Subject: Sidney Jones: Intl Tribunal Could Try Rights Abusers

The Jakarta Post Monday, November 8, 2004

International Tribunal Could Try Rights Abusers: Jones

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

The acquittal of former East Timor governor Abilio Soares of human rights abuse highlights the flawed Indonesian human rights court and could prompt the international community to set up a tribunal to right the wrongs in the judicial process, analysts say.

Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group (ICG) said the credibility of the ad hoc human rights tribunal established here in 2002 had plummeted, leaving a big question about the country's commitment to human rights protection.

"The international community who closely watched the court proceeding, keep asking the question why the process has turned so ugly," she told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Jones said the ad hoc tribunal was not only to blame for the rights tribunal fiasco as "the Attorney General's Office under the leadership of M.A. Rachman has drawn up a very weak prosecution against Abilio".

There were a few ad hoc judges who strove to uphold justice against those implicated in the human rights abuses, but they were powerless in the face of weak cases brought forth by the prosecutors, Jones said.

The initial faith in Indonesian authorities prompted the United Nations in 2000 to rule out the possibility of trying those implicated in the mayhem that surrounded East Timor's independence in an international court.

Jones said the Attorney General's Office under new leader Abdul Rahman Saleh could start reviewing the court proceedings that had led to Abilio's acquittal.

During an interview with the Post earlier, Jones said the United Nations could set up The Commission of Experts to review the entire judicial process both in Dili and Jakarta.

Abilio, the only official jailed for atrocities related to East Timor's breakaway from Indonesia in 1999, was acquitted by the Supreme Court last week on the grounds that the territory was under military rule at the time of the bloodshed.

A total of 18 civilians, soldiers and police officers were brought to the ad hoc rights tribunal for the bloody rampage, but only three civilians were sentenced to jail terms, including Abilio. All the military and police defendants were acquitted.

Abilio, an East Timor native, was sentenced to three year's jail in 2002 for failing to control his subordinates during an attack on a Liquisa church that left 22 civilians dead.

The United Nations is currently considering setting up a team to review what has transpired in the ad hoc rights tribunals.

East Timor leaders, however, have said they would prefer to instead build good ties with their giant neighbor, rather than concentrate on the past.

Contacted separately, law expert Andi Hamzah said Law No. 26/2000 on human rights that sanctioned the ad hoc rights tribunal was flawed as it blurred the boundaries between ordinary and gross human rights violations.

"The law stipulates that gross violators of human rights must be sentenced to at least 10 years' (jail), aside from death or life sentences. However, in Abilio's case, he only got three years in jail, which means he did not commit gross human rights abuses," he told the Post.

In the face of the improper application of human rights law, the Supreme Court had no choice but to acquit Abilio, Andi said.

He said the jail sentence for Abilio was based on his minor involvement in the atrocities.

"Despite his minor role helping the Indonesian Military rule the strife-torn province, the prosecutors were obliged to bring him to justice. Therefore they charged him under the law on human rights which could be applied retroactively; that's the only way," he said.

He said the prosecutors' determinations had led to a weak case against Abilio.

"The law setting up the human rights tribunal needs amending so that it concerns only gross violations of human rights," he said.

Support ETAN, make a secure financial contribution at

Back to November menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu