Subject: JP: Komnas HAM responds to TNI criticism of rights inquiry

Jakartas Post December 17, 1999

Commission brushes aside criticism of rights inquiry

JAKARTA (JP): The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) dismissed protests that its members had violated the principle of presumption of innocence by naming military generals alleged to be responsible for rights abuses in East Timor.

Lawyers for the suspected generals, led by Adnan Buyung Nasution, demanded on Wednesday censure against members of the Komnas-sponsored inquiry on East Timor (KPP HAM) for accusing their clients of committing rights abuses in the territory.

They said statements made by inquiry members accusing their clients of rights violations were "premature, one-sided and not objective".

But commission chairman Marzuki Darusman brushed aside the scorn saying that defense lawyers were overreacting.

"There's been an overreaction on the part of Pak Buyung in responding to the developments," Marzuki told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He had strong words for the defense saying their demands would "constitute an infringement of our internal affairs and that Buyung would be overstepping the boundaries if he insists on that".

"KPP HAM will continue inspite of this reaction," Marzuki said adding that the inquiry was "only trying to explain as much as possible within its framework".

Marzuki also retorted suggestions that it was wrong to reveal the work of the inquiry.

"The public's right to know about the inquiry's progress has to be met by announcing the developments to the public, and that is a procedure the commission will (continue to) take," Marzuki said.

He, however, conceded that the rights body would evaluate "the significance of the reaction and will also outline a communication strategy which will be more effective in the future".

In its interim report on Nov. 30, the inquiry said it had found indications that the Indonesian Military (TNI) was involved in or had prior knowledge about the mass destruction which took place following the East Timor self-determination ballot on Aug. 30.

The inquiry wishes to question six senior TNI and police officers whom it said were responsible for security in East Timor during the mayhem.

The six are Gen. Wiranto, the TNI chief in September and now coordinating minister for political affairs and security, Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, Maj. Gen. Zacky Anwar Makarim, Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman and Police Brig. Gen. Timbul Silaen.

All six have retained the services of some of the country's top lawyers to represent them.

KPP HAM's secretary Asmara Nababan told the Post later in the day that the generals would be questioned next week and that the summonses would be sent on Friday.

Asmara, however, refused to disclose the exact date and order of the questioning.

Separately in Yogyakarta, leading rights activist Hendardi, of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), shared Marzuki's opinion saying that the generals' protests were an overreaction.

He said that the inquiry must be conducted in a transparent manner and that the public should be granted full access to its development.

Meanwhile, the team of defense lawyers left Jakarta on Thursday to go to East Timor but were denied entry to the territory by chief of the International Force in East Timor (Interfet) Maj. Gen. Peter Cosgrove.

The entry refusal was conveyed in a telephone conversation between Buyung and Cosgrove during a stopover in Bali.

Antara claimed that Cosgrove first told Buyung to gain clearance from Komnas HAM, but the lawyer lashed out saying that they were not subordinates to the rights body.

Cosgrove then reportedly relented and said that Buyung would only have to submit a list of people entering the territory.(44/byg)


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