Subject: AP: Powell Nudges Indonesia on Human Rights
Powell Nudges Indonesia on Human Rights
By BARRY SCHWEID
WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (AP) - Secretary of State Colin Powell reached out to Indonesia on Wednesday to accelerate the pace of dealing with human rights violations committed during 1999 violence in East Timor that killed 1,500 people.
After Powell met in his office with Foreign Ministers Hassan Wirajuda of Indonesia and Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor, a senior U.S. official registered dissatisfaction with how Indonesia was proceeding.
The prosecutions have not led to anything in the way of results even though they were undertaken in the best spirit, the official said on condition he could not be identified.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday announced creation of a Commission on Truth and Friendship and met privately with the two ministers in New York.
``This is an initiative that we believe is highly positive and will shed truth on the events of the past,'' Ramos-Horta said,
The announcement came a month after the U.N. Security Council expressed concern with Indonesia's failure to punish those responsible for the violence that followed East Timor's vote for independence.
Immediately after the results were announced, the Indonesian military and its proxy militias unleashed a wave of violence that displaced 300,000 people. After an Australian-led force helped end the fighting, the United Nations administered the territory for 2 1/2 years before handing it to the Timorese on May 20, 2002.
Powell and the two foreign ministers made no statement after their meeting on Wednesday. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the aim was ``to follow up and make sure that we find the truth and reach closure on the crimes against humanity that occurred in 1999.''
Powell is pleased with the new Indonesian government, which took over early in the year, and it is considered a democracy, Boucher said.
But Boucher also recalled the State Department in the past expressed its hopes that judicial proceedings in Indonesia ``would result in concrete results and necessary accountability for the crimes that occurred.''
Annan, meanwhile plans to send a commission to the two countries to evaluate the process.
Boucher said Powell's meeting with the ministers centered on coordinating Annan's commission with a joint commission established by Indonesia and East Timor.
``We'll work with the U.N. and we``ll work with them to ensure the coordination and make sure that both of these processes can contribute to finding the truth,'' the spokesman said.
A court in Indonesia has charged 18 people, most of them police and military, with human rights crimes. A dozen were acquitted, four had their sentences overturned on appeal and the two others have appeals pending.
Al LaPorta, president of the private U.S.-Indonesia Society, said the issue of accountability for past wrongs in Timor is at best a difficult, complex and possibly flawed process.
``There are good arguments for judicial accountability on both sides,'' the former foreign service officer said. ``But based on recent research and examination, the capacity of the Indonesian judicial system is, at best, uneven.
``While it has been alleged there has been pressure and influence brought to bear on the Indonesian judiciary, there also are very legitimate concerns about the lack of capacity in dealing with international legal and criminal matters,'' LaPorta said in an interview.
U.S. wants U.N. to carry out East Timor probe
WASHINGTON, Dec 22 (Reuters) - U.S. officials do not want a planned Indonesian-East Timorese commission on 1999 violence in East Timor to supplant U.N. efforts to determine if justice has since been done, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.
Indonesian gangs supported by elements in the Indonesian army killed about 1,000 East Timorese during a 1999 rampage triggered by a referendum in which East Timor voted to break free from Jakarta after 24 years of brutal military rule.
Few people have since been held accountable.
An Indonesian special human rights court convicted six of 18 Indonesian military and police officers charged in connection with the violence, but five convictions were later overturned and an appeal of the sixth is pending.
Indonesia and East Timor announced plans on Tuesday to create a joint Commission on Truth and Friendship in the hopes of heading off a possible U.N. review to decide whether justice was done after the violence.
"We don't think that (the joint commission) can be the sole vehicle," a senior State Department official, who asked not to be named, told reporters.
"They haven't really led to anything. They perhaps were undertaken in the right spirit but they haven't led to much in the way of results," the official said of Indonesian efforts to bring those responsible to justice.
Mainly Catholic East Timor became independent in May 2002 after 2-1/2 years of U.N. administration, closing the book on centuries of Portuguese colonial rule and its later occupation by Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met the Indonesian and East Timorese foreign ministers on Wednesday to discuss ways of coordinating the work of the proposed joint commission with the U.N. effort under consideration by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
After the talks with Indonesia's Hassan Wirajuda and East Timor's Jose Ramos-Horta, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there was a danger the joint panel may undercut a U.N. probe but Washington hoped the work could be coordinated.
"Both initiatives are valuable," he told reporters. "Our view is that working it together with the U.N. and with them we can coordinate these things."
Indonesia, UN Should Integrate East Timor Probe, U.S. Govt Says
Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Indonesia and the United Nations should coordinate their investigations into crimes against humanity that occurred when East Timor began moves toward independence in 1999, the U.S. State Department said.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the work of a joint Indonesian-East Timor commission and a UN inquiry during a meeting yesterday in Washington with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda and Jose Ramos-Horta, his East Timorese counterpart, the State Department said.
``We certainly think both initiatives are valuable,'' State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, according to an e- mailed transcript. ``We need to coordinate their efforts.''
East Timor, a country of about 1 million people, voted for independence in a 1999 referendum, after which Indonesian army- backed militias destroyed about 70 percent of local property, killed more than 1,000 people and forced 250,000 to flee to West Timor province. Indonesia invaded formerly Portuguese East Timor in 1975, starting a 24-year occupation.
East Timor was administered by the UN after the vote and became independent in May 2002.
The U.S. will work with the UN and the joint commission ``to ensure the coordination and make sure that both of these processes can contribute to finding the truth and reaching closure,'' Boucher said.
Wirayuda and Ramos-Horta announced the creation of the joint Truth and Friendship Commission two days ago at the UN in New York. How the commission will operate still has to be determined, the ministers said.
``This is an initiative that we believe is highly positive and will shed truth on the events of the past,'' Ramos-Horta said at the time, according to the UN's Web site. ``We seek support from the international community in some form of expertise to assist this commission.''
The joint panel is ``meant as an alternative to the idea of establishing a commission of experts'' by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Agence France-Presse cited Wirayuda as saying during his visit to the UN.
The U.S. in August criticized the performance of an Indonesian tribunal reviewing cases of people convicted of human rights abuses after two former military officials and two former police officers were acquitted on appeal.
``We've expressed our views in the past about some of the judicial proceedings in Indonesia and our hopes that those would, in fact, result in concrete results and necessary accountability for the crimes that occurred,'' Boucher said.
Annan last month recommended a six-month extension for the UN Mission of Support in East Timor, saying the country, also known as Timor-Leste, hasn't yet achieved the level of self- sufficiency needed in areas such as public administration.
To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Tighe in Sydney or at email@example.com
Last Updated: December 22, 2004 18:16 EST
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