Subject: SMH: Don't trade justice for peace, prosecutor pleads
Don't trade justice for peace, prosecutor pleads
By Jill Jolliffe in Dili
September 17, 2003
East Timor's chief prosecutor, Longuinhos Monteiro, has warned that the country could face internal problems if it drops cases against Indonesian human rights violators to further relations with Jakarta.
Speaking after Interpol issued 23 new arrest warrants for Indonesian and Timorese suspects, Mr Monteiro said: "I have always argued that . . . if we close the doors of the Serious Crimes Unit we will have problems."
The SCU was set up by the United Nations to prosecute Indonesians and Timorese responsible for the violence that accompanied East Timor's independence referendum in 1999, leaving more than 1000 dead and destroying much of the country's infrastructure.
Arguing that East Timor has a moral obligation to victims and the world, the Prosecutor-General underlined the growing contradiction between Dili's need for good relations with Jakarta and the need to judge those accused of atrocities.
He said he would drop prosecutions if East Timor's foreign policy demanded it.
"Until then, I'll continue the accusations," he added, saying he felt the Government was not giving him sufficient moral support.
He said the UN had indicated it would continue backing the SCU, which has been under Timorese control since independence, but only if the Government agreed.
The Justice Minister, Domingos Sarmento, said the prosecutor had the Government's full backing, and "if war crimes have been committed the UN must establish an international court".
Among those named in the latest Interpol warrants is Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian, a former commander of Bobonaro district, who has since risen to be the third-ranking officer in the Bali-based command of the eastern Indonesian region. He is accused of crimes against humanity during two massacres in Bobonaro.
The Timorese prosecutor sought Interpol's intervention after Indonesia refused to hand over suspects for trial before a special Dili court which has already sentenced more than 30 East Timorese to terms of up to 33 years.
Although authorities are powerless to extradite suspects from Indonesia, those on the Interpol list may be arrested if they travel outside Indonesia.
Jose Andrad, a Timorese MP who was tortured by Colonel Siagian, said he was happy the colonel was on Interpol's wanted list.
He said he understood the contradiction between East Timorese foreign policy and the prosecutions. "We need to become good neighbours with Indonesia, but not at the expense of justice," he said.
[Interpol wanted list is at
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