|Subject: Chance still exists to bring Indon
military officers to justice: UNHCR
The Jakarta Post April 22, 2003
Chance still exists to bring military officers to justice
Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Despite the decision of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) to drop from its agenda human rights abuses in East Timor, the opportunity to reopen the rights cases, which have implicated a number of Indonesian Army generals, is still available, a noted lawyer has said.
Luhut Pangaribuan said that the decision did not mean that Indonesia could not bring the Army generals to justice "but we do need pressure from the international community to do so."
He added that country members of UNHCHR might possibly file a petition to reopen the case.
"The decision has only lessened international support -- which, of course, is badly needed to pursue the rights abuse cases -- but indeed it does not close the door on Indonesia, East Timor or the international community to pursue it," Luhut told The Jakarta Post, when asked to comment on the UNHCHR decision.
UNHCHR decided on April 17 to drop from its agenda human rights violations before and after the self-determination ballot on Aug. 30, 1999 in East Timor, following a tripartite meeting between Indonesia and East Timor under UNHCHR auspices.
Several former East Timor military and administration officials have been given jail sentences over their failure to prevent mass killings during that period but they were not obliged to serve their jail sentences. Several others were acquitted of charges made against them. Even former Indonesian Military commander Gen. (ret) Wiranto, held responsible for the military operation in the country's former territory, escaped prosecution by the human rights tribunal.
The tribunal has sparked criticism, both at home and abroad, as it was thought to have failed to bring to justice all those considered responsible for human rights abuses.
Maj. Gen. Zacky Anwar Makarim, Lt. Gen. (ret) Kiki Syahnakri, Maj. Gen. Adam Rachmat Damiri, Brig. Gen. Suhartono Suratman and Brig. Gen. Mohammad Noer Muis were among high-ranking military officials indicted for gross human rights violations.
"We see that the government is not serious in handling the human rights cases because (President) Megawati (Soekarnoputri) has shown a lack of concern over the issue.
"Should the regime change, her successor will likely adopt a different policy, to bring all the generals, including Wiranto, to stand trial," he said.
Todung Mulya Lubis concurred, but regretted the UNHCHR decision, which, he said, indirectly implied impunity for those acquitted of charges and not indicted.
"I regret the decision, but we have to continue the legal processing to seek justice for the sake of humanity because none of this country's citizen is above the law," Todung told the Post.
Chairman of the rights monitoring commission at the National Commission on Human Rights M.M. Billah agreed with Todung, saying that human rights abuses had to be handled properly and fairly with regard to the dignity of the East Timorese people.
The East Timor government, under President Alexandre Xanana Gusmao, has been trying to put behind it the issue of human rights abuses in its attempts to develop and forge better bilateral ties in all fields with its neighbor, Indonesia.
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