Subject: UN rights chief backs Timor trial plan, but UN tribunal possible

UN rights chief backs Timor trial plan, but UN tribunal possible

JAKARTA, Nov 23 (AFP) - UN human rights chief Mary Robinson on Thursday supported Indonesia's efforts to try the perpetrators of last year's violence in East Timor, but held open the possibility of convening an international tribunal if the guilty were not brought to justice.

Robinson said she welcomed "the serious commitment of the attorney general and of the parliament," to bring to trial military and civilian suspects in the wave of violence which swept East Timor after its people voted for independence.

But speaking after talks with Attorney General Marzuki Darusman on Jakarta's progress in prosecuting, she said rights violators in East Timor could expect no impunity.

"No! There is always that in the background, isn't it?" she said when asked if she would rule out convening an international tribunal to try those behind the violence.

The Indonesian government has fingered 22 suspects -- several of them high-ranking army officers -- in the violence that preceded and followed the UN-held ballot in East Timor in August 1999.

"It is very important to have accountability which means there should not be impunity ... there has to be a real accountability once there has been a conviction for serious offenses.

"There cannot be impunity for those who have been convicted for gross human rights violations. First of all it is important that they are brought to trial that they are (held) accountable and the accountability is meaningful," she added.

On November 6, the lower house of Indonesia's parliament passed a new human rights court bill that would enable the trial of past human rights abuses.

It provides for a maximum 25 years in jail for gross rights violations including genocide and crimes against humanity.

Any ad hoc rights tribunals set up to address rights cases would first have to win both presidential and parliamentary approval.

Robinson also said her office would provide technical assistance in the form of training for Darusman's office.

It would enable Indonesian judges "to be fully trained to try cases involving human rights violations," she said, adding technical assistance would also include trips for Indonesian judges to the international tribunal at The Hague.

"I think it's very important if a country is committed to establishing a human rights courts that meets international standards and is prepared to have the training of judges to ensure that they fulfil their role ... to me that is the best solution."

Darusman said the new court -- that would try four major attacks and the murder of a Dutch journalist in East Timor -- would likely be established in January.

Some 250,000 East Timorese fled or were forced from their homes during last year's wave of terror and arson blamed on militias, raised and trained by the Indonesian army, after the territory voted for independence from Jakarta.

Witnesses and rights activists have said the military either actively or tacitly backed the pro-Indonesian militia in the deadly rampage in the former Portuguese colony which was invaded by Indonesia in 1975.

Hundreds of people were killed and of the thousands who were forced to flee to neighbouring West Timor, some 120,000 remain holed up in squalid camps.


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