Subject: Kontras Wants New Probe into Timor Abuses

The Jakarta Post Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Kontras Wants New Probe into Timor Abuses

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Commission of Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KONTRAS) has urged the government to follow up the United Nations' recommendations to reinvestigate the 1999 bloodshed in East Timor and to bring the case to the international rights tribunal.

Coordinator of the human rights group Usman Hamid said on Monday that the government had never taken a clear stance on the recommendations, although it received the report from the UN's Commission of Experts last June.

"The Indonesian government should not perceive the report as a form of intervention or pressure upon the country's court system," Usman said as quoted by Antara.

To put it more objectively, he added, the Commission of Experts had not abruptly urged the government to bring the case to the international tribunal.

The commission has instead provided an opportunity for the government to reopen the case, particularly the charge against then Indonesian Military commander Gen. (ret.) Wiranto, who is allegedly responsible for the tragedy.

"There's nothing to be afraid of. The case's reopening must be perceived as an opportunity to restore the national legal system and mechanism, so that the East Timor case and other similar cases can be resolved fairly," Usman said.

In a clearly orchestrated violence that accompanied the vote for independence in East Timor that ended Indonesia's 24-year occupation, pro-Indonesia militia, with the alleged support of military forces, killed over a thousand of people.

About half of East Timor's 700,000 population were forced to flee during the bloodshed, which only ended with the arrival of foreign peacekeeping troops.

Reacting to international pressure, Indonesian courts charged 18 people, mostly police and military officers. Twelve people were acquitted, and five others had their sentences overturned on appeal. An appeal in the final case against a senior pro-Indonesia militiaman is still pending.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed the three-member Commission of Experts to review the prosecutions and explain why a 1999 Security Council resolution to try those responsible for the bloodshed failed.

In its report, the three experts from India, Japan and Fiji, said that the Indonesian ad hoc human rights tribunal did not meet and did not respect the international standard.

The experts thus recommended that the UN secretary-general ask the Indonesian government to file a law suit within six months. Otherwise, the government would be instructed to allow the international tribunal to process the case.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Yuri O. Thamrin earlier said the Indonesian government had a clear stance on resolving the East Timor case and was certain that reconciliation was the best approach.

The situation has been complicated by East Timor President Xanana Gusmao's statement that the country is no longer interested in pursuing war crimes cases against the Indonesian generals, saying it is more interested in improving ties with Indonesia.

The two countries set up a Commission of Truth and Friendship in March. Consisting of lawyers and human rights figures from both countries, it will issue a report describing the cause of the bloodshed, but will not recommend legal action against those responsible.

Human rights groups, however, want the United Nations to oversee an international tribunal like those in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Usman said that while reconciliation is needed, it is not enough in resolving severe cases of human rights violation.

"It's a matter of responsibility and giving justice to the victims. Besides, despite President Gusmao's statement, the majority of legislators in East Timor have demanded legal action against those responsible," he said.

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