Subject: AGE: Indon groups back police on Balibo push

Indon groups back police on Balibo push

Tom Hyland

June 3, 2007

A COALITION of Indonesian human rights groups has backed the actions of NSW police who sparked a diplomatic row by entering the Sydney hotel room of the visiting Governor of Jakarta to ask him to testify at the Balibo five inquest.

The police action triggered a diplomatic incident, protests outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta and an apology from the NSW Government to defuse the row.

But the human rights groups defended the police, with one activist saying Governor Sutiyoso, a former general and veteran of Indonesia's notorious Kopassus special forces, should have been arrested.

Mr Sutiyoso promptly cut short his official visit to Sydney and returned to Jakarta after police entered his hotel room to request he attend the inquest into the killing of five Australian-based newsmen at Balibo, East Timor, in 1975. The inquest had heard that Mr Sutiyoso took part in the covert Indonesian attack on Balibo in which the reporters were killed.

"The (police) actions were legally correct," said Choirul Anam of the Indonesian Human Rights Working Group, according to the news service.

"It was an official summons from a judge. If refused, he should have been arrested."

Mr Choirul was one of several prominent human rights activists who called for calm in the wake of Sutiyoso incident, and who used the case to appeal for an end to the impunity enjoyed by senior Indonesian officials accused of human rights abuses. quoted another activist, Rafendi Djamin, as saying the issue was a legal matter, not political or diplomatic.

"We have to be wise (and understand) that the court's actions were the actions of an independent institution that occasionally clashes with the executive," he said.

"The public doesn't need to overreact. Don't let us then become anti-Australian and close the Australian embassy. The embassy has absolutely no relationship (with the incident)."

Indonesian reformers have long campaigned, with little success, for senior officials to be brought to justice for crimes committed during the Soeharto era, not only in East Timor.

Mr Rafendi said "even a president" involved in international crimes could be called to account ­ and he warned that former army chief General Wiranto, blamed for the violence in East Timor in 1999, risked arrest if he travelled overseas.

The current defence force chief, Admiral Djoko Suyanto, blamed Australian non-government organisations for the incident, saying it was an attempt to slander the armed forces.

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