Rights Group Calls on East Timor Leadership to Respect Judicial
Demands UN and U.S. Create International Tribunal to Try Wiranto
For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller,
May 28, 2004 - The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today
urged East Timor's leadership to end its inappropriate intervention
in the country’s justice system. Instead, the human rights group
urged the United Nations to take full control of the prosecution of
those accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor by creating
an international tribunal.
"Pressure on the prosecutor general by East Timor’s leadership
not to seek an international warrant for General Wiranto -- while
understandable in the face of Indonesia’s threats -- is
inappropriate," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "East
Timorese who have often expressed their hope for justice must be
extremely disillusioned. Reconciliation can only come from justice,
and justice must place no one, however powerful, above the law."
|Poster listing most wanted for crimes against humanity
carried during a May 29 protest in Dili. The protest was
held just before the planned meeting between East Timor's
president Xanana Gusmao and Wiranto in Bali. Reuters/Lirio Da
Efforts by East Timor's leaders to distance themselves from the
indictment of senior Indonesian officials for crimes against
humanity committed in 1999 intensified recently when an
international judge in East Timor issued an arrest warrant for
former General Wiranto, now a leading candidate for president of
East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao reportedly will meet with
Wiranto this weekend.
"East Timor is caught between a rock and a hard place. Its
dilemma speaks volumes about the failure of the United Nations, the
U.S. and other countries to act quickly and forcefully for justice,"
added Miller. "The crimes committed in 1999 and before were crimes
against humanity. Many were directed at undermining a UN mission. We
urge the UN to heed East Timor's repeated request that the
international community take the lead in pursuing accountability."
“At a minimum, the Secretary-General and Security Council must
back the serious crimes process they set in motion,” said Miller.
"We again urge the Security Council to revisit the
UN Commission of Inquiry’s recommendation to establish an
international tribunal for East Timor. We continue to urge the U.S.
to withhold all military assistance for Indonesia until Wiranto and
others responsible for crimes against humanity in East Timor and
Indonesia are brought to justice in judicial processes consistent
with international standards," said Miller.
This weekend's meeting will be the second this year between
President Gusmao and Wiranto. The East Timor
National Alliance for an International Tribunal reported that the
two met in Bali in January. That meeting was confirmed by Wiranto
Wiranto was Indonesia’s Armed Forces Commander and Defense
Minister in 1999. 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.
On May 10, 2004, an international judge at the Special Panel for
Serious Crimes in East Timor
issued an arrest
warrant for Wiranto. He was indicted on February 24, 2003, for
crimes against humanity before the Special Panel. The previous March,
92-page brief summarizing more than 15,000 pages of evidence
previously filed with the court.
January, Dili’s chief prosecutor, Longuinhos Monteiro, said he
was actively pursuing warrants against senior
officials, accusing international judges of blocking them. Citing
judicial independence, President Gusmao’s office said at the time
that he would not get involved. However, this week, Monteiro said
there was a consensus among East Timor's leaders that it is not in
East Timor's interest to prosecute Wiranto or other indicted senior
While President Gusmao has the
power to pardon, he must first consult with the government.
Unless he and the government plan to pardon Wiranto, Article 199
states, "Courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution
and the law."
In the months following the 1999 devastation of East Timor, two
UN investigations called for the establishment of an international
tribunal. Instead, Indonesia promised to try its own and eventually
established the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor. The widely
criticized court issued its final verdict on August 5, 2003.
Indonesia's presidential election takes place July 5. A runoff
will take place September 20 if no candidate gets more than 50%.
Gusmao met May 15 with President Megawati, who is running for
reelection, as part of regular bi-lateral meeting between the two
countries. He has not said if he will meet with Indonesia’s other
East Timorese leaders, fearful of possible retaliation and
stressing the need to establish good relations with their powerful
neighbor, have repeatedly urged the international community to take
the lead on issues of accountability for war crimes and crimes
against humanity committed in East Timor.
The Security Council mandated the establishment of the
Serious Crimes Unit to
conduct investigations and prepare indictments to assist in bringing
to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity and other
serious crimes committed in East Timor in 1999. It also created the
Special Panels to hear serous crimes cases. Since East Timor’s
independence, the SCU has worked under the legal authority of East
Timor’s prosecutor general.
ETAN advocates for justice and sustainable development for East
Timor and human rights for Indonesia. ETAN calls for an
international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity that
took place in East Timor since 1975 and for continued restrictions
on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine
reform of its security forces. For additional information, see
ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).
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