Subject: RT: UN council stalls plan for East Timor tribunal

UN council stalls plan for East Timor tribunal

13 Jul 2005 18:49:20 GMT

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS, July 13 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council is sitting on a U.N. expert panel's recommendation for an international tribunal to try Indonesian and local militia leaders blamed for a deadly 1999 rampage in East Timor, diplomats and U.N. officials said on Wednesday.

The experts submitted their findings to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on May 26 and their report was transmitted to the 15-nation council in late June.

But at the behest of the United States, China and Russia, the council has decided not to publish the report at least until Indonesia and East Timor have added their views, council diplomats, U.N. officials and human rights activists said.

While the report was commissioned by Annan, it was up to the Security Council to decide when to formally release it, chief U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The report has been widely leaked to news media and human rights groups but some council members said it was unclear whether it would ever be published.

"This issue of justice in East Timor is incredibly embarrassing for Indonesia. It is very worrying that the council now may be falling in line behind them," said Charmain Mohamed, a researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch.

"The fear is that they may be secretly working on a face-saving way forward. At the very least, the report should be published and all the recommendations publicly aired before any deal is struck," Mohamed said in a telephone interview.

U.S., Russian and Chinese officials at the United Nations had no immediate comment.

1,500 CIVILIANS KILLED IN RAMPAGE

About 1,500 civilians were killed, 250,000 driven from their homes and others raped and tortured when the Indonesian army and proxy gangs and militia razed much of East Timor in 1999.

The violence was triggered by a referendum in which mainly Catholic East Timor voted to break free from Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, after 24 years of brutal military rule.

East Timor finally won independence in May 2002 after 2-1/2 years of U.N. administration and centuries of Portuguese colonial rule and Indonesia occupation.

Under international pressure, Indonesia set up a special court to hear cases of crimes against humanity and its attorney general indicted two government officials, 18 military and police officers and a gang leader but no high-level suspects.

Over the ensuing years, of the 18 tried, only the gang leader was convicted.

In February, Annan named a panel of three outside experts to determine whether justice had been done, despite pleas from Indonesia and East Timor to leave the matter to them.

In their 149-page report, the experts said the Indonesian officials and gang leaders should be tried by an international tribunal if Jakarta did not agree to prosecute them within six months under international supervision.

The prosecutions before the Indonesian special court had been "manifestly deficient," they concluded, "due to a lack of commitment on the part of the prosecution" as well as a lack of expertise, experience and training.

East Timor and Indonesia have established their own Commission of Truth and Friendship, which has not yet begun work. The U.N. panel praised the concept but said it was not a substitute for a credible judicial process.


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