Subject: AP: East Timor's foreign minister opposes rights tribunal

Wednesday September 8, 6:44 PM East Timor's foreign minister opposes rights tribunal

East Timor's foreign minister reaffirmed his opposition to an international rights tribunal Wednesday, telling parliament that the country's economic future depended on good relations with its former occupier.

"I believe that the right thing for us to do is reconcile with Indonesia," Jose Ramos Horta said.

"Almost everything for our daily needs comes from Indonesia," he said. "Therefore, if we have a bad relationship with Indonesia it will effect the living standard of the people of East Timor. The past is history now ... the future is more important."

Human rights groups demand the establishment of an international tribunal to punish Indonesian officers and their proxy militias blamed for killing at least 1,500 people in 1999, when East Timor voted to break away from Indonesia.

Last month, an appeals court in Jakarta overturned the convictions of four Indonesian commanders implicated in the bloodshed. This means all 16 police and military officers charged over the violence have been acquitted. Only two people _ both ethnic East Timorese civilians _ were found guilty.

In contrast, a U.N.-backed panel in Dili has indicted more than 380 people and convicted more than 50 so far. Still, most of the top defendants _ including former Indonesian presidential candidate Gen. Wiranto _ remain free, spurring activists to press their demands for an international court.

"What has happened is a disgrace," Silverio Pinto Baptist, a rights activist, told reporters Wednesday.

"The international community and the government of East Timor should establish an international tribunal," he said. "Those who masterminded the 1999 violence should be brought to justice."

But the East Timor government has been reluctant to seek justice, saying ties with Indonesia _ which ruled the half-island for 24 years _ are more important for the country's future.


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