Subject: Age: Downer warns on Timor injustices

The Age June 8, 2001

Downer warns on Timor injustices

By MARK FORBES

FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT CANBERRA

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has warned of international action unless Indonesia prosecutes those responsible for the 1999 destruction of East Timor, after news of the release of militia leader Eurico Guterres after 23 days of a six-month sentence.

"There is a feeling generally that the international community needs to consult more about how these people who have been involved in ... organised violence in East Timor in recent times can be exposed more than has been the case up until now," Mr Downer said.

East Timorese leader Jose Ramos Horta, who met Mr Downer yesterday, also criticised the release of Guterres.

His release, Jakarta's failure to prosecute army officers for the East Timor violence and the sentencing of the murderers of three United Nations workers in West Timor to a maximum of 20 months spoke volumes for the "rot" in Indonesian society, Mr Ramos Horta said.

The Age revealed yesterday that Guterres had been set free 23 days after an Indonesian court sentenced him to six months' jail for inciting violence. The 26-year-old former head of the feared Aitarak militia did not spend any time in jail and served his term under house arrest in a government housing complex in Jakarta. Time spent in custody awaiting trial was deducted from his sentence.

Guterres has been accused of committing mass murder when pro-Jakarta militiamen sponsored by the Indonesian army killed at least 1200 people before and after East Timor voted for independence in 1999.

Mr Downer said that recently Guterres had been seen back in Indonesian West Timor.

He said the international community was beginning to explore ways of bringing the perpetrators of violence to justice.

"Guterres' light sentence and early release is the sort of negative development which will focus the international community, including Australia, even more on these issues," he said. "It is essential for Indonesia's credibility that it moves quickly and decisively against Guterres as part of its continuing investigations into human rights abuses."

A proposed Indonesian human rights court should be established as soon as possible and have jurisdiction over all crimes committed before and after the 1999 independence ballot, he said.

Mr Downer said Australia had already complained to Indonesia about Guterres' sentence. "The important thing is that people who have been involved in acts of violence ... those people should be brought to justice," he said.

There was evidence that East Timorese who fled or were forced across the border into West Timor were being intimidated by militias during a registration process to establish if they wanted to return home, he said.

Chalief Akbar, an official in the Indonesian Mission in East Timor, said the registration process had been extended into a second day at several sites. He said there had been no reports of incidents.

- with MARK DODD


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