Fri, 08 Dec 2000

East Timor inquiry has no legal basis: Lawyers

JAKARTA (JP): Attorney General Marzuki Darusman brushed aside complaints from lawyers of 22 individuals allegedly responsible for the violence in East Timor last year, saying that they were only being questioned and not handed over to the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

"They are taking it all wrong. It's not that we're surrendering them to UNTAET," Marzuki told The Jakarta Post on Thursday evening.

"Even if the questioning (eventually) finds them to be suspects, they will be tried in Indonesia in our own court," he said.

Marzuki said lawyers had filed a complaint against his office with House of Representatives Commission II for legal affairs, questioning the legality of a Memorandum of Understanding with UNTAET as the grounds for the UN investigation to invoke their right to query the 22.

"The memorandum was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab and witnessed by President Abdurrahman Wahid in February. There's nothing illegal in it.

"I will explain this matter to the military and police chief to avoid any misunderstandings about the position of the witnesses," he said.

Separately, one of the lawyers in question, Mohamad Assegaf, questioned "the legal grounds that give the right to UNTAET to query Indonesian citizens as witnesses in the case".

"If the questioning was based on the Memorandum of Understanding, then Attorney General Marzuki Darusman should not have made a cooperation that binds Indonesia without the House's acknowledgement," Assegaf told the Post.

He contended that the House must be involved in the making of any bilateral agreements which binds the country.

"A memorandum is not enough. It should be ratified by the House to make it legal," he said.

Assegaf added that lawyers had yet to receive the summons sent by the Attorney General's Office, since the notification for the military and police officers were addressed to the forces' chiefs respectively while the summons for civil officials were sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The 22 are to be questioned by a seven-member UN investigation team in connection with the violence that erupted in the former Indonesian province shortly after last year's historic ballot.

Some of the witnesses to be questioned are also suspects in the Attorney General's Office probe in a parallel investigation.

In a bid to facilitate an exchange of information, the Attorney General's Office and UNTAET signed the memorandum in February which would give them mutual access to information relating to the case.

The head of the UN investigation, Olvind Olsen, said his team had "a list of 150 suspects and witnesses".

"We came here to question witnesses in Indonesia with the help of the Attorney General's Office. We have expressed hope that those witnesses can give their testimonies before the trial, which is to be held in the East Timor capital of Dili next year," he told a media briefing on Thursday. (bby)