Subject: RA: Concern over future of Serious Crimes Unit

Radio Australia

Asia Pacific Tuesday, 29 April 2003

EAST TIMOR: Concern over future of Serious Crimes Unit

East Timor's Serious Crimes Unit is losing its high profile chief -- Siri Frigaard. She completes her mission this week, raising concerns about the unit's long term future. The United Nations is already cutting the number of international prosecutors from 13 to nine and says it can't guarantee any support for the project beyond June 2004.

Presenter/Interviewer: Maryanne Keady

Speakers: Siri Frigaard, the head of the East Timor's Serious Crimes Unit; Domingos Maria Sarmento, East Timor's Justice Minister; Nelson Belo, JSMP, an East Timorese justice monitoring group

KEADY: Days after the indictments of General Wiranto and other senior Indonesian figures were announced, the UN publicly denied they were issued by the UN they claimed the UN was merely providing "advisory assistance" to the Government of East Timor.

East Timor's President, Xanana Gusmao, claimed it was not a Timorese decision, but a UN decision and said he was not consulted

But perhaps most telling was the dispatch of Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta to Jakarta where he told officials Dili would ignore the indictments, in order to maintain good relations with a very important neighbour.

The person in the middle Siri Frigaard, the international deputy prosecutor in Timor leaves this week. She denies that there was political pressure applied following the indictments, despite the fact that all new indictments are issued without the UN logo.

FRIGAARD: There has been no pressure on me at all. I am a public prosecutor. I'm dealing with the justice. When it comes to the politics, I leave it to the politicians.

KEADY: Ms Frigaard's international stewardship of Serious Crimes has been considered one marked by efficiency and politically courageous indictments. But she admits she is pessimistic about the possibility of important generals appearing in a court of law and says there is no clear idea of what will happen after the UN leaves.

FRIGAARD: How many people were killed ….the list is not 100% but we still have a list of 1310 people being killed. And so far we have only investigated only 40% of those. They will not have enough skills and enough people to take over the process. So I am worried about what is going to happen. I think in June 2004, I think that is a concern, and one internationals should look into because they need help.

KEADY: East Timor's Justice minister, Domingos Maria Sarmento agrees and says East Timor hasn't the money to continue the process: an international tribunal must be established.

SARMENTO: I think to start the work of the Serious Crimes Unit, personally I think it will be difficult. The first thing is when UNMISET leaves East Timor, those international judges will be gone, and East Timor won't have the budget to recruit new international judges to replace them. And the second thing is there needs to be a special tribunal to proceed all of the cases, all of the crimes that have been committed.

KEADY: The idea offered by some that East Timor could take over the process of this unit is seems incredulous at best, - the UN funds Serious Crimes to the tune of five million dollars a year, while the fledging courts of Timor, survive on virtually nothing from the government's paltry budget. East Timorese are angry about the political football being played, and say any indictments without follow up, are a joke.

Nelson Belo is from JSMP, a justice monitoring group.

BELO: There is no memorandum of understanding in order to force Indonesia to co-operate with the East Timorese government, or within the UN about the indictments, about the custody. So they have to force Indonesian government to obey on the memorandum of understanding they are going to do.

KEADY: He also says the international community is once again failing in its duties to protect Timorese:

BELO: We lose trust for the UN. When the campaign for the referendum UNAMET say that whatever going to happen in East Timor, UNAMET is not going to leave but in reality UNAMET left. And this one is going through the same things…

KEADY: It would seem there is little political will to deal with justice in East Timor. Currently there is no replacement for Ms Frigaard, and Serious Crimes panels are not operating. The departing Deputy Prosecutor has this to say:

FRIGAARD: Then of course the questions we are getting is but my husband was killed he is not on your victim list. Why haven't you indicted his killer. So people are still very occupied about it and they are telling their stories again and again like it was yesterday. So this is strong strong feeling among the people that they want the justice to be done. So I think somebody has to take that responsibility and do it.

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