Subject: RT: East Timor urges end to push for UN tribunal

East Timor urges end to push for UN tribunal 09 Aug 2004 04:39:31 GMT By Dan Eaton

JAKARTA, Aug 9 (Reuters) - East Timor urged its friends on Monday not to push for a U.N tribunal for Indonesian forces accused of abuses during its bloody 1999 vote for independence, saying such a court would not help the fledgling state. The move comes after an Indonesian appeals court overturned the convictions of three top soldiers and a policeman found guilty of crimes against humanity, meaning all of the security forces implicated in the bloodshed have walked free.

Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said his tiny nation was heavily dependent on political stability in neighbouring Indonesia and a U.N. court trying Indonesian soldiers could spark a backlash and even be a setback for the war on terror.

"The government of East Timor does not contemplate lobbying for an international tribunal to try the crimes of 1999 because we know this would undermine the existing relations between the two countries," Ramos-Horta told Reuters by telephone from Dili.

"We know it could be manipulated by certain elements in Indonesia itself and create a backlash against the United Nations and the international community, even against the government of the day in Indonesia," he said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch over the weekend issued a statement calling on the United Nations to create a judicial process for the abuses surrounding East Timor's independence.

"The support of the United States, Japan, Australia and the European Union countries will be essential in this effort," it said.

Indonesia is in the middle of a lengthy presidential election with an ex-army general locked in a tight race with incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri. The world's most populous Muslim nation is a U.S. ally in the war on terror.

Ramos-Horta said Dili would prefer to see an international truth and reconciliation commission rather than a court. Dili set up its own commission in 2002.

"At least it would give some comfort to the victims that truth is acknowledged by the international community," he said.

"We are certainly touched by the concern and the care of these NGOs, members of the U.S. Congress and others that are demanding justice through an international tribunal," he said.

TIMOR'S PREDICAMENT

"They must also understand the enormous difficulties and predicament that Timor is in. That in this current climate of the fight against international terrorism, and the need to avoid further exacerbating the tensions that exist in Indonesia itself, the Timorese side would prefer not to push for an international tribunal."

Local militia gangs backed by elements in the Indonesian military are blamed for much of the carnage in 1999, during which the United Nations estimates some 1,000 people were killed and thousands more were forced to flee.

"The East Timorese side is now just awaiting a reaction from the (U.N.) Secretary General to look at alternative means short of an international tribunal to address the issue of justice," Ramos-Horta said.

The latest decision by Indonesia's human rights appeals court was made last month and was not announced to the public. The news leaked out in newspaper reports on Friday last week.

The four acquitted men -- a major-general, two lieutenant-colonels and a police commissioner -- were convicted by the human rights court in 2002 and 2003.

The court, which Indonesia set up in an attempt to ward off calls for an international tribunal, has tried 18 people and acquitted all but two civilians of Timorese origin, drawing widespread criticism from some countries and human rights groups.

The court also halved the 10-year sentence handed to militia leader Eurico Guterres.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in December 1975, shortly after Portugal withdrew from its former colonial outpost.


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