Subject: Indon activists warn rights trial may ruin judiciary's image

The Jakarta Post June 29, 2002

Activists warn rights trial may ruin judiciary's image

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Human rights activists warned on Friday of another red mark against the country's judicial system should the ad hoc Human Rights Tribunal fail to hold a fair trial on the 1999 East Timor human rights abuses.

Noted lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis said on Friday that the prosecutors, in addition to their lack of knowledge and experience, have failed to produce strong evidence or key witnesses and expert witnesses who could help prove the charges of crimes against humanity.

"Such a condition will become a major impediment for the judges, who also have the opportunity to understand about a human rights trial and to reach a decision that conforms with the universal principles of a human rights trial," Todung told The Jakarta Post.

He said up until now the human rights trial appeared to be another venue that could strain both diplomatic ties with the international community and donor countries.

Todung blamed this on the 2000 law on human rights tribunal which allows only retired state and military prosecutors to become ad hoc prosecutors.

Meanwhile, National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) secretary-general Asmara Nababan pointed out on Friday that the defense side had succeeded in producing witnesses who supported their counter argument that the rights abuses were a spontaneous reaction to what they considered to be foreign intervention in the East Timor issue.

"The prosecutors should be active in producing representatives from the United Nations to the court to explain the role of the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) that organized the referendum.

"What the court has been hearing up until now only comes from one side. It's dangerous...The judges may not secure the whole truth," Asmara told the Post on Friday.

The ad hoc Human Rights Tribunal is now examining seven suspects believed to be responsible for a number of deadly attacks against pro-independence supporters before and after the United Nations-sponsored referendum on Aug. 30, 1999, in which the East Timorese overwhelmingly voted to break away from Indonesia.

Prosecutors will soon submit five other cases.

A total of 18 senior officials and military personnel, including three Army generals, have been declared suspects in the rampage.

The 18 suspects are mostly charged with neglecting their duty to prevent the murder, torture, and forced displacement of civilians.

Many, however, question the exclusion of Gen. Wiranto who was then chief commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI) when the bloody violence broke out, driving close to 250,000 people into West Timor and burning almost 80 percent of infrastructure in the former 27th province of Indonesia.

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