UN demands E Timor war crimes trial

Indonesian security forces and local militia leaders responsible for crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999 should face an international tribunal if Jakarta does not prosecute them effectively, a United Nations panel of legal experts has recommended.

A widely awaited report seen by The Guardian controversially demands that Jakarta be given six months to conduct these prosecutions under international supervision.

If it does not, the report recommends that the UN Security Council create an international criminal tribunal in a third state or refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.

In some cases this would mean re-opening cases already dealt with by an ad hoc tribunal, about which the panel of UN experts is scathing.

Only 21 people were indicted and all but one Timorese civilian were either acquitted or freed on appeal. These prosecutions, the report concludes, were “manifestly inadequate, primarily due to a lack of commitment on the part of the prosecution’‘.

The 160-page document suggests Indonesia be given another chance to prosecute members of the military, police and militia suspected of killing about 1 500 East Timorese civilians and forcibly relocating 250 000 others.

The violence—which was designed, but failed, to disrupt East Timor’s independence referendum in August 1999—ended after the intervention of foreign troops.

The fledgling government of East Timor does not escape criticism. Although 391 people have been indicted through a UN-run unit, authorities in the capital, Dili, have not forwarded to Interpol the arrest warrants for the most prominent indictees—such as former defence minister General Wiranto.

The report, which was commissioned last February, has been received by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, who has forwarded it to security council members, a spokesperson for Annan said on Tuesday.

Indonesia dismissed the suggestion that the cases be reopened as “preposterous’‘.
East Timor’s government has also said it does not favour further trials. The two nations are instead establishing a truth and friendship commission.—Â