Subject: JP: Jakarta, Dili not serious about human rights cases

The Jakarta Post April 15, 2003

'Jakarta, Dili not serious about human rights cases'

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A human rights activist has expressed doubts that Indonesia and East Timor are serious about resolving the question of human rights abuses in the former Indonesian province as both are still lack the necessary legal instruments to deal with the cases.

Bambang Widjoyanto, who is also a former chairman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), also expressed regret that both the Indonesian and East Timorese governments had decided to place more emphasis on diplomatic ties than justice.

"The two countries never sit down and discuss the legal arrangements for the trying of the perpetrators of human rights abuses," Bambang told The Jakarta Post.

"They merely bring up the human rights issue to satisfy their domestic constituents, but lack any real intention of resolving the outstanding issues," he added.

He was commenting on the issue of repeat indictments by the Dili district court against the Indonesia Military (TNI) generals and mid-ranking officials who have been implicated in the spate of violence the hit the country in 1999.

The Indonesian government, however, says the Dili district court does not have extraterritorial jurisdiction, and has no power to indict non-East Timorese citizens.

The district court indicted another five TNI officers on Thursday, but refused to name the suspects or give details so as to protect witnesses.

The announcement was made only one day after the court indicted 16 other Indonesians, including eight TNI officers, for human rights abuses.

Last month, six high-ranking TNI officials, including Gen.(ret) Wiranto, were also indicted for causing the mayhem that occurred before and after the 1999 self-determination ballot.

The Indonesian government has repeatedly said that it will not be influenced by the indictments arguing that the Timorese courts have no jurisdiction over Indonesians. It also points to the fact that the two countries do not have an extradition agreement.

Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda has said that both governments had agreed to focus on the future and stop bickering over past mistakes.

"These indictments are totally out of line with the good faith displayed by both governments in forging healthy bilateral ties," the minister said.

He reiterated the Indonesian view that the jurisdiction of the Timorese court only covered East Timor and did not extend to Indonesian citizens.

Earlier, East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao also expressed regret at the court's move, but underlined that his government could not interfere with the judicial process.

Bambang said that there were many issues between Jakarta and Dili still pending since East Timor's breakaway, and the two countries had decided to ignore justice for the sake of these issues.

"Without adequate legal instruments, how can we extradite suspects or even send a witness to testify during a trial. And I don't see any sign that the two governments are intending to make any such arrangements," he said.

Bambang also pointed out that after the international community had lost interest in the human rights' abuses that had occurred in East Timor, only lip service would subsequently be devoted to the legal process by the two governments.

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