Subject: Rights group demands change to decree on Timor prosecutions

Rights group demands change to decree on Timor prosecutions

JAKARTA, May 2 (AFP) - A human rights commissioner in Indonesia called for the revision Wednesday of a presidential decree that rules out trials of crimes committed in East Timor before the 1999 independence ballot.

Asmara Nababan, secretary-general of Indonesia's quasi-government Human Rights Commission (Komnas Ham), said that President Abdurrahman Wahid must change the decree to cover crimes that occurred before the ballot in August

"The decree must be revised. It has to include crimes both in the lead-up to and after the popular consultation," Nababan told AFP.

Wahid's decree, issued last week to establish an ad hoc human rights tribunal on crimes in East Timor, states that the tribunal would be authorised to try crimes after the ballot.

Komnas Ham held its own probe into the East Timor violence, recommending 33 people for trial, including then armed forces commander General Wiranto, for gross human rights abuses before and after the ballot.

Indonesian prosecutors have prepared 12 trial dossiers on only 18 of Komnas Ham's recommended suspects. A spokesman for the prosecutors has conceded that due to the decree's wording, that number will be reduced further.

The Attorney General's Office (AGO) spokesman, Mulyoharjo (eds:one name), said Wednesday that two East Timor human rights crimes were unlikely to go to trial because of the decree.

"Before I thought that if the cases had already been investigated by the Komnas Ham, then they must be tried," Attorney General's Officespokesman, Mulyoharjo, told AFP.

"But I didn't understand the decree's implication about the dates. It states 'after the ballot.' Apparently I had the wrong analysis."

Mulyoharjo told the Jakarta Post: "We will reveal later which of the 12 dossiers on 18 suspects will be set aside."

The current dossiers cover two cases that occurred in April 1999, four months before the cut-off date specified in Wahid's decree.

On April 6, militias trained by the Indonesian army killed some 50 refugees sheltering in a church in Liquica, near the capital Dili.

On April 17, the militias attacked the Dili home of independence figure Manuel Carrascalao, killing more than a dozen people including his teenage son.

Both cases are now unlikely to be tried and the suspects identified as responsible -- by both Komnas Ham and Indonesian prosecutors -- are unlikely to be prosecuted.

The September 21 murder of Financial Times journalist Sander Thoenes, one of the five crimes outlined for investigation by Indonesian prosecutors, did not make it into the final dossiers and investigators have named no suspects.

Four of the 22 suspects identified by AGO prosecutors last year as responsible for the East Timor violence have already been omitted from the final dossiers, because the prosecutors claim that they cannot locate them.

All four are East Timorese militia leaders, one of whom -- Izidio Manek -- held a public meeting with journalists, under the auspices of Indonesian police and military, in a government office in the West Timor town of Atambua last month.

Wahid himself pleaded with the United Nations to hold off on an international war crimes tribunal on East Timor, on the grounds that Indonesia was capable of carrying out its own prosecutions.

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