Subject: JP: Int'l pressure on E. Timor trial badly needed

The Jakarta Post December 30, 2002

Int'l pressure on E. Timor trial badly needed

Berni K. Moestafa, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The international community needs to bring pressure to bear on the ad hoc human rights trials being held in Indonesia in order to assure that judges and prosecutors are held accountable for questionable verdicts and justice is served, analysts said.

Since the inception of the first human rights trials which were convened in the wake of condemnation from the international community, attention now has been diverted to the global war on terror.

This may explain the only conviction handed down so far by the tribunal of a military officer convicted of atrocities in East Timor, analysts said.

Former East Timor military district chief, Lt. Col. Soedjarwo was sentenced to five-years imprisonment for failing to stop an attack by pro-Jakarta militiamen against the residence of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo in 1999. At least 13 civilians were killed in the attack.

He was the first convicted officer following the court acquittals in August of six military and police officers over similar charges. The trial of two senior military officers is ongoing.

"The international community is of course concerned over the trial's disappointing outcome," said Hendardi of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) on Saturday.

"But their attention now has shifted to terrorism. Indonesia has taken advantage of this to go lenient in the trial of military and police officers," he said.

Pro-Jakarta militiamen set ablaze the former province's capital of Dili and hundreds were killed in the violence following the 1999 United Nations (UN) sponsored ballot that led to East Timor's break away from Jakarta.

The UN backed down on its threat for an international human rights tribunal when Indonesia promised last year its own ad-hoc Human Rights Tribunal.

However, with the absence of senior officers in the trial and the acquittal of most of the remaining ones, Indonesia has disappointed international and domestic expectations for a just trial.

The poor result drew fire from the U.S. which ceased military ties with Indonesia over the East Timor violence.

Still, analysts have said, it is unlikely that Indonesia will face pressure from the U.S. or the international community.

"Security or terrorism has come to the forefront and attention has waned on human rights issues," said foreign political analyst Edy Prasetyono of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

After the Bali Bombing leading to the crackdown on terrorism in the region, Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, was too vital a partner in the U.S. led war against terrorism, he said. "Sanctions, if any, will likely be limited to those related to military cooperation."

Indeed, Indonesian Ambassador to the U.S., Soemadi D. M. Brotodiningrat, has said diplomatic ties between the country had improved thanks to progress in the Bali bombing investigation.

"International interests lies more in keeping Indonesia stable," Edy continued.

Pressure for stern punishment and the trial of senior military officers, he said, could result in political instability.

He admitted that if Indonesia were to follow international practice as it had promised, it would have to prosecute also senior military officers like then Military Chief Gen. Wiranto.

"This happened with Germany, Japan and recently Milosevic," he said referring to the charges of war crimes against Yugoslavia's former president Slobodan Milosevic.

Hendardi and other activists warned the UN might renew its demand for an international court, but Edy said that with the shift in priority, chances of this happening were slim.

Foreign political analyst Dewi Fortuna Anwar however said more importantly than pleasing foreign observers, was that the government show Indonesians it was committed to upholding justice.

"The trial is a positive development by itself but only if Indonesia can show this isn't just window-dressing," she said.

The trial marked the first time military and police officers were prosecuted over human rights abuses. But the long delays preceding it, and state prosecutors presenting what rights activists and the UN said were weak indictments, have dimmed hopes of a just trial.

"PBHI's view right from the start was that this trial is nothing but a farce," said Hendardi.

Only three were convicted over the East Timor violence. They include former East Timor governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares, and former militia leader Eurico Guterres.

Abilio was sentenced to three years, and Eurico to 10 years.

Contrary to common court practice, none of the three were immediately jailed after the conviction, pending their appeals.

"That a few individuals with links to the powers that be get this privilege while others don't is starting to become a trend," said University of Indonesia criminal law expert Rudy Satrio.

He said the judges probably feared pressure from the military and might have taken cues from earlier trials involving Bank Indonesia Governor Sjahril Sabirin and House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung.

Although both were sentenced to prison over graft charges, they were allowed to walk free pending their appeals. A higher court acquitted Sjahril last August.

Defendants of East Timor turmoil:

1. Abilio Jose Osorio Soares, former East Timor governor, failed to prevent his subordinates from committing a number of murders and torture in East Timor in 1999. Sentenced to three years in jail, but free pending a verdict by the higher court.

2. Insp. Gen. Timbul Silaen East Timor Police chief, charges similar to Abilio's. Acquitted.

3. Col. Herman Sedyono, former Covalima regent, failed to prevent the Suai church massacre on Sept. 6, 1999 that left 27 people killed. Acquitted.

4. Lt. Col. Lilik Koesherdiyanto, former chief of Suai city, Covalima military, charges similar to Herman's, Acquitted

5. Lt. Col Sugito, former chief of Suai military, charges similar to Herman's, Acquitted.

6. Lt. Col. Gatot Subiakto, former chief of Suai Police precinct. Charges similar to Herman's. Acquitted

7. Capt. Achmad Syamsuddin, former staff of Suai military. Charges similar to Herman's. Acquitted.

8. Eurico Guterres, militia leader. Convicted of letting his subordinates kill and torture people taking refuge in the house of pro-independence leader Manuel Carascalao. Sentenced to 10 years in jail, but also free as he waits for appellate court be set up.

9. Lt. Col. Endar Priyanto, former chief of Dili military, Charged with failing to prevent the killings in the house of pro-independence leader Carascalao. Acquitted.

10. Lt. Col Asep Kuswani, former chief of Liquica military. Charged with failing to prevent the killing in a Liquica church on April 6, 1999. Acquitted.

11. Lt. Col. Adios Salova, former chief of Liquica Police precinct. Charges similar to Asep's. Acquitted.

12. Leonito Martins, former Liquica regent. Charges similar to Asep's. Acquitted

13. Lt. Col. Soedjarwo, chief of Dili military sub-district, failing to prevent attacks in Dili Diocese and the House of Bishop Belo. Sentenced to 5 years in jail, free pending the appeal.

14. Brig. Gen. M. Noer Muis, former East Timor military chief. Charged with letting subordinates kill and torture people seeking refuge in the residence of Bishop Carlos Belo on Sept. 5 and 6 and in Suai church on Sept. 6. Trial still underway.

15. Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman, former East Timor military. Charged with failing to prevent the Liquica massacre on April 6 and bloody incident in the house of Carascalao on April 17, 1999. Trial still underway.

16. Lt. Col. Yayat Sudrajat, former task force commander at Dili military. Charged with involvement in the Suai church massacre. Verdict not yet issued.

17. Lt. Col. Hulman Gultom, former chief of Dili Police. Same offenses as Yayat et. al. Trial ongoing.

18. Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, former chief of Udayana Military Command. Charged with failing to prevent the murders and torture in East Timor. Trial still underway.

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