|Subject: SCMP: Justice a casualty
Received from Joyo Indonesia News
South China Morning Post August 15, 2002
Justice a casualty in fight for redress
Reconciliation between East Timor and Indonesia has become a tussle of diplomacy versus justice - and it seems clear the latter will lose.
That will be a tragedy for East Timor's people, who long for retribution for 24 years of often brutal Indonesian occupation. They want a Yugoslavia- or Rwanda-style international tribunal to bring to trial the generals behind military and militia abuses that left hundreds dead in an orgy of massacres, disappearances and rapes.
It is the last thing East Timor's President, Xanana Gusmao, and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta want. They have publicly said that reconciliation with their giant neighbour will come not from the judicial process but by building strong diplomatic and economic relations.
Despite the official denial, activists like Jovito Araugo, a Catholic priest who is vice-chairman of East Timor's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Benevides Correia Barros, a lawyer who was a key agitator for independence, are optimistic that a United Nations-sponsored tribunal will be set up.
The commission is working on a report detailing the abuses committed by Indonesia's military from its invasion in 1975 to 1999, when East Timorese voted for independence. Father Jovito said yesterday it would be completed in 2004.
"The most important thing we can do is find out the facts, write them down and give them to the appropriate people to consider - the government, the international community and the United Nations," he said in Dili.
He said the tribunal under way in Jakarta was not trying the appropriate people - the generals who ordered the military to commit abuses. These same
men were behind human rights violations in the Indonesian provinces of Aceh and Irian Jaya and an international tribunal was the best way for them to be brought to justice.
Mr Correia Barros was adamant that the only way normalisation with Indonesia could be achieved was through a tribunal. The perpetrators of what he called "crime against humanity" had to face judges.
He said it was best to concentrate on what took place in 1999. Militias backed by the Indonesian military had run amok, killing civilians and destroying buildings to intimidate East Timorese not to vote for independence.
"The military was the mastermind in this incident," Mr Correia Barros said. "It should be held accountable."
But human rights workers in Indonesia said a tribunal was out of the question. It was a matter for the UN Security Council and China, the United States and Russia were not in favour and would use their powers of veto.
"Gusmao and Ramos Horta are bending over backwards to say that the process in Indonesia is satisfactory and that an international tribunal is not a priority," one said. "If the East Timorese leadership is not interested, you're certainly not going to get any support from outside."
Activist derides trial 'theatre'
Abilio Soares' light sentence finally proves that Indonesia's human rights trials related to East Timor are just a ploy to satisfy the international community, a top Indonesian rights activist said yesterday. Munarman described the trials as "camouflage" and said the aim was merely to put a stop to international pressure on the East Timor issue. Comparing the trials to theatre, Mr Munarman said they had clearly been designed to ensure that the accused got off lightly. However, he said the questionable sentence handed down to the former governor posed other questions for the future of Indonesia's legal system.
Although Soares was only jailed for three years, the 2000 law on human rights trials specifies a minimum sentence of 10 years for such cases.
"By giving a sentence which is under 10 years, this is going to damage the Indonesian legal system," said Mr Munarman, head of the civil rights division at the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation. "We would have been better if from the start the court had freed him. It was weakness by the prosecution. From the start this court was not prepared seriously."
The judges justified their ruling on the grounds that they were not restricted purely to considering the actual texts of laws. They gave a long recitation of precedents from various international covenants on human rights to justify their action.
However, Mr Munarman said such arguments were only admissible when considering the validity of evidence, not in determining a verdict and sentence.
The evidence presented in court was overwhelmingly from the pro-autonomy side. Arrangements were never properly put in place, Mr Munarman said, for witnesses for the pro-independence side to be brought from East Timor.
"How to bring the witnesses was never arranged. It was designed so that they could not attend, so the evidence would be less heavy against the accused," he said.
>From the start the specially appointed judges have been criticised as inexperienced, while international critics have seen a behind-the-scenes plot to save figures higher up in the chain of command and rescue Indonesia's international image.