General Wiranto Denies War Crimes
Indonesian military did not order E.Timor killings: Wiranto
JAKARTA, Dec 24 (AFP) - Former Indonesian armed forces chief General Wiranto on Friday told a human rights commission there had been no plan or policy for either a genocide or crimes against humanity in East Timor.
"There was no planning process or policy to do things that can be classified as genocide or crimes against humanity," Wiranto told journalists after answering questions from the state-backed Commission of Human Rights Abuses in East Timor (KPP HAM).
Wiranto said the institution of the Indonesian armed forces "has never issued the order, even more so to encourage, the burning of cities, the killing of people or to force evacuations."
KPP HAM has summoned Wiranto, as well as five other generals and several top pro-Indonesia militia leaders to answer questions over their "knowledge and involvement" in the September mayhem that followed the announcement of the pro-independence ballot in East Timor.
The militias, which the United Nations, the KPP HAM and other observers have said were backed by elements of the Indonesian army, devastated the territory and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.
Wiranto was accompanied by three lawyers and former justice minister Muladi (eds: one name), who coordinates the defence team for the armed forces over East Timor.
"This is not an arena where a suspect is interrogated," he said of the nearly three hours of questioning.
"This is a process of giving information to the KPP HAM, to deflect accusations by several sides that there were war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in East Timor."
Wiranto, coordinating minister for security and political affairs in the cabinet of President Abdurrahman Wahid, was military commander during the violence in East Timor.
He was questioned by KPP HAM members Todung Mulya Lubis, Nursyahbani Kacasungkana, Munir (Eds: one name) and Asmara Nababan, commission chairman Albert Hasibuan said.
Nababan said the information obtained from Wiranto "has answered our questions."
But he added the general's statements would be cross-checked with those from other military officers.
KPP HAM member Kusparmono Irsan said the commission's qestionning of military officers has so far yielded little.
"Our investigation is stagnating, we are not moving forward or backward," Irsan said after questioning a former intelligence head of a district military command in East Timor earlier Friday.
The body also questioned a former military commander before Wiranto.
Indonesia has objected to the setting up of a UN rights inquiry into the East Timor violence, saying it is capable of investigating allegations of atrocities and human rights abuses itself, and that it will not be bound by the UN findings.
The UN panel is to report to Secretary General Kofi Annan before December 31 to enable him to decide on the follow up, including whether an international war crimes tribunal is needed.
Associated Press December 24, 1999
Indonesian General Denies War Crimes
By IRWAN FIRDAUS
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Determined to clear his name as allegations of war crimes swirl around him, Indonesia's former military chief denied that army commanders had instigated the destruction of East Timor after it voted for independence.
Gen. Wiranto testified today before a government-appointed panel investigating human rights abuses in East Timor, where three months ago anti-independence militiamen went on a rampage reportedly with the army's backing.
``There was absolutely no such policy or planning process by (army) leaders,'' Wiranto told journalists after testifying.
``There are no grounds for accusations about killings, burnings, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity,'' said the general, who is now a senior minister in the cabinet of Indonesia's new President Abdurrahman Wahid.
The war crimes issue has become a thorny problem for the government, which is trying to avoid provoking its politically powerful generals. Indonesian and U.N. investigators, however, say they have ample evidence implicating Wiranto and other top commanders in the violence.
Members of Indonesia's Investigative Commission for Human Rights Abuses in East Timor said in an interim finding that army generals - including Wiranto - should be held accountable because they knew violence was taking place but failed to stop it.
A separate U.N. team probing atrocities in East Timor recommended on Wednesday that the Security Council establish an international war crimes tribunal - similar to those for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia - to try the generals unless Jakarta acts quickly to bring them to justice.
But Wahid, who assumed office in October, has insisted he would not allow the men to appear before an international tribunal. Instead, he has said that Indonesia's judicial system would try those responsible for atrocities in East Timor.
Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it the following year. On Aug. 30, the East Timorese voted for independence in a U.N.-sponsored referendum.
Days later, pro-Indonesian militia gangs went on a rampage, killing residents, burning and looting houses and driving hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
In their report, U.N. investigators accused Indonesian troops of supporting the militias, as well as participating in the destruction, which only stopped after international peacekeepers arrived on Sept. 20.
Wiranto, however, blamed the violence on groups ``dissatisfied'' by the outcome of the ballot.
``The burning occurred after the referendum because there were some factions who lost,'' he said after the two-hour hearing. ``They became emotional and disappointed and reacted with destruction.''
The U.N. chief in the territory, Sergio Vieira de Mello, said an East Timorese criminal court would be set up to investigate killings during the rampage.
International forensic experts will arrive in January to help in investigations of mass graves, he said. Some 230 bodies have been found across the territory, since international peacekeepers arrived.
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