Wed, 18 Oct 2000

E. Timor probe continues past deadline

JAKARTA (JP): The Attorney General's Office has indicated that it will continue its probe into the East Timor violence despite failing to meet Tuesday's deadline for the six-month investigation, which according to law should now be halted.

Secretary to the joint team investigating the case, Umar, said that although the team had succeeded in gathering a multitude of evidence, the main shortcoming was the fact that the team had failed to get the testimonies of six militia leaders included on the list of 23 suspects.

"The investigation should have been over today, Oct. 17, exactly six months after the team was formed in April. The law stipulates a three-month term that can be extended once. We have already used up the extension," Umar, a prosecutor at the Attorney General's Office, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Article 13 of Government Regulation in Lieu of Law No. 1/1999 on a human rights tribunal stipulates that the investigation should be halted if the deadline is not met.

The investigation, according to the law, can only continue if investigators can present new evidence.

According to Umar, members of the team are currently in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, to question the six suspects. However, it is believed that they will return empty-handed as the whereabouts of the six in question are not known.

The team left for Kupang after the six failed to respond to several summons for questioning in Jakarta.

But local officials in Kupang said the six had left for Jakarta, either on the Dobonsolo ferry on Oct. 10 or had flown to Jakarta on Oct. 12.

The six -- Izidio Manek, Alivio Mau, Martinus Bere, Vasco da Cruz, Motornus and Manuel Sausa -- were reportedly accompanied by several lawyers from the Kupang chapter of the Indonesian Lawyers Association (IPHI).

"However, until today, the six have yet to appear at the Attorney General's Office," Attorney General's Office spokesman Antasari Azhar said.

The Attorney General's Office has named 23 people as suspects of human rights abuses during last year's violence in the former Indonesian province of East Timor.

The joint team investigating the case consists of prosecutors, police, military police and officials of the home affairs ministry. The joint team is also aided by a team of experts on human rights.

Members of the team would not speculate on the future of the investigation or the fact that continuing the probe past the deadline is in violation of the government regulation.

The head of the team of experts, law professor Sri Soemantri, said despite not meeting the deadline, the team's work could not be considered a failure as this was the first such probe in the country.

"Although the team was established in April, it will still need time afterward to learn what and how to investigate human rights cases," he told the Post on Tuesday evening.

"We can see all the difficulties the team has had to face during the investigation," he added

Umar further argued that the six-month term given the team was insufficient and hoped that the law on a human rights tribunal, expected to be endorsed in early November, would expand the term.

"We don't think the investigation should be stopped as we have started evaluating the case and are compiling the dossiers," he added.

According to the regulation, after six months the joint investigative team should hand the dossiers over to the Attorney General's Office. (bby)