Subject: SMH: Indon generals face trial for Timor atrocities

Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday, December 15, 1999

Generals face trial for Timor atrocities

By DANIEL COONEY in Jakarta

State investigators demanded yesterday that army generals be tried for human rights abuses in East Timor after President Abdurrahman Wahid said he would not block their prosecutions by the Indonesian courts.

Government human rights investigators said military commanders should be held accountable for the orgy of murder and destruction three months ago since they knew it was taking place and did nothing to prevent it.

"This is great news," said Mr Asmara Nababan of the Investigative Commission for Human Rights Abuses in East Timor. "We have enough evidence to go ahead with the prosecutions."

Mr Wahid said yesterday he would not interfere in the judicial process and would allow the courts to decide the fate of the generals, including his senior minister for security and political affairs, General Wiranto, who was military chief during the East Timor crisis.

"I will not be swayed by any temptation," Mr Wahid said. "What is important is that we accept the decision of the court."

Mr Wahid's comments appear to be at odds with those made by the Defence Minister, Mr Juwono Sudarsono, last week who said the generals would escape prosecution "as they were just carrying out State policy".

Mr Sudarsono said only lower-ranking soldiers who committed the actual crimes would be prosecuted.

Mr Nababan said the investigative commission would soon submit its recommendations to Indonesia's attorney-general, who will decide whether any generals should face charges.

Although Mr Wahid's new reformist Government appears intent on allowing Indonesia's own courts to decide the fate of the generals, it has repeatedly said they must not be tried by a proposed UN war crimes tribunal.

Last week, UN human rights investigators visited Jakarta, after spending nine days in East Timor gathering evidence of atrocities.

The team will present its report to the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, before the end of the year. The UN Security Council will then decide whether to establish a tribunal, similar to those established for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Indonesian military-backed militia gangs went on a violent rampage in East Timor following the announcement of the overwhelming vote for independence in a UN-sponsored plebiscite on August 30, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

Last month, investigators dug up the bodies of 26 people - including three Roman Catholic priests - who were massacred during September's violence. In all, about 200 bodies have been recovered.

In the troubled northern province of Aceh tension gripped several districts as the military threatened to step up anti-rebel operations after the fatal stabbing of one of its officers.

Captain Alex, an intelligence officer of the Central Aceh military command, was stabbed to death yesterday by a group of unidentified men at a market in the town of Takengon, the Serambi newspaper said.

A local man accompanying Alex was also stabbed and remained in a coma, the head of the Aceh command, Colonel Syafnil Armen, told the paper.

Colonel Armen warned that the patience of the Indonesian armed forces was wearing thin.

"So far, TNI has been quite patient despite the security disturbances that have taken place, so please, do not push us to the limits of our patience," Colonel Armen said.

But the commander of the Free Aceh Movement guerillas, Abdullah Syafiie, told Serambi that the rebels, who are demanding the province be allowed to break away from Indonesia, would continue their attacks on security forces.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse


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