Subject: E. Timor official calls for international tribunal after Indonesian acquittals

E. Timor official calls for international tribunal after Indonesian acquittals

DILI, Aug. 13 (AFP): An international tribunal is needed to try Indonesian military officers for abuses during East Timor's 1999 independence vote after a string of convictions were overturned, a senior official in Dili said on Friday.

Jacob Fernandes, vice president of East Timor's parliament, said the failure of an ad hoc human rights court in Jakarta to convict any of the 15 Indonesian security officers it tried showed it was not capable of delivering justice.

"Everyone can see what the ad hoc court is all about and this shows that an international court is needed," he told reporters.

Convictions against four Indonesian security officers accused of abuse during East Timor's breakaway from Indonesia were overturned last month, drawing harsh international criticism.

Among those cleared was Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, the highest-ranked officer charged in connection with the violence which left at least 1,400 dead.

The U.S. State Department said it was "profoundlydisappointed" by the verdicts which mean no Indonesian security officers charged over East Timor will serve time.

The court also slashed by half a 10-year prison term given to former militia commander Eurico Guterres, an East Timorese. He remains free pending appeal.

Abilio Soares, also East Timorese and the last Indonesian governor of the territory, is alone among 18 people accused over the abuses to be jailed.

"The ad hoc verdict made a scapegoat of Abilio because everybody knows that at that time the military had the weapons, but in fact Abilio is blamed," Fernandes said.

United Nations prosecutors allege the militia forces which terrorized East Timor before and after the August, 1999 independence ballot were created and armed by the Indonesian military.

Observers in Jakarta say the acquittals in the East Timor and other human rights cases prove how powerful the Indonesian armed forces remain despite claims to have abandoned politics.

Fernandes' critical stance appears to conflict with that of the infant country's president, Xanana Gusmao, who has repeatedly emphasized his wish for good relations with Indonesia, which occupied East Timor for 24 years.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said Friday in Jakarta that it was "too early to conclude whether or not this judicial process is adequate". He said the two countries had agreed to focus on the future and reconciliation.


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