Subject: Chance For Justice Vanishes For East Timor Victims

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

The Jakarta Post April 21, 2003

Chance for justice fades for East Timor victims

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The chance to bring justice to the victims of the 1999 human rights violations in East Timor has vanished, after the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) agreed over the weekend to drop the agenda from its future meetings.

The commission, however, urges the Indonesian government to take the necessary steps to correct the ongoing trials at the ad hoc rights tribunal, and the legal processes at the appeal and clemency stages of the East Timor rights violation cases, to ensure that justice is served.

A statement sent by Indonesia's permanent representative at the United Nations in Geneva to The Jakarta Post on Sunday said that the decision was taken after a difficult and intense negotiation between Indonesia, the European Union and East Timor.

"Starting next year, the rights commission will not issue a Chairperson's Statement on the human rights situation in East Timor, which has served as a reason to criticize Indonesia over lingering East Timor issues such as refugees and human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999," said the statement, hailing the decision as a significant achievement for Indonesia.

The decision was conveyed through the Chairperson's Statement during the commission's meeting on April 17.

The statement said future commission meetings would only discuss East Timor issues from the aspect of technical human rights cooperation between Indonesia's former 27th province and UNHCHR.

The commission, however, expressed disappointment over the process and outcome of the ad hoc rights tribunal for the violence in East Timor, and urged Indonesia to take the necessary measures to rectify them.

At least 18 civilians, police and military personnel, including several Army generals, were indicted for gross human rights violations in East Timor, of which 11 defendants had been acquitted, five sentenced to between three to ten years in jail, while two are being tried currently. Even those declared guilty are still free, pending appeal.

The tribunal has also drawn international criticism, as it has failed to bring to justice high-ranking military officers, including former Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto, who was in command during the violence.

The United Nations Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor has indicted a number of Indonesian Army officers with crimes against humanity: Wiranto, Maj. Gen. Zacky Anwar Makarim, Lt. Gen. (ret) Kiki Syahnakri, Maj. Gen. Adam Rachmat Damiri, Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman and Brig. Gen. Mohammad Noer.

The statement also recommended that the Indonesian and East Timorese governments to enhance bilateral relations to resolve outstanding issues, such as refugees. Some 30,000 East Timorese refugees are still living in refugee camps in West Timor.

In Jakarta, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Marty Natalegawa welcomed the decision, saying that it was in line with Indonesia's stance that discussing the human rights situation in East Timor was no longer relevant, as East Timor had become independent in January 2001.

"Rights issues in East Timor are different, now that the territory is independent. We urged UNHCHR to accept this reality," Marty told the Post Sunday.

International law expert Hikmahanto Juwana at the University of Indonesia said on Sunday that the decision had closed the opportunity for victims of East Timor rights violations to seek justice.

"International crimes are always controversial, because only states that do not have power or lose the war can be tried before courts.

"Indonesia faced these two conditions after East Timor won its independence in 1999, but things have changed now, especially since the U.S., along with its allies, invaded Iraq -- because it (the aggression) has ruined the world order and international ethics, but will never be brought to court," Hikmahanto said on Sunday.

Hikmahanto further said that following the decision, it was possible for Indonesia to review -- if it did not stop -- the ongoing rights trials or to acquit all defendants of the killing spree in East Timor, because "the (UNHCHR) decision can be considered as new evidence."

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