Subject: AFP: Former East Timor army chief accused of post-referendum rights abuses

Agence France-Presse July 24, 2002

Former East Timor army chief accused of post-referendum rights abuses

A senior Indonesian military officer was accused of ignoring massacres of at least 39 civilians by army-backed pro-Jakarta militias following East Timor's vote for independence in August 1999.

Prosecutors in Indonesia's human rights court said Wednesday Colonel Nur Muis, as East Timor's military chief between August 1999 and March 2000, failed to stop militias and their army supporters from killing civilians seeking refuge in the Dili diocese, the home of East Timor's bishop and a church in September 1999.

Muis is the last of 18 soldiers, policemen and civilians to be brought before the court for crimes against humanity in the territory. No verdicts have yet been given.

The attack on the Dili diocese left at least three people dead while that on the residence of Nobel peace laureate Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo claimed 10 lives or more, said the indictment.

At least 26 people, including three priests, were killed in the attack on the Hail Mary church at Suai, it said.

All the three places were filled with pro-independence East Timorese fleeing the violence.

The militia attacks came a few days after it was announced that almost 80 percent of East Timorese had voted for independence from Indonesia in a vote sponsored by the United Nations.

"Nur Muis as a military commander can be held responsible for crimes committed by forces under his effective command and control ... because those crimes stemmed from his failure to exercise appropriate control," the indictment said.

Prosecutors said Muis, 49, declined Belo's request for trucks to transport refugees from East Timor's capital Dili to Baucau district.

"We have no vehicles," the indictment quoted Muis as having told Belo.

His trial was adjourned until August 7. Muis' predecessor, Brigadier General Tono Suratman, is also on trial for abuses before the independence vote.

The militias, created and supported by Indonesian military elements, waged a campaign of intimidation before the vote for independence and revenge afterwards.

At least 1,000 East Timorese are estimated to have died and whole towns were burnt to the ground.

Indonesia set up the court to deflect pressure for a UN tribunal into the violence. The trials are being closely watched by the world for proof that Jakarta will punish those behind the violence.


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