Wed, 23 Aug 2000

Govt to announce E. Timor mayhem suspects

JAKARTA (JP): The government on Wednesday will announce the names of suspects implicated in last year's violence in East Timor in spite of a controversial constitutional amendment that many feel has virtually shielded past human rights abusers.

Yushar Yahya, chief spokesman of the Attorney General's Office, confirmed on Tuesday the planned announcement but declined to give further details.

The announcement culminates months of protracted investigations of the role played by top officers of the Indonesian Military (TNI) in the East Timor mayhem.

Among those questioned was the TNI commander in chief at the time, Gen. Wiranto, who has since seen both his military and political careers plunge, resulting in his resignation from the Cabinet as coordinating minister for political affairs in February.

Wednesday's announcement comes on the heels of controversy over the constitutional amendment by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) last week which guarantees the rights of people from being prosecuted under new laws for past crimes.

Human rights activists say that under the amendment, past violators of human rights would get off lightly because they could only be tried for ordinary murders under the criminal code and not for crimes against humanity or war crimes.

The House of Representatives is still debating the establishment of a human rights court.

Assurances given by legislators and top government officials that crimes against humanity would be exempted from the new article in the Constitution failed to convince activists that past human rights abusers would not invoke their newly established constitutional human right in court.

More assurances came on Tuesday from Hari Sabarno, a senior member of the TNI/Police Faction in the House, who denied that the "non-retroactive" principle was intended to protect past human rights violators.

"Cases of human rights abuses could still be processed," Hari, a retired Army lieutenant general, told reporters.

He suggested however that these cases be referred to a truth and reconciliation commission which would be established at the behest of the MPR meeting last week.

The commission would determine whether these cases should be prosecuted in court, he said.

"It's not true that the (human rights) cases would be dropped because of Article 28I (1)," Hari said referring to the controversial paragraph in the amended 1945 Constitution.

Many past TNI officers have been put under investigation for alleged human rights abuses in East Timor, Aceh, Irian Jaya and even Jakarta. With the exception of a few officers who served in Aceh, most of these cases have not reached the court.

Hari warned against generalizing these investigations and grouping them all as human rights abuses, saying that some of the cases being looked into were genuine military operations against armed rebel movements, like the one in Aceh.

Joining the fray, Yan Juanda Saputra, a member of the team of lawyers representing several top TNI officers in these investigations, suggested that the country's criminal code would be sufficient to try past human rights abuses.

On the East Timor investigation, Yan said the case against TNI officers should be dropped because the government had exceeded the six-month deadline given by the National Commission of Human Rights to send the case to the court.

He invoked the government regulation in lieu of a statute (Perpu) No.1/1999 which set a time limit on how long cases could be processed by the government. (bby/jun)