Subject: AU: Justice sidelined as E Timor courts its neighbour

Also: JP: Mega meets Xanana on bilateral issues; East Timor wants solution to crimes against humanity 'acceptable to all': foreign minister

The Australian

Justice sidelined as E Timor courts its neighbour By Sian Powell


IT was a long wait for East Timor's most important arrest warrant, but the sabotage began just hours after it was issued last week.

Former Indonesian armed forces commander General Wiranto was indicted by the UN-funded Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor 16 months ago. About 15,000 pages of legal brief were filed with the Dili court in February 2003 to prove he had chain-of-command responsibility for the bloody mayhem that devastated East Timor in 1999.

The Indonesian military and its militia proxies deliberately laid waste to the tiny half-island and killed at least 1500 civilians.

Last week a US judge of the Special Panel for Serious Crimes at Dili District Court finally issued the warrant for Wiranto's arrest, causing as much consternation in Dili as it did in Jakarta.

The same day, East Timor's prosecutor-general, Longuinhos Monteiro ­ once a champion of justice, no matter the political cost ­ publicly denounced the international staff of the Serious Crimes Unit and said the warrant was a mistake.

"I regret that arrest warrant," Dr Monteiro said. "My men have opened fire without an order from me," he said.

Within hours he had sent a letter to the court saying he was troubled because more than a year had passed since the indictment was issued. "Therefore, the prosecutor-general of the republic requests the honourable special panel to kindly allow the prosecutor-general to review the filed indictment and file an amended indictment," he wrote, in what appears to be an attempt to have the warrant revoked.

And to cap off the recanting, East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao said yesterday that while his Government had no authority to annul the arrest warrant for Wiranto, it would do nothing to "carry it out". "The (East Timor) Government does not always follow or recognise SCU's decisions," Mr Gusmao said.

His comments followed a meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri in Bali on Saturday. Both leaders agreed that they did not want the issue of past human rights violations to disturb their bilateral relations.

The exhortations of Mr Gus mao and his Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, on the need for good relations with East Timor's neighbour are in stark contrast to the situation before 1999, when many East Timorese leaders worked to free the state from Indonesia's yoke. Since independence, most have worked to smooth relations with their giant and hugely important neighbour. Pragmatism has triumphed.

After all, General Wiranto has a lot of clout in Indonesia. He is now one of the nation's three leading presidential candidates. The figurehead of the Golkar Party, he could conceivably soon lead the nation of 220 million people which sprawls to the east, west, and north of the tiny new nation of East Timor.

Yet under international law he should be tried for murder, persecution and forcible deportation. "Wiranto's de facto or effective control over the militia is demonstrated by evidence that the militias were formed, funded, armed and controlled by the Indonesian army with the knowledge of the accused," a summary of the legal brief says.

With only seven weeks to go before Indonesians go to the polls to elect the nation's president, General Wiranto was last week obviously troubled by news of the warrant, which could lead to an Interpol warrant and the risk of arrest in any third nation. It was a character assassination, he said.

Golkar heavyweight Fahmi Idris, a minister during the New Order regime, has dampened his earlier outrage at the warrant's issue. He now says he will not talk about the events of a few months ago, but he is happy to discuss Dr Monteiro's about-face.

On the day it was issued, he said it could not be possible. "The Prime Minister of East Timor (Mari Alkatiri), when he visited here a couple of months ago, said the warrant for Wiranto would be postponed," he said.

Mr Idris also said General Wiranto's lawyer had met Dr Monteiro for reassurance. Yet a spokeswoman for Dr Alkatiri said yesterday that although she was unaware of the alleged conversation between the Prime Minister and Mr Idris, she said he had always upheld the independence of the judiciary.

International staff at the SCU in East Timor have refused to comment, but it is understood they are deeply concerned about the ramifications of Dr Monteiro's change of heart.

In the past, his public position has been that the perpetrators of atrocities in East Timor had to be brought to justice, regardless of political sensitivities.

The UN Security Council's decision to extend the UN mission's mandate in East Timor means the SCU's work will continue, but perhaps without the support it once had.

"It's such a terrible shame," said one aid worker in East Timor. "The East Timorese really need to see justice done."

Sian Powell is The Australian's Jakarta correspondent.


May 17, 2004 Jakarta Post

Mega meets Xanana on bilateral issues

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, Denpasar

President Megawati Soekarnoputri met with her East Timorese counterpart Xanana Gusmao in Bali on Saturday to discuss bilateral issues including human rights.

