Subject: ABC PM - Indonesian authorities unlikely to act on Timorese warrant

ABC Online

PM - Indonesian authorities unlikely to act on Timorese warrant

[This is the print version of story]

PM - Monday, 10 May , 2004 18:21:06

Reporter: Anne Barker

MARK COLVIN: It's unlikely that Indonesian authorities will act on the arrest warrant against General Wiranto. They've already failed to act on similar warrants in hundreds of other cases.

The Deputy Prosecutor for Serious Crimes in Dili, Nicholas Koumjian, outlined the case against Wiranto to Anne Barker.

NICHOLAS KOUMJIAN: The evidence would show that the commander Wiranto had knowledge of the crimes, that they were about to occur, or had occurred, and that he did not make, take any measures to stop the violence.

The charges, as outlined in our brief that we submitted and made public, show that the militias who committed many of the crimes were armed, financed, directed, trained by the Indonesian military, and in many of the cases, the military committed the crimes alongside the militia, or stood by and let it happen.

General Wiranto at the time was the commander of all of the Indonesian armed forces, including the police, and our case shows that he failed to take any measures to prevent these crimes from happening and punish the perpetrators, although it resulted in a large number of deaths ­ we conservatively estimate over 1,400 ­ and the destruction of about three quarters of all the physical infrastructure including housing in East Timor.

ANNE BARKER: Can you sheet home the blame for so many deaths to one man?

NICHOLAS KOUMJIAN: Well, the, ah, we don't attribute all blame to one person. We have charged 369 individuals. Any crime against humanity is committed, because of the very nature of crimes against humanity in this scale, it's committed by a group of people.

Wiranto is just one of many people we charged. In that indictment there were six or, excuse me, seven other high level officials, that what we have shown is that this was a joint enterprise. Wiranto is simply the highest ranking of all of the accused in our cases.

ANNE BARKER: What would have to happen for Wiranto to go to trial on these charges?

NICHOLAS KOUMJIAN: Well Wiranto can go to trial on these charges if he chooses to face the charges in a court of law. If he agrees, he claims that he was too weak to control the forces and that they were out of his control, despite the fact that there were 18,000 Indonesian police and military forces in East Timor and only a few thousand lightly armed militia, if he believes in his innocence he can come to court and defend himself in a court of law.

ANNE BARKER: You've had arrest warrants issued against many dozens of people before now for similar crimes in East Timor. Have the Indonesian authorities ever acted on those warrants?

NICHOLAS KOUMJIAN: Ah, no. None of the individuals that we've accused, who we believe to be in Indonesia, have been arrested.

ANNE BARKER: How might this affect Wiranto's candidacy for the Indonesian presidency?

NICHOLAS KOUMJIAN: I wouldn't want to speculate upon that. That's really not what we're concerned with. We're concerned with bringing to justice people who are charged with crimes against humanity.

We filed these charges against Wiranto in February of 2003, long before he became a candidate for president. The mere fact that someone's running for office should not give them immunity for crimes against humanity and so we're continuing to pursue the charges.

MARK COLVIN: Nicholas Koumjian, the Deputy Prosecutor for Serious Crimes in East Timor, and sorry about the slight problems with the technical quality on that line, he was talking to Anne Barker.

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