|Subject: AP: East Timor Trial Verdicts
Expected; Will Justice Be Done?
Received from Joyo Indonesia News
E Timor Trial Verdicts Expected; Will Justice Be Done?
JAKARTA (AP, August 11, 2002)--Civilians slaughtered as they hid in churches. Independence leaders assassinated in their homes. Entire villages burned to the ground.
The first verdicts in the trials of 18 alleged perpetrators of these and other atrocities in East Timor are expected to come this week. If there are convictions, it will be the first time that high-ranking officials in the Indonesian military are punished for decades of abuses.
Critics doubt that Indonesia's politicized courts can deliver justice and say they are a poor substitute for an international tribunal, like those established for Rwanda and the former Yugloslavia.
They say Indonesia's failures range from weak indictments to inept and inexperienced prosecutors to a government unwilling to present an accurate picture of its role in the violence.
"Sometimes it seems like this is a formality," said Agung Yudhawiranata, a court observer for the Indonesian rights group Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy. "It's not that they can't run a good trial. It's that they are unwilling."
Nearly 1,000 East Timorese were killed by the Indonesian military and their militia proxies in 1999 both before and after voters approved a U.N.-sponsored independence ballot. East Timor became independent May 20.
Another 250,000 Timorese were forced from their homes into squalid refugee camps in Indonesia's West Timor. Eighty percent of East Timor was destroyed.
Jakarta is under intense pressure to deliver punishment, and verdicts are expected in three of the 12 trials next week - those of a former Timorese governor, a Timorese police chief and five middle-ranking police and soldiers.
All seven are charged with allowing subordinates to commit violence. Prosecutors have asked for sentences of 10 years and ten-and-a-half years, only six months more than the minimum allowed under Indonesian law.
The U.S. has hinted guilty verdicts could lead to a resumption of military ties cut off since 1999. The U.N. has warned that failure to punish those responsible could lead to an international tribunal - something proposed but scrapped in 1999.
Indonesian prosecutors said they are confident they will get guilty verdicts and prove critics wrong.
"We are serious, and there will be convictions," said Harry Ismi, one of 24 prosecutors in the trials. "If there isn't, the good name of Indonesia will be finished. There will be many more victims."
But rights activists have derided the courts as a sham.
Indonesia ignored its own rights commission, which recommended prosecuting many high-profile defendants, including the country's former military chief Gen. Wiranto. It limited the scope of the trials to a few months in 1999 in three East Timorese towns.
Last year, Indonesia all but stopped cooperating with its U.N. counterparts prosecuting war crimes in East Timor. It refused to share information or act on arrest warrants issued by those courts, which were set up by the U.N. provisional administration that ran East Timor for two-and-a-half years before independence.
East Timor courts have issued 117 indictments, 80% of them for Timorese suspects and 25 convictions.
The Jakarta trials - played out since March in cramped and sweltering courtrooms - are fraught with shortcomings, critics say.
The indictments play down the role of the military and charge the defendants with negligence, not active commission of crimes. The cases typically have no physical evidence and witnesses are mostly defense-friendly government and military bureaucrats.
Only four of the 34 witnesses have been East Timorese. Only one - Manuel Carrascalao, whose son was killed when a militia mob attacked his home - have linked the defendants to any crime.
At least 13 others have told U.N. officials they are too scared to come to Jakarta.
Dominggas dos Santos Mouzinho was refused a translator and heckled by soldiers during her testimony. Amelio Barreto told The Associated Press that he was threatened by militia leader and current defendant Eurico Guterres when he arrived to testify.
"I felt that I was on trial, not the suspects," Barreto said.
Rights groups say the trials have created a distorted picture, in which the Indonesian military were outgunned bystanders in the middle of civil war. The real villains, according to court testimony, were the Indonesian politicians who supported Timorese independence and the U.N.
There's been little testimony about how Indonesian forces formed, funded and fought alongside the militias in Timor.
"If the judges acquit the defendants, the international outrage is certain," said Sydney Jones of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. "But even if they convict the gravity of what occurred in East Timor will remain hidden, and the concept of crimes against humanity will be trivialized."
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