Subject: East Timor human rights trial should go on: Muladi

The Jakarta Post September 21, 2000

East Timor human rights trial should go on: Muladi

JAKARTA (JP): A member of the defense team representing military officers accused of violence in East Timor last year said on Wednesday they would not use the "non-retroactive principle" recently inserted into the 1945 Constitution to dodge a trial.

"Although the article seems to benefit us, we will not use it. We don't want the case to be taken to an international tribunal," Muladi, who chairs the non-litigation unit of the officer's defense team, said after meeting with House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung.

The People's Consultative Assembly recently amended the 1945 Constitution to include Article 28I (1). It effectively bars anyone from being prosecuted under a newly introduced law for crimes committed in the past.

Muladi acknowledged that if Indonesia failed to legally process suspects in the case there would be pressure for an international tribunal, which would tarnish Indonesia's image of being able to try human rights abusers.

"The trial should go on through an ad hoc court," Muladi, who was justice minister under former President B.J. Habibie, said.

Many people have feared those indicted in the East Timor violence would use the amended Constitution to avoid a trial.

But Muladi said that the principle of retroactivity was internationally recognized for alleged major rights abusers.

He said that although "non-retroactivity is a general principle of the law, it would be better not to include it in the Constitution".

"We are among the parties who regretted the inclusion of the article," Muladi, a former rector of the Semarang-based Diponegoro University, said.

The House is currently discussing a human rights tribunal bill, which includes the possibility of convening an ad hoc court to try human rights abuses.

The chairman for the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Munir on Monday suggested that the East Timor case be handed over to an international tribunal.

Meanwhile, constitutional law professors Bagir Manan and Suwoto Mulyosudarmo have suggested that the People's Consultative Assembly revoke the article altogether.

"To avoid further problems, the article should be revoked in the next amendment," Suwoto from the Surabaya-based Airlangga University said on Monday. (jun)

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