Subject: JP: East Timor rights trial needs int'l pressure

The Jakarta Post April 24, 2003

East Timor rights trial needs int'l pressure

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Activists have urged the international community to ensure that justice is served against all perpetrators of the gross human rights violations in East Timor, now that hopes for a fair trial have evaporated.

The cases, in which 15 Indonesian Military (TNI) officers are implicated, seem to have been forgotten, especially after the recent United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) decision to drop them from its agenda.

However, rights activist Hendardi said there was still a chance for justice, if the international community would pursue the cases through an international tribunal.

"It is the responsibility of the international community to ensure that justice is upheld in these cases. It will be difficult to rely on domestic pressure," Hendardi said on Tuesday.

The UNHCHR is only one of the possible means for settling the cases, because the opportunity still remains for these cases to be brought to the international tribunal at The Hague, he said.

Hendardi explained that there were certain criteria that the Indonesian ad hoc human rights tribunal should adhere to in order to keep the UN from interfering.

"The domestic court should abide by international standards, be impartial and independent and hand down appropriate punishment. Should we fail to comply, there is always a chance that these cases will go to the international tribunal," he said.

Indonesia has come under the international spotlight for its alleged involvement in human rights violations that marked East Timor's independence from the country in 1999.

Many international inquiries were launched by the UN and other human rights watchdogs into these violations in the years since, but no satisfactory results have been achieved.

Indonesia insisted on settling the case domestically by establishing an ad hoc human rights tribunal, which has now acquitted most of the defendants, and those found guilty were only given light sentences.

Although the result has drawn criticism both from the national and international communities, the only "punishment" Indonesia has received regarding the East Timor atrocities has come from the United States, which has maintained a military embargo on Indonesia since 1999.

Even the East Timorese government has chosen to put the issue of the human rights violations behind it, for the sake of establishing good ties with Indonesia.

A member of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), Salahuddin Wahid, agreed that other avenues should be pursued to make sure that justice is upheld in the East Timor human rights cases.

"However, we have to prevent any attempt to bring these cases to an international tribunal by improving our own trial system instead," Salahuddin suggested on Wednesday.

He admitted that currently, the defense's arguments and legal processes in the East Timor cases was far from satisfying, but said that this was the only platform for dealing with the East Timor human rights violations.

"We do need international pressure, but will not open the possibility for an international tribunal," Salahuddin remarked.

Earlier, noted lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis said that despite the unsatisfactory legal efforts against the alleged perpetrators of human rights violations in East Timor, the move to ensure that the law was enforced should continue.

He reminded that no citizen was above the law, and that impunity should be stopped.

Hendardi pointed to several examples of human rights abuses in Rwanda and Serbia, in which the UN chose to step into the legal process and brought the cases to the international tribunal at The Hague.

"There is still a chance for justice to be upheld in the East Timor mayhem. I believe the picture of the legal process of these cases is not as gloomy as many people have thought," he said.

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