Subject: ABC: Retrials may be needed in East Timor


ABC Retrials may be needed in East Timor

East Timor's court system could take months to clear a backlog of cases relating to the bloodshed before and after the United Nations-backed ballot for independence in 1999.

The landslide vote to break away from 24 years of Indonesian rule unleashed a wave of killing and destruction by gangs of pro-Jakarta militia which were backed by elements of the Indonesian military.

East Timor's Special Panel for Serious Crimes has had to suspend all trials since the departure of two foreign judges in April.

Under United Nations law the panel must have two international judges to operate, and the vacancies have been filled only this week.

An international monitoring group, the Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP), says some cases had been running for two years and will have to begin again.

The Court of Appeal meanwhile has been unable to sit since November 2001, creating a backlog of about 60 cases.

Bu Wilson, the Director of JSMP says priority must be given to those cases where suspects have already been convicted.

"The ones that are of particular concern to us are the ones where people have been sentenced and jailed, and have lodged appeals, but it's not been possible for those appeals to be heard." he says.

04/06/2003 20:14:25 | ABC Radio Australia News

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