|Subject: UNWire: Ex-Governor Sentenced To
Three Years For 1999 Role
EAST TIMOR: Ex-Governor Sentenced To Three Years For 1999 Role
A special Indonesian court today sentenced former East Timor Governor Abilio Osorio Soares to three years in prison for allowing massacres in the former Indonesian territory of East Timor. The court is charged with trying Indonesian civil and military officials for crimes against humanity connected to their role in 1999 violence that devastated East Timor following its vote for independence.
"I've been made a scapegoat," said Soares, vowing to appeal the ruling. "How can I one person, disband a militia which is armed with spears, axes and guns?" (Associated Press/London Guardian, Aug. 14).
Soares is one of 18 suspects being tried for crimes against humanity by the tribunal. Emmy Marni Mustafa, the presiding judge of the tribunal, said in a statement that Soares was guilty of "gross" rights violations for his failure to "manage his subordinates effectively.
"Prosecutors had been seeking 10½ years for Soares, who had faced the maximum penalty of death (Reuters/MSNBC.com, Aug. 14). According to LUSA Agencia de Noticias, diplomatic sources say the judges reduced his sentence to three years because of "mitigating circumstances" (Aug. 14).
Mustafa said, however, that Soares had been given a lighter sentence because of East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao's appeal that the court not single out Soares for the 1999 violence (BBC Online, Aug. 14). Explaining his appeal, which was issued in a letter to Indonesian authorities last week, Gusmao said in a news conference Wednesday that he didn't believe Soares deserved such a harsh sentence, which he called "excessive" (LUSA, Aug. 7, UN Wire translation). The Jakarta Post reports that Gusmao called on the court not to let Soares "be singled out as the one responsible" for the 1999 violence.
According to the Post, the court is expected to announce tomorrow the verdict of former East Timor police chief Timbul Silaen, who is also facing a possible sentence of 10½ years in prison (Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta Post, Aug. 14).
Indonesian Rights Group Calls Sentence Too Light; Ramos Horta Satisfied
The Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights, also known as Komnas HAM, immediately criticized the sentence of Soares as "too light," LUSA reports. As governor at the height of the events of 1999, Soares should be held responsible for the events that were about to occur in East Timor and he cannot simply distance himself from that responsibility, said Albert Hasibuan of Komnas HAM (LUSA, Aug. 14, UN Wire translation).
According to East Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, however, Soares' sentence was "just." Ramos-Horta also said it saddened him to see that the first persons to be held responsible by the court were precisely "those Timorese" who are least responsible for "this tragedy" (LUSA II, Aug. 14, UN Wire translation). Other Timorese politicians were not as conciliatory. Leandro Isaac, a Social Democratic Party deputy in East Timor's Constituent Assembly, blasted the sentence and said that the Indonesian court only serves a purpose for domestic "consumption" (LUSA III, Aug. 14, UN Wire translation).
The East Timor Action Network/ U.S. criticized the ad-hoc court and reiterated its support for an international tribunal to try those responsible for crimes against humanity committed during the entire period of Indonesia's occupation of East Timor, which lasted from 1975 to 1999.
"The Indonesian trials are so flawed, regardless of their outcome, they cannot satisfy the need for justice for East Timor," said ETAN spokesman John Miller. "The conduct of the trials confirms that their purpose was to deflect international criticism rather than to get at the truth. The prosecutions in Jakarta have been crushed under the weight of their limitations," he added. "If those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity go unpunished, there will be serious implications for healing and reconstruction in East Timor and the rule of law in Indonesia" (ETAN/U.S. release, Aug. 14).
Reuters reports that Indonesia has been facing intense pressure from the international community to bring justice to those who were behind the 1999 violence in East Timor that left 1,000 people dead (Reuters/MSNBC.com). According to the Jakarta Post, the court has come under fire on numerous issues, from the recruitment process for the court's judges to the failure of the court to hear from witnesses. Only two victims of the violence have testified in the cases so far (Siboro, Jakarta Post).
Meanwhile, following meetings with the brother of Sander Thoenes, the Dutch Financial Times journalist who was killed during the 1999 violence, Gusmao said he would like to see the trial of those accused of killing Thoenes take place in the East Timorese capital, Dili, and not in Indonesia (LUSA, Aug. 13, UN Wire translation).
In other related news, former Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman last week said that there is not enough evidence to formally accuse former Indonesian defense chief General Wiranto, in effect contradicting the position of former President Abdurrahman Wahid, who suspended Wiranto after an investigation into his role in the 1999 violence (LUSA, Aug. 9, UN Wire translation).
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