|Subject: E.Timor Inquiry
"Irrelevant:" RI Minister [+JP update]
The Jakarta Post Friday, May 20, 2005
UN Team Starts E. Timor Inquiry in Jakarta
Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
A United Nations team began a series of meetings here on Thursday with top officials in a bid to assess Indonesia's efforts to account for gross human rights abuses that marred East Timor's breakaway from this country in 1999.
The UN Commission of Experts, comprising an Indian judge, a Japanese law professor and a Fijian lawyer, held closed door talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda.
The three-member team is also scheduled to meet Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh, Chief Justice Bagir Manan, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Hamid Awaluddin, lawmakers and the National Commission on Human Rights during their three-day visit, which ends on Friday.
Hassan asserted that the government had invited the team, whose mandate will expire next month, because the outcome of its inquiry would serve to "complement the Commission of Truth and Friendship".
Indonesia had earlier refused to issue visas to the UN-sanctioned commission, arguing that the team was redundant with the setting up of the Commission of Truth and Friendship jointly by East Timor and Indonesia to bring about reconciliation between the two nations.
After meeting President Susilo, the UN experts said they were satisfied with their initial talks.
"So far we are satisfied," said Shaista Shameem of Fiji, who heads the commission.
India's Prafullachandra Bhagwati added that, "We are just trying to find out and so far the work is already interesting".
Yozo Yokota of Japan said the commission would forward the results of its assessment to both Indonesia and East Timor. He declined to comment further.
Minister Hassan acknowledged that the commission, which will report to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, could recommend that the world body haul Indonesia before an international criminal tribunal as a result of what transpired in East Timor.
However, he voiced optimism that the team would not do so.
"It's not realistic to create an international tribunal for human rights violations in East Timor," Hassan said, pointing out that similar international courts for Cambodia and Yugoslavia took a long time to make progress and were very expensive.
The visiting UN Commission of Experts is examining Indonesia's failure to jail military officers and civilians indicted for human rights abuses in East Timor.
Hassan admitted that the results produced by the Indonesian ad hoc human rights court, which acquitted all military and police officers, were "imperfect".
"East Timor played a role (in the imperfect results). Imagine a legal process where finding witnesses alone is already a difficult process," he said.
Hassan recalled that some East Timorese witnesses, including then Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, had refused to testify at the trials, although he was offered the possibility to do so by way of a video linkup.
He said that both Jakarta and Dili had now agreed "to move forward toward reconciliation".
Many people were killed when Indonesia-backed militias went on a rampage in East Timor after it voted to secede from Jakarta in August 1999. Many believe that the Indonesian Military was behind the mayhem.
In the aftermath of the violence, a UN Security Council resolution called for those responsible to be brought to justice.
Under intense international pressure, Indonesia set up an ad hoc human rights tribunal. However, many have criticized the tribunal as a "sham" after it acquitted all but one of the 18 military and police officers and government officials who were put on trial.
Indonesia says UN team's visit on Timor "irrelevant"
JAKARTA, May 18 (Reuters) - Indonesia on Wednesday labelled as "irrelevant" a visit by U.N. experts who will inquire into bloodshed that swept East Timor in 1999 during an independence vote as well as into Jakarta's accounting for the violence.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed several legal experts to a fact-finding team earlier this year, a move that has already irritated Indonesia, which had initially refused to give the members visas to visit.
"From our perspective and from Timor Leste's (East Timor's) perspective, this is irrelevant," Information Minister Sofyan Djalil said in an interview when asked about the visit.
Asked how much the government would cooperate with the experts, who began arriving late on Tuesday, Djalil said:
"East Timor and Indonesia have agreed to see our relations as more important for the future than problems of the past ... This (U.N.) issue is not raised by Indonesia or East Timor."
A rampage in the former Portuguese colony, carried out by gangs supported by elements in the Indonesian army, was triggered by a referendum in which East Timor voted to break free from Jakarta after 24 years of brutal military rule.
The United Nations estimates that around 1,000 people were killed before and after the vote.
An Indonesian special human rights court set up after the violence tried 18 Indonesian military, police officers and civilians over the violence.
Most were acquitted in legal hearings that have almost drawn to a close. Some Western countries criticised proceedings.
Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said officials would start meeting the U.N. experts on Thursday. Officials had said they would begin the review on Wednesday, but not all the experts have arrived.
The U.N. team includes an Indian judge, a Japanese law professor and a Fijian lawyer.
A U.N. official who declined to be identified has said Annan, during a trip to Jakarta last month, raised with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono the Indonesian government's refusal to allow the team members to visit.
Indonesia and East Timor have set up a separate joint truth and friendship commission, which they had hoped would head off Annan's initiative. The commission, due to start work in August, will have no power to punish anyone over abuses.
The United States said this month that Indonesia would not enjoy full military ties with Washington until it accounted for the violence in East Timor, saying this included cooperating with the U.N. team of legal experts.
Washington severed military ties after the sacking of East Timor in 1999, and has only begun to revive such cooperation.
Mainly Catholic East Timor has said it wants to have good ties with its giant Muslim neighbour despite the destruction of most of the tiny territory in 1999.
East Timor became independent in May 2002 after two-and-a-half years of U.N. administration following the referendum.
(Additional reporting by Telly Nathalia)
((Editing by Dan Eaton))