Subject: US says Jakarta must deal with past rights abuses

US says Jakarta must deal with past rights abuses

By Tomi Soetjipto

JAKARTA, Nov 21 (Reuters) - The United States urged Indonesia on Sunday to ensure those guilty of past rights abuses were brought to justice to help the country on its path to democracy.

Washington's ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, called on all sides in Indonesian politics to support the state human rights commission's efforts to uncover past abuses.

``The human rights commission has put forward some proposals... which are not being fully supported by everyone else in the political system,'' Holbrooke told reporters.

``You cannot deal with the future unless you come to terms with the past,'' Holbrooke told reporters at the end of a brief visit to Jakarta during which he met new President Abdurrahman Wahid and other leaders.

``We would hope, again without interfering the internal affairs of a great nation,... that the Indonesian parliament will move to put into place a system of full accountability.''

The human rights commission wants to establish a special body modelled on South Africa's truth and reconciliation commission, to investigate past abuses to help victims come to terms with their suffering and to prevent fresh abuse.

But some political powers oppose such a move, fearful of what might be uncovered.

Former president Suharto, who fell from power in mid-1998 amid economic and social chaos, has been accused of overseeing widespread human rights abuses by the military and other state agencies during his autocratic 32-year rule.

Pro-democracy activists are demanding investigations and trials over abuses committed under Suharto and over the past two years during which thousands have died in ethnic and religious fighting. Some victims were killed by police or soldiers.

A separate United Nations investigation is underway into allegations of abuses in East Timor by pro-Jakarta militias and Indonesian security forces after the territory voted in August to split from Indonesia after more than 23 years of often brutal rule.

There is still confusion over how many people were killed by the militias, with estimates ranging from several hundred to several thousand. No one yet knows how many refugees also died of illness or starvation.

Holbrooke and Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth fly to West Timor later on Sunday to look at refugee camps housing hundreds of thousands of East Timorese who fled the violence.

Holbrooke called for the speedier return of the refugees.

``We would be delighted if 150,000 refugees in West Timor just got up and go and went home but they've been prevented from doing so by intimidation, by misinformation, by gangs of people who call themselves militias,'' he said.

Holbrooke and Roth are due to go to East Timor on Monday.

A U.N.-mandated multinational force moved into the shattered territory in September to restore peace and the United Nations is now running East Timor as it prepares for independence.

00:13 11-21-99

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