Subject: AAP: Prospects for justice over Timor violence fading by the day

Prospects for justice over Timor violence fading by the day

By Karen Michelmore and Stephanie March

JAKARTA, July 17 AAP - Joni Marques says it was six days before he realised what he had done.

As the drugs he says the Indonesia's military gave him slowly wore off, the unspeakable horror became clear.

The pro-Jakarta militia leader had opened fire on a four-wheel drive carrying nuns and priests as its stopped at the roadblock three weeks after East Timor's historic 1999 vote for independence.

Marques continued to fire his automatic weapon - provided by the Indonesian military - as the passengers tried to escape, while his henchmen threw petrol on three survivors and set them alight.

A nun was hacked to death as she prayed at the roadside in the country's east.

"I'm an East Timorese, so I must take the responsibility here," he told AAP this week.

"(But) those (Indonesian) generals - the leaders who were in East Timor at the time, they must take responsibility.

"They gave a me a capsule to take. That medicine destroyed my mind and I killed the nuns."

Marques was jailed for 33 years in 2001 following East Timor's first trial for crimes against humanity.

He was released last month, after eight years, after the intervention of East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta when it became clear no Indonesians would be similarly jailed for their roles in the violence.

"What do I tell my conscience," Ramos Horta told the Portuguese news agency Lusa.

"This militia (leader has) already served eight years.

"Can you imagine? There is no Indonesian military on trial or in prison and East Timor - showing (the) great heroism of its judicial system - keeps an idiot, an unfortunate guy, in prison."

Indeed, the prospect of justice for victims of the 1999 bloodshed is becoming dimmer by the day.

This week Indonesia and East Timor formally accepted the findings of their own joint truth commission, which found Indonesia overwhelmingly to blame for murder, torture, illegal detention, forcible deportation and rape in 1999.

Up to 1,500 people were killed, 90 per cent of East Timor's infrastructure was razed and hundreds of thousands were displaced in the violence surrounding East Timor's 1999 vote to break-away from Indonesian control.

"The commission concluded that pro-autonomy militia groups, TNI (Indonesian military), the Indonesian civilian government and Polri (Indonesian police) must all bear institutional responsibility for gross human rights violations targeted against civilians perceived as supporting the pro-independence cause," the report said.

The commission found the Indonesian military, police and civilian authorities provided "material support, planning and encouragement" to the militias, and some TNI members participated directly in attacks.

Sexual violence and torture took place in the local Indonesian military headquarters, where people were detained illegally, it said.

The commission - set up by the two governments in 2005 to unveil the "truth" about the 1999 violence and aid the reparation of relations - also found "abundant evidence" that the Indonesian government funded the militias "even after they clearly were aware of gross human rights violations".

While the report's findings are not new - numerous investigations have already revealed Indonesia's involvement - it is the first time Indonesia has formally acknowledged its role.

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono this week expressed remorse for the violence - but stopped short of an apology - saying the two nations needed to move forward in friendship.

"We can't move forward and reach what we hope when we are still focusing on the past," he says.

"But we cannot bury the past just like that.

"We have to study what happened in the past to find out who did what and when ... to fully liberate us from the chains of the past."

Both governments were quick to rule out any further prosecutions.

The truth commission was only authorised with determining institutional - not individual - responsibility for the violence, and had no powers to recommend prosecutions.

"This process will not lead to prosecutorial justice," Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said.

Indonesia held widely-criticised trials for a number of senior police and military officers in 2001, but all were eventually acquitted either at trial or on appeal.

Foreign Minister Wirajuda says Indonesia and East Timor were "forced" to choose either peace or justice over the 1999 violence.

"We decided to do something to heal wounds and then strengthen relations and friendship between our two nations," he said in a recent newspaper interview.

"In other words, we were forced to choose either peace or justice - in this case prosecutorial justice.

"We chose peace."

East Timor's President Horta has said his country needs to foster a culture of forgiveness and recently granted full or partial pardons to 94 prisoners in Dili, including Marques and several of his militia comrades.

He has also indicated he will not be pushing for an international tribunal over the 1999 violence.

"Justice is not and cannot be only prosecutorial in the sense of sending people to jail," he said when accepting the truth commission's findings this week.

"Justice must also be restorative."

Both countries have pledged to "faithfully" follow up the report's recommendations, which include "urgent" human rights training for security forces and education in the protection of women and children.

A "peace zone" is expected to be established along the border of the two countries, facilitating trade and interaction between people living in the border area, and joint border patrols could be established.

The report also recommends a Documentation and Conflict Resolution Centre be established to offer training in conflict resolution and survivor healing programs; and a Commission set up to gather information on people who disappeared in 1999, including reuniting separated parents and children.

Many victims, though, are still waiting for formal justice.

Nonato Soares was slashed across the stomach with a machete as pro-Indonesia militia tried to force him to Dili's port for forcible transfer across the border to Indonesia.

"It's better to not waste a lot of money for nothing, why not use that money to support a victim families," he says of the money spent on the commission process.

But he has no problems with pardons - as long as perpetrators first confess to their crimes or are put before a court.

"For me important justice is a first, after that a pardon," he said.

Relatives of those killed by Marques also have the capacity to forgive - now that he has served some jail time.

East Timorese journalist Rosa Garcia - who turned down an invitation to travel in the vehicle that was attacked by Marques - says the former militia leader has now paid for his crimes, which included killing her cousin, a priest in training.

"Already he has taken the responsibility in the jail - that is not easy," said Garcia, who works occasionally as a translator for AAP.

"For me, that is enough. Eight years is more than enough."

Marques now lives with seven family members in a refugee camp in East Timor's capital Dili.

While he is free to move around the country, he must report to police on a regular basis until 2012.

"I can't do anything. I have no plans because one of my feet is still in prison, and only the other is outside, so (at the moment) I have no plan for my life," he says.

"I took a 33-year prison sentence because I did something bad, I must take responsibility.

"There are many victims in East Timor, and some of them already forgive me, but there are so many I've no idea if they all forgive me or not."


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