Fri, 11 Apr 2003

East Timor indicts five more people for 1999 atrocities

Berni K. Moestafa, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Prosecutors in East Timor filed another set of indictments at the Dili District Court over a spate of violent incidents in 1999, but said they were still waiting for response from the court in regards charges made against former Indonesian military chief Gen. (ret) General Wiranto.

The prosecutors indicted five East Timorese for crimes against humanity, rape, torture and deportation during their service with the Indonesian Military (TNI) in 1999, said the United Nations Serious Crimes Unit in a statement on Thursday. The indictments were based on the crime unit's investigation.

"All of the accused in the indictment are believed to be in the Republic of Indonesia," said the statement, adding that their names were not being released to protect their victims.

The announcement came a day after the crime unit charged 16 people, including eight Indonesian Army officials, with crimes against humanity.

They are the latest in a series of indictments the UN unit has filed this year in its efforts to prosecute those responsible for the 1999 killing spree in East Timor before, during and after a UN-sponsored referendum that resulted in a majority vote for East Timorese independence.

Thousands of East Timorese died in a wave of violence that swept through the former Indonesian province that time. Many believe that rogue elements in the TNI deliberately went on a rampage to undermine the voting.

The TNI was mandated with maintaining security and order in East Timor during the period.

"There's still a lot of work to do ... investigations are ongoing," UN Special Crimes Unit spokesperson Mark Harris said from Dili. More charges were likely, he added.

In February, East Timor prosecutors dropped a bombshell announcement with its indictment of Wiranto and six other senior military officers for crimes against humanity.

The former military chief denied any wrongdoings, arguing that he knew nothing about TNI's role in the atrocities in East Timor.

Indonesia has no extradition agreement with East Timor. Furthermore, Wiranto's case has made no headway in the Dili court.

"We're still waiting for a response from the court," said Harris.

Prosecutors need court-issued arrest warrants, which will be forwarded to their Indonesian counterparts, as well as Interpol.

Harris would not speculate on the reason for the lack of response.

East Timor faces a dilemma in pushing for justice, as the move may run the risk of straining ties with Indonesia.

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao has said the indictment was not in the nation's interest. He called the indictment a mistake, but promised not to interfere with the judiciary of his country.

Political and military analyst Indria Samego said Indonesia was unlikely to hand over any of its military officers to East Timor.

He said the military remained a key player among the country's political elite, and with the general elections nearing, few would want to risk a military backlash by sending their senior officers to stand trial in East Timor, said Indria.

TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin said the military recognized only the ongoing trials in Indonesia for the gross human rights violations in East Timor.

"We should remain consistent with the process (in Indonesia)," he said.

But analysts said the UN-backed indictments reflected the East Timorese's disappointment over the outcome of the rights trials in Indonesia so far. The ad hoc Human Rights Court here has acquitted most officers, while Wiranto has escaped indictment entirely.