|Subject: JP: 'Ignoring UNTAET writ will
tarnish Indonesia's image' : Indon rights activ
The Jakarta Post February 20, 2002
'Ignoring UNTAET writ will tarnish RI's image'
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The Indonesian government had a moral obligation to surrender 17 military men and former militiamen to the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), which had indicted them for alleged crimes against humanity in 1999, claimed a noted lawyer.
Rights activist and lawyer Johnson Panjaitan said here that the government's failure to support the extradition of the people would further damage Indonesia's image in the international community.
Johnson, who was the lawyer for East Timor independence leader Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao, acknowledged that the Indonesian government did not have an extradition treaty with East Timor.
"But, at least, the government has a moral responsibility to surrender the 17 people to UNTAET. To some extent the government is held accountable for the mayhem in East Timor," said Johnson, the secretary general of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI).
The government has dismissed any possibility of extraditing the suspects, who include prominent pro-Jakarta militia leader Eurico Guterres, to Dili, saying that any Indonesian charged with crimes in the country's former province must be prosecuted under Indonesian law.
However, Johnson suggested that the government take into account the fact that the international community had lost its confidence in Indonesia's commitment to prosecute those implicated in the human rights violations in East Timor.
Indonesia has recently been criticized for its sluggish efforts in processing the human rights trial of military officers and civilians who were allegedly involved in various crimes against humanity following a UN-administered popular consultation in 1999 that resulted in East Timor's move toward full independence.
Johnson said Indonesia risked facing an international tribunal unless it cooperated with UNTAET.
"Should the Indonesian government reject the warrants by UNTAET, the international community will regard the country as a haven for suspected human rights criminals," Johnson said.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian authorities remained adamant on Tuesday that the suspects would not be handed over to UNTAET.
The director for political affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Marty Natalegawa said that the United Nations, which represents the international community, had supported Indonesian sovereignty to prosecute the human rights violation cases in East Timor under Indonesian law.
Marty was referring to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's statement during his visit to Indonesia in January 2000, on his support for the government's determination to investigate crimes against humanity in East Timor and to bring those involved to a human rights court.
Separately, Maj. Gen. Sudrajat, the director general of defense strategy at the Ministry of Defense, supported the government's stance on the issue.
He said the military would reject the extradition of the 17 suspects to UNTAET.
"The military will respect any legal proceedings conducted by UNTAET as long as they does not offend the dignity of Indonesian people, as well as the country's sovereignty," he countered.
The complete list of the 17 names could not be immediately obtained.
Siri Frigaard, the UN deputy prosecutor general in East Timor, said that international arrest warrants would be sought from Interpol for the 17 men accused.
TIMOR: UN increases pressure on Jakarta for suspects handover
An agreement between the United Nations and Indonesia to pursue those responsible for the gross abuse of human rights in East Timor appears close to collapse. Under a memorandum of understanding signed two years ago, the two parties agreed to assist one other with criminal investigations and court proceedings. But Jakarta has ignored repeated requests to hand-over suspects who fled to Indonesia after post referendum violence in East Timor in September 1999. The UN will now hand its list of suspects to the international policing body Interpol.
FITZGERALD: United Nations prosecutors in East Timor have just charged another 17 people of committing violent crimes in the wake of the independence referendum.
The UN's deputy chief of mission in East Timor, Dennis McNamara says the latest indictments include charges against the notorious Aitarak militia leader Eurico Guterras, who is now an active member of the party of Indonesia's President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
MCNAMARA: And the charges are claims against humanity which means as I say murder, rape, violence, torture, multiple charges with allegations of a systematic process making it a crime against humanity rather than just symbol murders.
FITZGERALD: Indictments have also been issued for the leaders of the Besi Merah Putih militia and for several members of the Indonesian military.
The stand accused of carrying out a reign of terror in the capital Dili, including an attack on the home of independence leader Manuel Carrascalao.
Manuel's 19 year-old son Manuelito was hacked to death in the attack and 11 refugees sheltering at his home were slaughtered.
The new charges have thrown light on the failure of the co-operation agreement between Dili and Jakarta. Under the agreement Indonesian authorities were to have assisted UN prosecuters getting access to suspects for questioning.
MCNAMARA: We have an agreement that they would co-operate with us and under that agreement we are sending the indictments for those who are in Indonesia to the attorney-general's office in Jakarta as we informed him last week when we were there we informed his office. And we will ask their usual co-operation and we'll also request a transfer for the deal for trial but that will be up to the Indonesian authorities. There is no extradition agreement yet.
FITZGERALD: And there lies the problem. So far Jakarta has failed to turn any suspects over to the UN in East Timor for questioning. Officials from the Indonesian Attorney General's Department had in the past however promised the UN efforts would be made to round up the suspects.
This week however The Jakarta Post newspaper has quoted senior Indonesian officials as announcing there will be no handovers to the UN because there is no extradition treaty. Frustrated by the lack of action Dennis McNamara says the UN is approaching Interpol to issue international arrest warrants which would become active if any of the suspects attempted to travel outside Indonesia.
McNAMARA: We'll also send the indictments to Interpol and once they have accepted and we have become a member or observer of Interpol, we will ask them for these arrest warrants to be registered internationally which means that all countries should be obliged to execute them, to carry them out if the people appear.
FITZGERALD: There are other sings that President Megawati Sukarnoputri's government has little intention of bringing human rights abusers within its military and former militias to justice. For example the recent promotion of the former commanding chief of Jakarta, Major-General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin to the influential position of military spokesperson.
The general has a controversial record as Jakarta's military commander in 1998 when four protesting students were killed sparking street protests. He is also remembered as failing to control rioting mobs who raped and looted Chinese women and their families in the same year. Mr Pauvam of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association says his group has lodged an official protest about the general's appointment.
PAUVAM: Sjamsoeddin is one of the suspects of the the human rights violation during May 1998, during the massacre in Jakarta. During the massacre Sjamsoeddin was the chief of commander in Jakarta.
FITZGERALD: Human rights groups are also criticising Indonesia's new ad-hoc human rights courts which are about to start trying some local and East Timorese human rights cases. Mr Pauvam says the Human Rights courts will be ineffective because prosecutors appointed to them are either serving military officers or they have been selected from the prosecuters office which in the past has been linked with corruption.
PAUVAM: Two prosecutors come from the military institution. It's a small number but it is the violator of the principle of the human rights, especially the independence of the judiciary. We demand that the government choose a prosecutor who is a civilian and not from the prosecutor's office.
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