Subject: AP: Rights groups hail UN move on Indonesian war crimes tribunal

Rights groups hail UN move on Indonesian war crimes tribunal

By SLOBODAN LEKIC, AP

JAKARTA, Indonesia, June 28 (AP) - Human rights groups Tuesday hailed a U.N. panel recommendation that an international tribunal be formed to try Indonesian military officers accused of violence in East Timor in 1999 and attacks on the United Nations mission there.

"We agree with the U.N.'s Commission of Experts that continued strong international involvement is essential to ensure that impunity does not prevail for the brutal crimes of Indonesia's security forces in East Timor," said John M. Miller of the New York-based East Timor and Indonesia Action Network.

On Monday, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan submitted the commission's findings to the Security Council for further action. The panel was appointed to evaluate Indonesia's attempts to punish those responsible for the violence that erupted in East Timor after it voted to break free from Indonesia in a U.N.-organized referendum in 1999.

The panel's findings will concern Washington, which has been trying to re-establish contacts with Indonesia's notoriously brutal military, claiming that the force is being reformed by Indonesia's new democratically elected government. Military ties were cut in 1999 by then-President Bill Clinton in the wake of the events in East Timor.

The independence ballot sparked a rampage by Indonesian troops and their proxy militias that left up to 2,000 people dead. The bloodshed only ended with the arrival of peacekeeping troops.

Later the same year, three international staffers - including an American - were murdered by a militia gang in the Indonesian half of Timor island where they were helping refugees from East Timor.

The five-judge commission examined the U.N.-initiated prosecutions in East Timor and a series of human rights trials in Jakarta, both of which failed to hold any higher-level perpetrators accountable.

In their report, the experts determined that Jakarta's efforts to secure justice had been "manifestly inadequate." They urged the Security Council to establish an international criminal tribunal akin to those for ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda to try the perpetrators unless Indonesia takes "substantive action" within six months.

The report also recommended that Gen. Wiranto, Indonesia's military commander at the time, be tried for war crimes.

"For the past five years, the Indonesian government has taken every opportunity to obstruct justice," Miller said. "We are skeptical that Indonesia will in the near term hold credible trials or engage cooperatively with a continued serious crimes process in East Timor."

The International Center for Transitional Justice also expressed "strong support" for the panel's recommendations.

Earlier this month, the New York-based group, which assists countries pursuing accountability for past atrocities, issued a report entitled "Justice Abandoned?" about the Indonesian government's alleged efforts to circumvent the judicial process.


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