Mon, 02 Jun 2003

East Timor cases will always haunt RI: Activist

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Pressure for the establishment of an international tribunal to try Indonesian Military personnel accused of gross human rights violations in East Timor will never end following the poor result of a series of trials by the country's ad hoc human rights tribunal, an activist says.

Hendardi, chairman of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), said on Saturday that calls by the international community to bring military personnel to an international court was "logical as Indonesia's judiciary has failed to convince them" that justice was being served.

"East Timor is not be the only country in the world that will continue calling for the establishment of an international tribunal (to try Indonesian Military officers accused of human rights violations there)," Hendardi told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has called for the establishment of an international tribunal in a neutral country to try Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel allegedly involved in the 1999 mayhem.

In response to Alkatiri's statement, foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said on Sunday that the Indonesian government had summoned the East Timorese ambassador to clarify Dili's request.

Marty said Ambassador Arlindo Marcal would fulfill the summons on Monday.

"We would like to seek a clarification as to the request, as it goes against our countries' stance toward developing relations," Marty told The Jakarta Post by phone.

He asserted that Alkatiri's statement, if true, would be "a source of concern" for Jakarta.

"We consider the statement to be a premature judgement on the ongoing ad hoc human rights tribunal here," he said, adding that some of the cases remained unresolved pending appeals.

Eighteen civilian leaders and security personnel, including three Army generals, were charged with gross human rights violations for their failure to prevent a violent rampage carried out by pro-Jakarta militia members and their military backers in 1999.

The Jakarta ad hoc human rights tribunal, which was set up under strong international pressure, has so far acquitted 12 defendants and convicted five with jail sentences of three to 10 years, including former militia commander Eurico Guterres and former East Timor governor Abilio Soares who remain free pending appeal at the Supreme Court.

Alkatiri said after a meeting with Gusmao on Friday that he was not satisfied with the prosecution of 18 civilian leaders and security personnel.

He also said that he and several ministers would discuss the issue of an international tribunal with President Megawati Soekarnoputri during their visit to Jakarta on June 10.

Hendardi, who once served as a defense lawyer of Xanana Gusmao before he became East Timor president, said Alkatiri's comment, which contradicted a previous statement by Gusmao, reflected mounting pressure from East Timor people for fair trials for perpetrators of the bloodshed.

Gusmao had said earlier that East Timor would prefer to maintain ties with Indonesia rather than pursue the trials of those accused of human rights violations in 1999.

"The United Nations gave Indonesia a chance to try the perpetrators of violence in East Timor. Unfortunately, Indonesia squandered the opportunity," Hendardi said.

Hendardi said the tribunal was merely a trick to avoid an international tribunal to try the East Timor cases.

He admitted it was not easy to get the United Nations to set up an international tribunal for the East Timor case.

"But Indonesia cannot escape from this issue as the UN might set up an international tribunal due to the poor results of the country's ad hoc court," Hendardi warned.

The United Nations set up an international tribunal to prosecute those accused of fomenting the 1994 Rwandan genocide after Rwanda failed hold fair trials itself.

The appeals court still has an opportunity to correct the verdicts of the East Timor cases, Hendardi said.

"But I think it would be a bit difficult because most of the defendants have been declared innocent," he said.