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UN Must Not Shortchange Justice for East Timor

For Immediate Release

Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668; 917-690-4391

May 14, 2004 - The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) urged that today's extension of the United Nations mission in East Timor not be the last word on justice for serious crimes in East Timor.

"Justice for East Timor must not be shortchanged. Doing so threatens to destabilize East Timor, as well as current and future UN missions," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. “Real accountability for East Timor would provide important momentum to end the Indonesian military’s ongoing human rights violations.”

"Justice must be allowed to take its full course. East Timorese victims should not pay the price for false starts and delays that are largely the result of UN decisions and Indonesia's non-cooperation," added Miller. "Unfortunately, the Security Council has done nothing to further pressure Indonesia on justice."

Today’s Security Council action downsizing the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) calls for a shift in resources in the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) from investigations to trials and appeals. Some on the council have called for all UN-funded work on serious crimes to end by May 20, 2005, at the latest.

"We are especially disappointed by U.S. government pressure to end the UN's work on serious crimes. Artificial deadlines won’t end impunity," said Miller. The U.S. had argued for an even more rapid phasing out of the UN's support for serous crimes investigations and prosecutions.

"Instead of seeking justice on the cheap, the U.S. must work with the UN Security Council to establish an international tribunal for East Timor. Only a tribunal would have the resources and political weight to properly try and punish those responsible for genocide and other grave crimes," said Miller.

Remarks by Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda dismissing the recent arrest warrant issued against General Wiranto highlight Indonesia's refusal to cooperate with the serious crimes process. More than two-thirds of those indicted in East Timor remain at large in Indonesia.

"Indonesian security forces committed countless crimes against humanity as Indonesia defied multiple UN resolutions since 1975 and, in 1999, sought to undermine a UN operation," said Miller

ETAN works with civil society in East Timor and Indonesia in calling for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity that took place in East Timor since 1975 (see ETAN's Human Rights & Justice page).

Background

Earlier this month, the Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP), an East Timorese NGO, reported, "If investigations end now it will leave 700 murders and thousands of victims of rape, torture and other crimes against humanity without justice in East Timor." JSMP’s research has found tension exists in communities causing serious concerns about people taking matters into their own hands if they feel that the courts have failed them.

In his April 29, 2004 report to the Security Council, the Secretary General wrote, "In its resolution 1410 (2002), the Security Council stressed the critical importance of cooperation between Indonesia and Timor-Leste, and with UNMISET, to ensure that those responsible for serious crimes committed in 1999 are brought to justice." The SCU has filed 83 indictments accusing 373 individuals. Charges are currently pending against a total of 313 accused. 279 of these remain at large in Indonesia, including 37 Indonesian military (TNI) commanders and officers, four Indonesian chiefs of police, 60 East Timorese TNI officers and soldiers, the former governor of East Timor and 5 former district administrators.

On May 10, an international judge at the Special Panel for Serious Crimes in East Timor issued an arrest warrant for Wiranto, the Armed Forces Commander and Defense Minister in 1999 and now a leading presidential candidate. Prior to and after East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence, his troops and their militia proxies conducted a campaign of terror resulting in more than 1400 deaths, displacement of three-quarters of the population and destruction of more than 75% of East Timor's infrastructure.

Wiranto was indicted on February 24, 2003, for crimes against humanity before the Special Panel, a joint UN-East Timorese court. Soon after, the U.S. State Department placed Wiranto on its visa watch list.

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