A United Nations panel proposed establishing an international war crimes court to try senior Indonesian officials accused of human rights violations during East Timor's 1999 independence referendum unless East Timor and Indonesia prove within six months that they can conduct credible trials. The court would be located outside East Timor and Indonesia.
The three-member panel's recommendation was contained in a confidential report that concluded that Indonesian and Timorese courts have failed to adequately prosecute senior Indonesian officials for alleged human rights violations in East Timor. The panel noted that the two countries have not held a single senior official accountable for "the cold-blooded murder of 1,400 people in Timor and the forced displacement of about 100,000."
Indonesian military authorities responsible for East Timor in the late 1990s came under investigation for directing Timorese militia to use violence to undermine a United Nations-backed vote on independence in the former Portuguese colonies.
An Indonesian human rights court established to try those accused of abuses in East Timor identified 22 suspects, including senior Indonesian officials. But Indonesia's attorney general refused to prosecute high-ranking officials. Instead, he indicted 18 lower-ranking Indonesian military police. All but one were acquitted.
The 149-page report recommended that Indonesia's attorney general invite international lawyers from Asia to help strengthen his capacity to try such cases. It proposes a retrial of military and police officials who were acquitted, and it calls on the attorney general to investigate and prosecute Indonesia's former defense minister, Gen. Wiranto, for his alleged role in the violence.
The panel credits the Timorese Serious Crimes Unit, which was established by a U.N. caretaker government in 2000, with conducting credible investigations. Its work led to the indictment of 391 people, including Wiranto, the former Indonesian-backed governor of East Timor, and six high-ranking Indonesian military commanders.
But the report notes that 339 indictees remain at large, and it faults East Timor's prosecutor with failing to pursue those cases, citing his failure to forward an arrest warrant for Wiranto to the Indonesian government or Interpol. Human rights activists believe that the Timorese government, which is seeking to improve relations with its former political master, is reluctant to pursue high-ranking Indonesian officials.
"There is frustration among the people of Timor-Leste about the inability of the judicial process to bring to justice those outside the country's jurisdiction, particularly high-level indictees," the report said.