Subject: FT: Pro-Jakarta militia leader, Eurico Guterres, begins sentence

Financial Times

Pro-Jakarta militia leader begins sentence

By Shawn Donnan in Jakarta

May 4 2006 15:25

A former pro-Jakarta militia leader on Thursday began serving a 10-year jail sentence in connection with the 1999 violence in East Timor as the United Nations Security Council prepared to discuss on Friday extending the mandate of a UN mission to the world’s newest nation.

Eurico Guterres, former head of the Aitarak, or “Thorn”, militia, is the first Indonesian to be sent to prison over the deaths of some 1,500 people. Of the 18 people tried by a special Jakarta court, he is the only one to have had his conviction upheld on appeal.

Mr Guterres’ tardy imprisonment ­ he was convicted in 2002 and has been free on appeal since then ­ is seen by many as a symptom of Indonesia’s continuing reluctance to punish anyone for crimes committed in East Timor.

His jailing appears to be timed to coincide with Friday’s UN Security Council meeting. Although it is expected to focus on renewing the mandate for the UN support mission in East Timor, the subject dubbed by the Council as “credible accountability” for the 1999 violence in East Timor is also likely to be raised.

Many Indonesians still bemoan the “loss” of the former Portuguese colony and Jakarta has refused to hand over senior military officers indicted by prosecutors investigating the violence as part of a now-dissolved UN team.

“The one issue that has consistently provoked a nationalist uproar in Indonesia is accountability for past human rights violations,” analysts for the International Crisis Group, a think-tank, write in a new report on East Timor’s relations with Indonesia.

Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono abruptly cancelled a meeting with his Timorese counterpart, Xanana Gusmao, after the former rebel leader earlier this year flew to New York to submit a 2,500-page report detailing Indonesian atrocities to the UN.

Jakarta has also bristled at international criticism of the ad-hoc court it set up to try Mr Guterres and 17 others on human rights charges, although the process is widely considered to have been a sham.

Most diplomats agree that despite persistent calls from rights groups there is little likelihood of the UN establishing a special tribunal for East Timor. But there are signs of another plan in the works.

In a report to the Security Council last month, Kofi Annan,secretary-general, said he would “soon” submit a proposal to the council “with a practically feasible approach” to securing justice for what happened in East Timor.

Friday’s discussion at the UN will also come at a time when East Timor, which now ranks as one of the world’s smallest and poorest countries, is facing a political crisis.

Riots that erupted a week ago during a demonstration by former members of the Timorese armed forces left four people dead and caused more than 10,000 people to flee their homes in the capital.

Additional reporting by Taufan Hidayat

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