Subject: AFP: Amnesty says UN dragging its feet in seeking justice for E Timor

[For a full copy of the report Justice for Timor-Leste: The way forward please go to:]

AFP, Wednesday April 14, 2004

Amnesty says UN dragging its feet in seeking justice for East Timor

Amnesty International has accused the United Nations of dragging its feet in bringing Indonesian officers to justice for the army-backed militia atrocities in East Timor in 1999.

The human rights group, in a joint report with East Timor non-governmental body the Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP), said the UN Security Council should seriously consider setting up an international criminal tribunal.

"While the UN is dragging its heels, those responsible for grave crimes in Timor-Leste (East Timor) are free and in many cases are in active military or police service," said the report received Wednesday in Jakarta.

"It is therefore no surprise that the patterns, if not the scale of violations witnessed in Timor-Leste have since been repeated elsewhere in Indonesia."

The report said a human rights court set up by Indonesia to try offenders was "fundamentally flawed." Out of 18 people brought to trial, only six were convicted and ordered jailed and they are free pending final appeals.

Amnesty and JSMP said a special crimes court in East Timor "is hampered by limited capacity, the uncertain commitment of the Timor-Leste government to the process and, crucially, Indonesia's refusal to cooperate with it."

The court, at the request of UN-funded prosecutors, has indicted 369 suspects but more than three-quarters are in Indonesia, which refuses to hand anyone over for trial.

Among those indicted is former armed forces commander Wiranto, a presidential hopeful in Indonesia's July election. He denies wrongdoing.

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao opposes the indictments, saying his country's priority is good relations with giant neighbour Indonesia.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 but authorised the UN to hold an independence referendum in August 1999.

However pro-Jakarta local militias, organised and armed by Indonesian soldiers, terrorised independence supporters before and after East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to break away from Indonesia.

Up to 1,500 civilians were killed and some 70 percent of the country's buildings were destroyed.

"In 1999 the UN and individual governments expressed horror at the violence in Timor-Leste, but four years on, interest in supporting investigations and prosecutions has waned," the report said.

"Moreover, Indonesia appears to be under little pressure to cooperate."

Amnesty and JSMP urged the UN Security Council to increase support for the serious crimes process in East Timor and explore "effective alternatives" to the Indonesian court.

They said the UN should immediately establish an independent committee to assess obstacles to achieving justice and make recommendations to the Security Council.

"Among the options that must now be seriously considered is the establishment of an international criminal tribunal as recommended by the UN's own International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor in January 2000," the report said.

It urged individual governments to be prepared to arrest and extradite to East Timor individuals who have been indicted there.

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