Subject: AGE: UN accused of blocking East Timor warrants

AGE

UN accused of blocking East Timor warrants

By Jill Jolliffe Dili

January 14, 2004

East Timor's chief prosecutor has accused the United Nations of blocking an arrest warrant for war crimes against Indonesia's General Wiranto, a frontrunner for presidential elections in July.

"There are no legal obstacles, only political obstacles, both in Indonesia and East Timor," Longuinhos Monteiro said.

But Mr Monteiro said he was closer to obtaining the warrant, and an Interpol warrant, for the former military chief, which would lead to his arrest if he travelled abroad.

General Wiranto is one of eight senior officers charged with directing crimes against humanity during Indonesia's bloody exit from East Timor in 1999.

UN-hired international judges in Dili refused to issue the warrants when asked last February, but the prosecutor appealed, recently obtaining one for Wiranto henchman Colonel Yayat Sudrajat.

Mr Monteiro said the same UN-funded judges were now delaying the other seven cases. They were saying they could only issue them one at a time, he said, and were demanding that each Interpol warrant must be issued before they approved the next one, without basis in law.

UN spokeswoman Marcia Poole said she would not comment on matters before the courts.

Since trials began in 1999, special international panels in Dili have indicted 369 people for crimes against humanity, of whom 281 remain at large in Indonesia. Prosecutors had been stymied by Jakarta's refusal to extradite - but adopted a new strategy after East Timor joined Interpol last year. New Interpol warrants are issued regularly for Indonesian military officers.

General Wiranto is seeking Golkar Party nomination for the presidential poll. If he wins this month, he could defeat President Megawati Soekarnoputri on July 5. But an Interpol warrant would scuttle his ambition.

Nicholas Koumjian, head of the UN-financed Serious Crimes Unit, denied that his department was obstructing the warrants.

"We have always been concerned with the delay in these cases, and have approached the judges to see what can be done to help them proceed faster," he said.

Some East Timorese leaders, notably President Xanana Gusmao and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta, have loudly opposed General Wiranto's indictment, saying it harms the new relationship they are trying to build with Jakarta.


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