Subject: JP: UNTAET urged to present victim witnesses at trial

The Jakarta Post May 2, 2002

UNTAET urged to present victim witnesses at trial

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The country's first human rights trial is facing another test of credibility as state prosecutors have repeatedly failed to present victim witnesses to the court.

Spokesman of the Attorney General's Office Barman Zahir said on Wednesday state prosecutors of the ongoing ad hoc human rights trial were still awaiting a response from the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) on whether or not it could send victim witnesses to Indonesia.

According to Barman, UNTAET had asked for more time to find and send four victim witnesses to testify against senior civilian officials and military and police personnel accused of perpetrating gross human rights violations in East Timor.

"The administration cannot find the witnesses right away because they are now living outside East Timor's jurisdiction. It needs time ... and we're still waiting," Barman told The Jakarta Post.

Victim witnesses from East Timor were asked to give court testimony on April 23, but none showed up. The judges then asked the prosecutors to present the witnesses on April 30, but again nobody came.

UNTAET is one of the international institutions that has called for the prosecution of those responsible for gross human rights violations in East Timor after its population decided to break away from Indonesia in a UN-organized referendum in 1999.

A total of 18 senior civilian officials and military and police personnel, including three Army generals, are standing or will soon stand trial on charges of gross human rights violations, including genocide.

Indonesia and UNTAET signed a memorandum of understanding in 2000, under which UNTAET allowed ad hoc prosecutors to question witnesses residing in Indonesia's former 27th province.

According to Barman, some witnesses are now living in Australia.

State prosecutors have, since last month, tried to produce housewife Dominggos dos Santos Mouzinho -- who is known to be the relative of a victim -- to testify before the court, but to no avail.

The presence of victim witnesses would lend much-needed credibility to the ongoing human rights trial, which started on March 15 under strong public skepticism over the quality of both prosecutors and judges.

Meanwhile, judges adjourned on Wednesday former East Timor governor Abilio Soares' trial due to the absence of a key witness.

State prosecutors told the court that Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri could not attend the hearing because he had been invited to a meeting with President Megawati Soekarnoputri at the palace.

Damiri is one of 18 suspects in the 1999 East Timor rights abuse cases. He was to testify as former chief of the Udayana Military Command, which oversaw East Timor. He is currently operational assistant to the Indonesian Military chief for general affairs.

Damiri's testimony has been rescheduled to May 8.


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