The most pertinent question at the moment in this regard is the case of the Golkar Party's presidential candidate, Gen. (ret) Wiranto, the former chief of the Indonesian Military for whom a district court in Dili, East Timor, issued an arrest warrant last Monday.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirajuda has said that Saturday's talks were aimed at forging good neighborly and future-oriented relations in a reconciliatory way.

"For this, there are things from the past that need to be settled," he said without elaborating.

On the sidelines of a party meeting here, Wiranto said that although he did not know the outcome of the meeting, he had been assured that it was not intended to thwart his presidential bid though Megawati is a rival in the July 5 presidential election.

However, he added, "I hope President Megawati as the incumbent will not meddle in legal affairs."

The Indonesian government has played down the arrest warrant, saying that the Dili court had no international jurisdiction.

Wiranto and his running mate, Solahuddin Wahid, were meeting with provincial leaders of the Golkar Party's Bali, and East and West Nusa Tenggara chapters here.

Solahuddin has announced his resignation from the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM), where he had led investigations into a number of alleged violations of human rights implicating Wiranto.

Reliable sources from the State Palace told The Jakarta Post that Megawati initiated the meeting and it was arranged hastily on Friday.

Wiranto said that it would be very uncommon for a sovereign country to hand over one of its citizen to a human rights court in another country only to serve the short-term political interests of its presidential aspirants.

"It would be lamentable if our government opted to do so. We, as a country, would sink to a new nadir if this were to happen," he said.

One of the six presidential aspirants that will contest the presidential election, Wiranto has been busy countering allegations of involvement in the rights abuses that occurred following a UN-sponsored referendum in which most East Timorese voted for separation from Indonesia in September 1999.

Wiranto, who was then also the minister of defense, is accused of failing to prevent the destruction and violence that killed more than 1,000 civilians.

He has said the allegations are part of attempts at character assassination, initiated partly by his political rivals.

After the meeting with Megawati, Xanana said his government could not annul the arrest warrant for Wiranto.

However, he added, it would do nothing to execute it.

Xanana said earlier that good bilateral relations were still the top priority for the East Timorese government, and it would maintain ties even if Wiranto were to be elected president.

East Timor wants solution to crimes against humanity 'acceptable to all': foreign minister

May 16, 2004 5:07am AP Online

DILI, East Timor_East Timor wants to find a solution "acceptable to all" for crimes against humanity committed in its territory in 1999 by Indonesian troops and pro-Indonesia militias, its foreign minister said Sunday.

Jose Ramos Horta told reporters that Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and East Timor President Xanana Gusmao meet for two hours on Indonesia's resort island of Bali late Saturday.

They discussed a push by the United Nations to bring to justice those responsible for killing some 1,500 people after East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in a 1999 referendum.

He said the two leaders did not specifically discuss Indonesian Gen. Wiranto, who was slapped with an arrest warrant by a U.N.-backed special tribunal last week for his alleged role in the 1999 violence. Wiranto, a presidential candidate in July 5 polls, headed Indonesia's army at the time of the East Timor vote.

The vote sparked a murderous rampage by Indonesian troops and their militia proxies, which also destroyed much of East Timor's infrastructure.

Horta said East Timor, Indonesia and the U.N. are still looking "at what further steps could be taken that would be acceptable to all." He said it was too early to disclose what those steps would be.

"(We will) explore some ideas based (our) interest and concern including the issue of justice, without losing focus ... of the strong bilateral ties between East Timor and Indonesia," Horta said.

Indonesia's foreign minister, Hassan Wirajuda, said the talks focused on "reconciliation," border issues and other bilateral matters. He did not elaborate.

Gusmao earlier said he would not support the charges against Wiranto, arguing that improving relations with Indonesia is more important than seeking justice for the victims of the massacres.

The chief prosecutor in the capital, Dili, also said he would try to revoke the warrant, saying it was premature and that the case needed further review.

Last year, U.N. prosecutors working in the tiny nation indicted Wiranto for his alleged command responsibility for "murder, deportation and persecution" committed during 1999.

He has denied any wrongdoing, saying the indictment was an effort to undermine his candidacy in the July 5 presidential elections.

East Timor became the world's newest nation in 2001 after a period of transitional rule by the United Nations. The world body still keeps a small peacekeeping force, provides technical assistance, and funds efforts to bring those responsible for crimes against humanity to justice.

Some estimates say as many as 200,000 East Timorese died during Indonesia's two-decade occupation as a result of military operations, starvation and disease.

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