Subject: AP: Rights group call for foreign tribunal after Timor acquittals

Also: AFP - US rights groups seek UN intervention in Timor abuse cases

Rights group call for foreign tribunal after Timor acquittals

August 7, 2004 4:09am AP Online

JAKARTA, Indonesia_Foreign rights groups Saturday demanded the establishment of an international tribunal to punish Indonesian security officers implicated in the 1999 violence in East Timor after an appeals court overturned four earlier convictions.

Friday's acquittals sparked criticism over the failure of Indonesia's human rights court to punish any police or military officers for the bloodshed in East Timor when it voted to break free from 24 years of Jakarta rule.

The tribunal has now acquitted 16 police and military officers. Only two people _ both ethnic East Timorese civilians _ have been found guilty.

"The decisions show that courts in Indonesia are simply not independent and are incapable of rendering justice for the atrocities committed in East Timor," said Brad Adams, executive director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch's Asia Division.

"Indonesia has given the international community no choice but to initiate a justice mechanism for these appalling crimes, which took place in full view of the world in 1999."

At least 1,500 people were killed in East Timor by rampaging Indonesian troops and their militia proxies in attacks before and after the U.N.-backed independence vote. The vengeful rampage ended only when international peacekeepers arrived.

Jakarta established the human rights court amid intense pressure to punish those responsible for the violence. Friday's acquittals led to fresh calls for a U.N. tribunal akin to those for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

"More than four years after this sham court was established, the question remains: When will the international community act?" said John Miller, from The East Timor Action Network. "Real pressure and real trials are the only ways to end impunity."

But with international attention now focused on the war on terror and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the setting up of a U.N. tribunal is unlikely to be a top priority for the international community.

East Timor itself has not aggressively pushed for those responsible for the violence to be tried, saying that maintaining good ties with Indonesia is more important.

The United States has criticized the Jakarta trials, but it too needs to stay on good terms with Indonesia, which it sees as a key partner in the war on terrorism.

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Saturday August 7, 05:28 PM

US rights groups seek UN intervention in Timor abuse cases

NEW YORK (AFP) - US-based rights groups called for a UN inquiry to bring to justice Indonesian security officers let off the hook for atrocities during East Timor's 1999 violence-marred independence vote.

An Indonesian appeals court had overturned the convictions of four high-ranking Indonesian security officials and halved the 10-year sentence of a notorious pro-Jakarta militiaman who oversaw the murder and torture of independence supporters.

"The decisions show that courts in Indonesia are simply not independent and are incapable of rendering justice for the atrocities committed in East Timor," said Brad Adams, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division.

All four security officials had been earlier found guilty of crimes against humanity by the ad hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta, which Indonesia created in an attempt to shield itself from calls for an international tribunal.

"Indonesia has given the international community no choice but to initiate a justice mechanism for these appalling crimes, which took place in full view of the world in 1999," Adams said.

He said the United Nations should take steps to create a judicial process that would bring to justice those responsible for these crimes.

The support of the United States, Japan, Australia, and European Union countries was essential in this effort, he said.

In a recent letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups urged the world body to immediately establish a Commission of Experts "to resolve the impunity gap created by the Indonesian ad hoc Court in Jakarta."

The East Timor Action Network (ETAN), which had been calling for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity in East Timor since 1975, also sought the intervention of the United Nations in the case.

"Now that Indonesia's judicial farce is in its final act, the United Nations must step in and create an international tribunal with the resources and clout to credibly prosecute the masterminds of the terror in East Timor," ETAN spokesman John Miller said Friday.

He urged the US administration and Congress to strengthen restrictions on assistance to the Indonesian military "until there is meaningful justice."

East Timor, which won full autonomy in 2002, has downplayed the importance of the trials, insisting that forging good ties with Indonesia is a greater priority.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in December 1975, shortly after Dili declared independence from centuries of Portuguese colonial rule.


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