?

MACDONALD: Well the implications are that at least the international community did recognise that atrocities were committed to such an extent that some of them were crimes against humanity and we did do something about it. We have filed indictments and the international community recognises these as very serious offences.

Transcripts from programs "AM", "The World Today", "PM", the "7:30 Report" and "Lateline" are created by an independent transcription service. The ABC does not warrant the accuracy of the transcripts. ABC Online users are advised to listen to the audio provided on this page to verify the accuracy of the transcripts.

06/02/2003 21:50:55 | Asia Pacific Programs

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