Subject: JP: Dili undecided on 'expert commission'

Also: JP Editorial- A festering wound. Lusa: FM reiterates Dili's opposition to UN-backed war crimes court

The Jakarta Post August 16, 2004

Dili undecided on 'expert commission'

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar

Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayudha met with his East Timorese counterpart Jose Ramos Horta here on Sunday to discuss human rights and the borders between the two countries.

Hassan told reporters after the meeting that the two countries expected to reach an agreement on their land border before October.

Only "10 percent" of the issue remains to be resolved, he said. The discussion followed an agreement on border issues in July.

The two foreign ministers, however, revealed little on the sensitive issue of demands for an international tribunal -- or the latest, an "international commission of experts" -- to try Indonesian Military and police officers for alleged human rights abuses in the aftermath of the 1999 independence referendum in East Timor.

Hassan simply said Indonesia and East Timor were pursuing a bilateral relationship "in the spirit of reconciliation".

Horta would only say that East Timor was adopting a wait-and-see attitude on the call by several international human rights organizations for the United Nations to set up an "international commission of experts" to review efforts to attain justice for East Timor, including those by the special crimes unit at the Dili District Court. The idea was raised by the office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"We have not received any specific detailed information, such as the terms of reference of this initiative of the secretary-general .... The Timor Leste government will look at this and will respond to this," Horta said.

The UN has yet to respond to a letter signed in June by several non-governmental organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

East Timor's leadership has repeatedly said that it needs good relations with Indonesia. Last week Horta was quoted as saying that calls for an international tribunal to try the 1999 crimes "could be manipulated by certain elements in Indonesia itself" and could cause a "backlash" against the international community.

Calls for an international tribunal follow the latest acquittal of four Indonesian security officers last month by an ad hoc human rights court for rights abuses following the 1999 referendum.

Horta praised Indonesia's success in organizing its legislative and direct presidential election, saying this was a positive sign for continued "constructive" bilateral relations.

"So whenever we deal with this issue of the past, we have to bear in mind the reality of today, of the relationship of Timor Leste with Indonesia," Horta said.

He said he would attend a ceremony to mark the 59th anniversary of Indonesia's independence in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, on Tuesday at the invitation of Governor Piet A. Tallo.

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The Jakarta Post August 16, 2004

Editorial

A festering wound

It surely surprises no one that criticism by the U.S. State Department of the trial of those considered responsible for human rights violations in East Timor in 1999 has been met with a lack of sympathy in Jakarta. To quote Indonesian Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra: "Speaking about disappointment, we too are disappointed with the European court's verdicts on war criminals in Bosnia. How many people died there, but they have been convicted to only four and four-and-a-half years in prison. But that's where our disappointment stops. However, if the United States is disappointed, attempts are being made to pressure the secretary-general of the UN, the UN Security Council and members of Congress to ask the UN to form a commission of experts to study (our) courts' decisions against those accused of human rights violations in East Timor." Not satisfied to leave it at that, Yusril added, "We are even more disappointed with the U.S. over Iraq. But we cannot tell the U.S. that. Let's just try to be fair."

Not surprising, perhaps, considering his position as the country's top diplomat, a much milder opinion was expressed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda. The American view, according to Hassan, was understandable and did not constitute a case of foreign interference in the judicial system of Indonesia.

What apparently triggered the argument was a statement by U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli, made early last week, in which he expressed "distress and great disappointment" at the recent verdicts pronounced by the ad hoc human rights tribunal in Jakarta, which absolved four defendants in the 1999 East Timor human rights case of responsibility for the bloody spate of killings, torture, arson and looting that swept the territory in the wake of a referendum that sealed its future as an independent nation.

As might be recalled, a veritable tidal wave of violence swept East Timor at the time, reportedly leaving about 1,400 civilians killed, an uncounted number of people tortured and at least 200,000 forced to leave their homeland. UN prosecutors stationed in Dili, East Timor, have since issued an order for the arrest of Gen. (ret) Wiranto. As commander-in-chief of the Indonesian Military at the time of the traumatic East Timor events, Wiranto is held responsible for failing to stop the killings, deportations and torture, and for failing to punish those directly responsible.

One prominent player in those shocking events, pro-Indonesia militia leader Eurico Guterres, has since been sentenced to five year in prison -- half the term demanded by the prosecution -- but many others were absolved of any responsibility in successive trials that have taken place over the past years. According to UN officials in Dili, of 18 defendants who have been tried in Indonesian courts so far, only two have been punished, leading them to conclude that legal processing in Indonesia, insofar as East Timor human rights violations are concerned, is seriously flawed and lacks credibility.

Obviously, such an unflattering appraisal may not go down well in Jakarta. As Minister Yusril put it: "However much we disagree with the courts' verdicts, they must be respected." However, patriotism and legal formality aside, it must in all honesty be admitted that is hard to see how so many people -- military and police personnel as well as armed civilians -- can have escaped justice in the wake of the unspeakable horror that swept East Timor in 1999.

Good statesmen that they are, East Timor's leaders, from President Xanana Gusmao and Foreign Minister Ramos Horta down, have sought to distance themselves from the demands for a proper trial of what UN officials see as war crimes, for the sake of maintaining good ties with Indonesia and preserving stability in their huge neighbor to the west.

That, however, is beside the point. As far as Indonesia is concerned, criticism will be difficult to avoid, until its courts shape up and justice is meted out fairly and impartially.

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East Timor: FM reiterates Dili's opposition to UN-backed war crimes court

Dili, August 16 (Lusa) - East Timor continues to oppose the creation of an international court to try Indonesian security officials responsible for massacres in the territory five years ago, Dili`s foreign minister, José Ramos Horta, has said.

In comments to Lusa Sunday after a meeting in Bali with his Indonesian counterpart, Hassan Wirajuda, Ramos Horta said that although there has still not been any formal move by the United Nations to set up a war crimes tribunal, Dili was "against" any such development.

An international tribunal to try Indonesian army and police officers for human rights abuses committed during Timor`s bloody breakaway from Jakarta`s occupation in 1999 has been demanded by several international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The latest demand by rights groups involved in seeking justice for the victims of the violence of 1999 has been for UN-backed commission of experts.

Ramos Horta said Dili would adopt a wait-and-see approach on the call for a commission of experts, an idea first floated by the office of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and which has also been backed by the New Zealand government.

"The Timorese government will decide how to react after receiving the proposal (of Annan) and on being made aware of the constitution of the commission of experts", said Dili`s top diplomat.

Timor has repeatedly said that good relations with Jakarta are crucial to the world`s newest nation and Ramos Horta warned last week that an international court to punish Indonesians for human rights abuses could destabilize Dili`s larger neighbor.

The latest demands for an international tribunal were triggered by the reversing last week of convictions against four senior Indonesian security officers for Timor war crimes.

Ramos Horta and Wirajuda also discussed the land border between their countries and Jakarta's head of diplomacy said only "10 percent" of issues remained to be resolved before a final accord by October.

Dili and Jakarta officials would be given more time to fix unresolved borders, said Ramos Horta, particularly in the enclave of Oecussi.

Ramos Horta was due to remain in Indonesia for several days and is expected to attend commemorations marking the 59th anniversary of Indonesian independence in Kupang, the capital of West Timor.


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