Sat, 18 Mar 2000

Rights groups invited to join East Timor probe

JAKARTA (JP): Three leading human rights groups have been invited by the Attorney General's Office to join the investigative team probing last year's violence in East Timor.

"We have consulted with three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to study the possibility of their participation in a team of investigators," Attorney General Marzuki Darusman told The Jakarta Post by telephone.

The three organizations are the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI), the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) and the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI).

The investigative team is part of the Attorney General's Office follow-up on recommendations made by the government- sanctioned Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations in East Timor (KPP HAM).

KPP HAM named former Indonesian Military chief Gen. Wiranto and 32 other civilian and military personnel as among those responsible for the September violence carried out by military- backed militias.

Wiranto, who has been suspended as coordinating minister for political affairs and security by President Abdurrahman Wahid and is awaiting further investigation by the Attorney General's Office, has denied any wrongdoing.

Marzuki also said the joint-investigative team might also seek assistance from several "experts" from local universities.

Meanwhile, leaders of the three rights groups greeted the invitation from the Attorney General's Office with skepticism, saying they would only join if Marzuki could ensure that the investigation would be free and impartial.

"It has to be clear first whether the military elements will be included or not because if they are, it is difficult to imagine that the investigation can be impartial since they will be investigating themselves," LBH director Bambang Widjojanto told the Post.

ELSAM's Ifdhal Kasim and PBHI's executive director Hendardi shared Bambang's opinion and called on prosecutors not to consider the East Timor violence as an ordinary crime.

"It would be difficult for PBHI to accept the invitation if the Attorney General's Office uses the Criminal Code as the basis for prosecuting those who were allegedly involved (in the East Timor violence)," Hendardi said.

Marzuki said, however, the inclusion of military police was "unavoidable".

"The presence of military police in the team is to ensure the impartiality of the investigation," Marzuki said.

Jakarta is under international pressure to bring those involved in the human rights abuses in East Timor last year to justice. (byg)