Subject: JP: Activists criticise Court verdicts on East Timor cases

Activists criticise Court verdicts on East Timor cases

The Jakarta Post

12 April 2004

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Supreme Court's decision find former East Timor governor Abilio Soares Jose Osorio Soares guilty of rights violations has drawn criticism from activists, who claimed the verdict was "discriminatory and insidious".

Hendardi, who heads the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), said the verdict confirmed public concern that the trial was held just to appease the international community.

"Justice has not been done for the East Timorese victims who suffered arbitrary torture and death," said Hendardi, criticizing the judges for failing to apply the human rights legislation correctly.

Hendardi, who was as a lawyer for former political prisoner Xanana Gusmao, now the president of independent East Timor, also lambasted the Supreme Court for the disparities in its decisions on military/police officers and civilian officials.

"What is going on? Both the police and military were responsible for security back then," said Hendardi, referring to the period in the run-up to, during, and after the United Nations-sponsored independence referendum in Indonesia's former 27th province.

In a climate of intense international pressure, a total of 18 civilians, and military and police personnel were brought to the ad hoc human rights court for their failure to prevent the bloody rampage that killed hundreds of pro-independence East Timorese in 1999.

Most of the defendants, including Army generals, were acquitted for lack of evidence of direct involvement in the violence. But even those who were found guilty were given light sentences.

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court announced a guilty verdict against Abilio, who in 1999 was acting more as a figurehead than the governor of East Timor.

A panel of five judges upheld the verdict of lower courts that sentenced Abilio to three years in jail, far below the minimum 10 years jail term provided for by Law No. 26/2000 on the human rights court.

The guilty verdict came after the same court acquitted three senior military and police officers -- former East Timor Police chief Brig. Gen. Timbul Silaen, former Covalima Regent Col. Herman Sedyono, and former Army Special Forces (Kopassus) Tribuana Commander Lt. Col. Yayat Sudrajat.

According to the verdict, Abilio was guilty of failing to prevent and halt violence involving his subordinates that claimed the lives of East Timorese in 1999. It also stipulated that the sentence handed down was based on justice, not revenge.

The Attorney General's Office said over the weekend that it would execute the verdict after it received a copy.

"The Supreme Court verdict is final. It must be executed despite any further legal moves by the defendant or his lawyers," Attorney General's Office spokesman Kemas Yahya Rahman said.

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