UN Takes a Small Step toward Justice in East Timor ; the United Nations on Monday Indicted 11 Men for War Crimes in East Timor

By Murphy, Dan | The Christian Science Monitor, December 13, 2000 | Go to article overview

UN Takes a Small Step toward Justice in East Timor ; the United Nations on Monday Indicted 11 Men for War Crimes in East Timor


Murphy, Dan, The Christian Science Monitor


A United Nations prosecutor in East Timor indicted 11 men Monday for crimes against humanity in what promises to be a first step on a long and contentious road to justice.

Among the accused is Lt. Sayful Anwar, a deputy commander of Indonesia's feared Special Forces Command (Kopassus) - the first Indonesian soldier ever to face international prosecution for war crimes.

The UN said it would seek Lieutenant Anwar's extradition from Indonesia to face trial in East Timor. The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) is administering the newly independent territory until elections, which are tentatively scheduled for next year.

The 10 others were members of Team Alpha, a Kopassus-trained militia group based in the northern town of Los Palos. Nine of them are already in custody.

Mohamed Chande Othman, the UN's chief prosecutor in East Timor, said the indictments would send a message to Indonesia's military that there would be no impunity for the rampage that followed East Timor's independence vote in August 1999. More than 100 people were killed and 250,000 driven from their homes in a week of violence orchestrated by pro-Indonesian militias that were trained and organized by the Indonesian Army.

But the feeling in Jakarta was that Mr. Othman, a Tanzanian who was formerly chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, was putting the best face on an increasingly grim situation. The Indonesian military has said time and again it will not cooperate with Othman's efforts.

And human rights experts say it's now unlikely that the Indonesian government will be either willing or able to force the military to cooperate.

"The pressure has decreased so much compared to early this year," says Asmara Nababan, the secretary-general of Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights. "There's been this increasing ultranationalist flavor in our parliament, which has created sympathy for officers and for those who actually committed the crimes."

Mr. Nababan also says that "the willingness to pressure Indonesia is no longer there."

The military has effectively stonewalled the efforts of UN prosecutors to question five military and police officers in Jakarta this week, despite the full cooperation of Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman.

"No … officer is to be investigated or questioned by UNTAET," Armed Forces Chief Admiral Widodo Adisucipto told journalists yesterday after meeting with President Abdurrahman Wahid. …

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