Subject: East Timor: PM Alkatiri wants amnesty for crimes of 1999

12-06-2003 13:10:00. Notícia nº SIR-5126086 Temas: new destaque4

East Timor: PM Alkatiri wants amnesty for crimes of 1999

Jakarta, June 12 (Lusa) - East Timor`s prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, called Thursday for an amnesty for prisoners currently serving sentences in Timorese jails for crimes committed around the time of the territory`s 1999 bloody independence ballot.

In a Jakarta interview, Alkatiri told Lusa a general amnesty was the only way to resolve "the injustice" of perpetrators of less serious crimes being imprisoned, while those responsible for major human rights violations "sometimes remain difficult to indict".

"It is up to parliament to decide on an amnesty, which I think is the only solution to the problem. It is a question worthy of national debate in Timor", said Alkatiri.

Alkatiri`s comments herald a more pragmatic position by the Dili government on questions relating to justice for crimes committed in 1999.

There is clear recognition among Timorese leaders it is "impractical" to bring those primarily responsible for the wave of violence unleashed by the Indonesian Army and its proxy militias to justice.

"There are some Timorese militia leaders who received long prison sentences. I felt at the time the penalties appeared excessive, as how many years would the real culprits have received", Alkatiri commented.

It would be "practically impossible" for the UN Security Council to establish an international court for war crimes committed in Timor, said Alkatiri, adding it would be even more problematic to bring Indonesian security officials or civilians to face a Timorese court.

"As the government and president deal with questions of bilateral relations (with Indonesia) every day, they look for a pragmatic approach that allows relations to progress", Alkatiri told Lusa.

The Timorese government has already distanced itself from the decision of the Dili Serious Crimes Unit to indict top Indonesian Army officers on war crimes charges.

After Indonesia`s top military commander, Gen. Wiranto, was accused by the Dili court of organizing the violence of 1999, the Timorese government sent envoys to Jakarta to stress the independent court`s decision did not reflect the government`s will.

In his interview, Alkatiri also said he would be seeking reform of the fledgling nation`s justice system, particularly the Serious Crimes Unit, which has an annual budget of USD 4 million, compared to only USD 150,000 allocated to the rest of the legal system.

The Timorese leader is heading a senior government delegation on a three-day official Jakarta visit, ending Friday. He met Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri Wednesday and described the encounter as "positive and fruitful".

Alkatiri said before his Indonesian trip his main aim was to seek good personal relations with Jakarta`s leaders.

ASP/CJB -Lusa-

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