|Subject: SMH/E.Timor: 'Time has come for
international court': Ian Martin
Sydney Monring Herald August 17, 2002
'Time has come for international court'
By Matthew Moore
The man who ran the United Nations mission that oversaw East Timor's referendum has branded the trials of alleged Indonesian war criminals a complete failure and said it was time for the UN to set up its own tribunal to investigate atrocities before and after the 1999 vote.
Mr Ian Martin, the former head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), called on the international community to act even though Indonesia's special human rights court has decided only three of 18 matters before it.
He said the court's decision on Thursday to acquit four Indonesian army officers and a policeman of one of the worst massacres - the slaughter of between 27 and 200 people in a church in the hill town of Suai - demonstrated the whole process established by the Indonesian Government was a failure.
"The acquittals ... are particularly disturbing because they are the biggest single mass killing, and if anything could have been prosecuted it would have been them ... The evidence was very clear and very available."
He said that in 1999 the then US secretary of state, Madeline Albright, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, agreed "there should be an international tribunal if Indonesia proved incapable of having proper trials".
That point had now been reached, he said.
"I think the issue is now right back on the agenda as to how the international community will fulfil its commitments."
Mr Martin said the cases mounted by the prosecution were hopelessly inadequate.
Military innocent: UN to blame for Timor atrocities
By Matthew Moore, Herald Correspondent in Jakarta
As he stood in the courtroom and hugged his wife on hearing his not guilty verdict, a hand reached out to Brigadier General Timbul Silaen.
It belonged to an Indonesian press photographer who had got his picture and wanted to join the throng of police and family to personally congratulate the man who had just beaten war crimes charges.
His was a personal gesture, but it might easily have been on behalf of his nation.
Three years after the bloody referendum that saw East Timor vote overwhelmingly for independence, the widespread view in Indonesia of what happened in Timor, and who is to blame, remains at odds with the rest of the world, at odds with all the credible published accounts from the time, and at odds with the opinions of the international agencies that were in East Timor monitoring the 1999 vote.
There are mounds of evidence that show Indonesian security forces committed and helped organise the widespread, systematic atrocities before and after the vote that the United Nations reckons left at least 1000 people dead.
Yet Timbul Silaen, the man who, with 8000 armed officers under him, had direct responsibility for maintaining security in East Timor, has been found not guilty. His judges in Indonesia's specially formed human rights court concluded there was no evidence before them linking him to the systematic killings and torture.
Two hours later another panel of judges in the same court reached the same conclusion about four army officers and a policeman for their role in the massacre that took place in a church at the hill-top town of Suai, in East Timor's south-west.
They were accused of acting with "pro-integration groups" to commit human rights violations and of "failing to restrain forces under their authority". At least 27 people, including three priests, were hacked and shot to death. Many estimates put the toll in the church at more than 100.
Indonesia's human rights tribunal has this week handed down decisions in the first three of 18 cases. All accused were found not guilty except for one, the only Timorese-born defendant among the seven, the former governor of East Timor, Abilio Soares. He became the first person to be convicted of war crimes for the East Timor massacres for his failure to control his subordinates, though the reasons why he was convicted are not clear as no judgements have yet been published.
Soares was sentenced to just three years prison - less than a third of the 10-year sentence sought by the prosecution as the minimum applicable under the law for war crimes.
Explaining their reasons for slashing the minimum in this first war crimes case, the judges gave an insight into their thinking, which reflects a wider view in Indonesia. They singled out the "deceitful" behaviour of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) which, they said, was in part to blame for the massacres, along with the "arrogance" of the pro-independence supporters.
Their observations angered the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, who issued a blunt criticism of the trial process, but it is the view heard on the streets.
Despite the near 80 per cent vote for independence, many Indonesians still believe the East Timorese wanted to remain part of Indonesia. And they also believe the massacres before and after the ballot were caused by fights between pro and anti-independence groups in East Timor, not by their own security forces manipulating militias.
No-one is much interested in the evidence to the contrary, certainly not the prosecution lawyers. Indeed, their cases have been so limp, with a paucity of credible witnesses or other evidence, that acquittals were widely anticipated.
"By all rights, given the weakness of the case against Silaen, he should probably be acquitted," predicted Sidney Jones, of the human rights body International Crisis Group, just before the judgement.
These trials were supposed to provide a forum that would reveal to Indonesians compelling evidence of what really happened in East Timor and begin the process of making their armed forces accountable in other areas where they have been guilty of gross human rights violations.
Instead, said Mr Jones, the court testimony has been "like a broken record stuck on all the sins of UNAMET ... how they manipulated the result, how they hired pro-independence staff, how they hid ballot boxes, how they tried to disarm pro-integration forces".
Indonesia set up its human rights court to avoid the UN establishing its own tribunals.
Prosecuting these crimes is an important step for Indonesia and its international standing as it continues to become a more transparent and accountable democracy.
The United States is watching these trials to judge whether to resume military co-operation, which was suspended after the East Timor atrocities. The way things are looking, there is little prospect of that.
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