Global Policy Forum

East Timor Prosecutors Press Bid to

Agence France Presse
March 22, 2004

East Timor prosecutors are pressing their case for the arrest of Indonesian presidential hopeful Wiranto, citing "overwhelming" evidence that he failed to curb militia atrocities in the territory when he was military chief in 1999. The United Nations -funded Serious Crimes Unit released to the media a 92-page court brief which has been filed to support its application for an arrest warrant against Wiranto. Prosecutors indicted Wiranto and seven other high-level suspects over a year ago and sought arrest warrants. East Timor's Special Panel for Serious Crimes has so far granted only one warrant. Indonesian troops and their militia proxies waged a bloody campaign against independence supporters before and after East Timorese voted in August 1999 to break away from Indonesian rule. The UN says up to 1,500 civilians were killed, some 70 percent of the country's buildings were destroyed and 200,000 East Timorese were deported or forcibly transferred to Indonesian West Timor. Most have since returned.

"The evidence ... proves that Wiranto failed in his responsibilities as the ultimate commander of all army and police forces in East Timor to prevent the commission of crimes against humanity and failed to punish the perpetrators," said Nicholas Koumjian, deputy prosecutor general for serious crimes. "I am confident that the arrest warrant will be issued," he said in a statement. Indonesia refuses to hand anyone over for trial in East Timor. But any arrest warrant, if forwarded to Interpol, might make Wiranto liable to arrest in some countries if he travels overseas. Wiranto, who is seeking the Golkar party's nomination for elections in July, says he did his best to prevent bloodshed. The court brief describes atrocities in chilling detail. It says Wiranto was both defence minister and armed forces chief in 1999 and "the evidence is overwhelming that the armed forces ... exercised de facto power and "effective control" over these militias. "The evidence shows that armed forces assisted in the formation, funding, training and arming of the militias and that they often assisted in the militia violence or stood by and let it happen," the brief says. High-ranking Indonesian commanders masterminded the intimidation campaign, it says. "It is beyond reasonable doubt that the accused (Wiranto) knew of the massive crimes being committed in East Timor." East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao, a former independence hero, has criticised the indictments against Wiranto and others. He says a harmonious relationship with Indonesia should be the priority for his country, which became independent in May 2002 after a period of UN stewardship.

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