Subject: ST: Jakarta's East Timor rights probe slammed

The Straits Times September 19, 2001

Jakarta's East Timor rights probe slammed

Investigations on abuses in East Timor have made no progress and observers say officials lack the will to push forward


JAKARTA - Indonesia's commitment to prosecuting human-rights cases in East Timor has come under fire following revelations that it has apparently stopped its probe into the 1999 murder of a Dutch journalist, possibly by Indonesian troops.

The Attorney-General's office said it has not officially ceased investigation into the murder of Financial Times correspondent Sander Thoenes but admitted that there had been little progress since it started over a year ago.

Said its spokesman Mulyoharjo: 'We are still waiting for evidence and witnesses' testimony. Without that, how can we proceed with the investigation?'

But observers dismissed the statement and said that getting witnesses would not have been difficult, if the Attorney-General's office had made a serious effort to do so.

Said a source in the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (Untaet): 'That is no excuse at all because the evidence is on their side of the border and we have offered full cooperation for anything on our side of the border.

'It should be one of the most straightforward cases to investigate.'

Earlier investigation by an independent commission to investigate East Timor, known by its Indonesian acronym KPP HAM, indicated the involvement of members of the Army's battalion 745 in the killing.

According to KPP HAM's report, Mr Thoenes was shot while riding on a motorcycle taxi by a group of men in military uniforms on three motorcycles, a truck and a car.

At around the same time, the Battalion 745 was supposed to pass the area on their way to West Timor.

But battalion commander Lt-Col Jacob Djoko Sarosa has denied his troops' involvement.

This development raised more doubts on Indonesia's ever prosecuting the five East Timor cases currently under the AG office's investigation.

The four other cases are the attacks on the Dili Diocese and the house of pro-integration fighter Manuel Carrascalao, and the massacres at two churches in Liquica and Suai.

The AG office has named 19 possible suspects including pro-Jakarta militias and mostly middle to lower-ranking military officers in the cases.

Mr Munir, who was a member of the East Timor KPP HAM, said the AG office might be buying time until the cases no longer attract any attention.

He added: 'The lesser the reaction to their sluggish probes, the lesser the chances are for these cases to be brought to court.'

Observers put the blame on the new Attorney General M. Abdur Rachman, who headed the team to probe the five cases on East Timor, saying his ties with the Indonesian military (TNI) are a guarantee that no high-ranking officers would be implicated.

'Since the beginning, our talks with him also show that he had no passion nor knowledge on prosecuting crimes of humanity,' said Mr Munir.

The Untaet source said its experience with dealing with Mr Rachman 'had not been positive'.

The source added: 'It's very much one step forward and two steps back and it has been like that for a long time, so I personally see no reasons to believe that it's going to change.

'It's a pity because President Megawati Sukarnoputri's government is sending all the right signals on all other issues, but East Timor justice is a really glaring exception.'

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