WASHINGTON - May 28 - The East Action Network (ETAN) today urged East Timor's leadership to end its inappropriate intervention in the country's justice system. Instead, the human rights group urged the United Nations to take full control of the prosecution of those accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor by creating an international tribunal.
"Pressure on the prosecutor general by East Timor's leadership not to seek an international warrant for General Wiranto - while understandable in the face of Indonesia's threats - is inappropriate," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "East Timorese who have often expressed their hope for justice must be extremely disillusioned. Reconciliation can only come from justice, and justice must place no one, however powerful, above the law."
Efforts by East Timor's leaders to distance themselves from the indictment of senior Indonesian officials for crimes against humanity committed in 1999 intensified recently when an international judge in East Timor issued an arrest warrant for former General Wiranto, now a leading candidate for president of Indonesia.
East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao reportedly will meet with Wiranto this weekend.
"East Timor is caught between a rock and a hard place. Its dilemma speaks volumes about the failure of the United Nations, the U.S. and other countries to act quickly and forcefully for justice," added Miller. "The crimes committed in 1999 and before were crimes against humanity. Many were directed at undermining a UN mission. We urge the UN to heed East Timor's repeated request that the international community take the lead in pursuing accountability."
"At a minimum, the Secretary-General and Security Council must back the serious crimes process they set in motion," said Miller. "We again urge the Security Council to revisit the UN Commission of Inquiry's recommendation to establish an international tribunal for East Timor. We continue to urge the U.S. to withhold all military assistance for Indonesia until Wiranto and others responsible for crimes against humanity in East Timor and Indonesia are brought to justice in judicial processes consistent with international standards," said Miller.
This weekend's meeting will be the second this year between President Gusmao and Wiranto. The East Timor National Alliance for an International Tribunal reported that the two met in Bali in January. That meeting was confirmed by Wiranto and others.
Wiranto was Indonesia's Armed Forces Commander and Defense Minister in 1999. Prior to and after East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence, his troops and their militia proxies conducted a campaign of terror resulting in more than 1400 deaths, displacement of three-quarters of the population and destruction of more than 75% of East Timor's infrastructure.
On May 10, 2004, an international judge at the Special Panel for Serious Crimes in East Timor issued an arrest warrant for Wiranto. He was indicted on February 24, 2003, for crimes against humanity before the Special Panel. The previous March, prosecutors submitted a 92-page brief summarizing more than 15,000 pages of evidence previously filed with the court.
In January, Dili's chief prosecutor, Longuinhos Monteiro, said he was actively pursuing warrants against senior officials, accusing international judges of blocking them. Citing judicial independence, President Gusmao's office said at the time that he would not get involved. However, this week, Monteiro said there was a consensus among East Timor's leaders that it is not in East Timor's interest to prosecute Wiranto or other indicted senior Indonesian officials.
While President Gusmao has the constitutional power to pardon, he must first consult with the government. Unless he and the government plan to pardon Wiranto, Article 199 states, "Courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law."
In the months following the 1999 devastation of East Timor, two UN investigations called for the establishment of an international tribunal. Instead, Indonesia promised to try its own and eventually established the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court for East Timor. The widely criticized court issued its final verdict on August 5, 2003.
Indonesia's presidential election takes place July 5. A runoff will take place September 20 if no candidate gets more than 50%.
Gusmao met May 15 with President Megawati, who is running for reelection, as part of regular bi-lateral meeting between the two countries. He has not said if he will meet with Indonesia's other presidential candidates.
East Timorese leaders, fearful of possible retaliation and stressing the need to establish good relations with their powerful neighbor, have repeatedly urged the international community to take the lead on issues of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor.
The Security Council mandated the establishment of the Serious Crimes Unit to conduct investigations and prepare indictments to assist in bringing to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity and other serious crimes committed in East Timor in 1999. It also created the Special Panels to hear serious crimes cases. Since East Timor's independence, the SCU has worked under the legal authority of East Timor's prosecutor general.
ETAN advocates for justice and sustainable development for East Timor and human rights for Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity that took place in East Timor since 1975 and for continued restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces. For additional information, see ETAN's web site (http://www.etan.org).