Subject: Wahid bowing to military pressure in avoiding Timor trials: activists

Wahid bowing to military pressure in avoiding Timor trials: activists

JAKARTA, April 12 (AFP) - Indonesia's government is delaying setting up a human rights court to try crimes committed in East Timor in 1999 because of military pressure and corruption cases taking precedence, rights activists have charged.

The accusations came as Washington warned that resumption of US military aid to Indonesia, suspended in 1999 over the violence, was contingent on those responsible being prosecuted.

On March 20 the parliament approved the establishment of ad hoc human rights tribunals to try both the East Timor crimes and the shooting by troops of demonstrators in Jakarta's port area in 1984.

It is now up to President Abdurrahman Wahid to issue a decree to actually establish the courts.

Parliamentary staff told AFP that the house forwarded their approval to Wahid on March 30. But rights activists said Wednesday there was little sign of a decree being issued any time soon.

"In the body of the government there are still people opposed to the East Timor prosecutions," human rights lawyer Johnson Panjaitan told AFP.

"They are still prioritising corruption cases."

Wahid's Cabinet Secretariat said the president had received the parliament's formal notification, and passed it on to Law Minister Baharuddin Lopa.

Lopa's department was now in the process of drawing up a blueprint for the courts, Secretariat official Mohammad Rakit told AFP.

"Once that's done it will be sent back to the president. If it is complicated it could take a long time, if it's not difficult it will be done swiftly," he said, without giving a timetable.

Almost 15 months have passed since Indonesia's own Human Rights Commission (Komnas Ham) identified 34 people, including generals and pro-Jakarta militia leaders, as responsible for the wave of killing, rape and destruction that followed East Timor's vote for independence.

State prosecutors officially declared 23 suspects last September, one of whom -- a militia leader -- was killed days later near Indonesia's border with East Timor.

More than six months on, no charges have been laid and there have been no arrests.

"If this was a high priority the government could have issued a decree within one week of parliament's approval," Komnas Ham secretary-general, Asmara Nababan, told AFP.

"Obviously it has not been given priority. Resistance to it is quite strong, from groups like the military," he said.

Said Panjaitan: "The majority (of those in the government) are not willing for those responsible for the violence in East Timor to be immediately tried.

"They are the followers of the old regime who are still in power, especially in the military," he said, pointing to figures like chief politics and security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former top general.

"He and his friends, like the Kostrad (strategic army reserve) chief Ryamizard Ryacudu and army chief Endriartono Sutarto."

Panjaitan suggested that Wahid, locked in a battle with MPs bent on ousting him from power, was reluctant to stand up to the military by going ahead with the creation of the East Timor courts.

"He's already standing over them in regards to Aceh," he said, referring to Wahid's efforts to stave off a planned military operation to crush separatists in the north-western oil-rich province.

"If he pushes them further on East Timor, he knows he'll have not just the parliament against him but the military as well."

Wahid has managed to convince the United Nations not to conduct a threatened international war crimes tribunal on the East Timor crimes, by guaranteeing Indonesia could pursue prosecutions itself.

International patience has already been tested by the omission of former armed forces chief General Wiranto and other senior generals from the final list of suspects, despite their naming by Komnas Ham.

Pro-Jakarta militia gangs, backed by the Indonesian military, led an orgy of violence and destruction in the months surrounding the August 30 ballot, killing at least 600 people, razing towns to the ground, and forcing some 250,000 people across the border into West Timor.

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