Subject: Timor rights tribunal should be ready in September: judge

Timor rights tribunal should be ready in September: judge

JAKARTA, Aug 2 (AFP) - Indonesian judges should next month start trying suspects over human rights violations in East Timor in 1999, a senior judge said Thursday.

Chief Justice Benyamin Mangkudilaga, who heads the preparation team for the rights tribunal, said judges should begin trying the first case in September.

"We have found 35 judges from across the country who are qualified to be human rights judges in Indonesia," Mangkudilaga told AFP.

The first trial would be held in Jakarta, he said.

Indonesian prosecutors have named 23 suspects -- one of whom was subsequently killed -- as being behind the wave of military-backed militia violence sparked by East Timor's vote for independence.

A UN report has said the violence killed at least 2,000 people and razed towns and infrastructure, forcing some 250,000 people across the border into Indonesian-ruled West Timor.

The military and the militiamen led a campaign of murder, rape and destruction across the territory in the months before and after the August 1999 independence ballot.

The dossiers on the 23 suspects -- former government officials, East Timorese militiamen and military personnel -- would be handed over to the human rights tribunal by the Attorney General's office, Mangkudilaga said.

"We just need to find the chief ad hoc judge," said Mangkudilaga, who was named to head the team after his predecessor, Syaifuddin Kartasasmita, was killed in a drive-by shooting last month.

Jakarta claimed possession of East Timor after its troops invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975. The fledgling state is currently under UN administration and preparing to become self-governing after elections on August 30.

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