Subject: AFP: US praises Timor rights unit

Agence France Presse

April 9, 2003 Wednesday

US praises Timor rights unit


The United States on Wednesday backed East Timorese prosecutors seeking justice against Indonesian army officers and militia leaders accused of violence before and after the newly independent nation's breakaway from Indonesia.

East Timor's Serious Crimes Unit said earlier it had indicted 16 people, including eight Indonesian army officers for crimes against humanity in the 1999 strife.

It was the second attempt in less than two months by the United Nations-funded unit to bring Indonesian officers to justice.

"We support the work of the Dili District Court and the serious crimes unit in seeking accountability for the atrocities in East Timor, " said a State Department official.

The official also praised the Dili District Court for sentencing militia leader Jose Cardosa Fereira to 12 years in prison for crimes against humanity at the weekend, and called on Indonesia to play its part in bringing members of its forces to justice for their role in the uprising and violence in its former territory.

"We urge the government of Indonesia to mount effective prosecutions of the remaining tribunal cases in a matter that meets international standards of justice and fully utilises the wealth of available evidence," the official said, on condition of anonymity.

In late February, the serious crimes unit indicted Indonesia's former defence minister and military chief, Wiranto, for crimes against humanity along with six other senior officers and the then-governor.

Indonesia refuses to hand over any suspects. And East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao criticised the February indictments, saying good relations between East Timor and Jakarta should take priority.

Indonesia's military and their proxy militias waged a savage intimidation campaign before East Timorese voted in August 1999 for independence, and a revenge campaign afterwards.

At least 1,000 people were murdered. The territory finally gained independence last May after a period of UN stewardship.


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