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Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
East Timor verdicts provoke outrage
One policeman and four army officers await verdicts
Critics say Indonesia has turned its back on justice
The East Timor trials have been denounced as providing neither truth nor justice by human rights groups who are now calling for United Nations intervention.

The acquittals of Indonesia's last police chief in East Timor and five more junior officers plus the relatively light sentence passed on the territory's former governor are likely to be discussed by senior UN officials.

Former East Timor Governor Abilio Soares
Jailed for three years: former Governor Abilio Soares
The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, criticised the process of the trials after Governor Abilio Soares was jailed for three years for rights violations - a term far below the statutory minimum of 10 years.

UN sources said the matter is now likely to be raised with the New York headquarters of Secretary General Kofi Annan and the issue of launching an international criminal tribunal for East Timor - similar to that trying former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes - is also set to move up the agenda.

That would ultimately be a decision for the UN's Security Council which could wait for a recommendation from Mr Annan or act on its own initiative.

More criticism expected

UN officials are gathering information and views from its East Timor mission and other offices before deciding what to do, but more criticism is expected, possibly from Mrs Robinson - who has announced she will visit East Timor at the end of this month.

East Timor's former police chief Timbul Silaen
Acquitted: former police chief Timbul Silaen
A UN source told BBC News Online that justice in East Timor "has taken a turn for the worse", though new statements or action may be delayed until the remaining trials are concluded.

"Pressure could be brought to bear on the authorities in Indonesia to get their act together," he added.

Mrs Robinson's office had criticised the prosecution in the trials, saying failure to present the 1999 violence in East Timor as part of widespread and systematic attacks undermined the case and jeopardised the integrity and credibility of the process.

Evidence 'not used'

It says it has a huge body of evidence of police and military collusion which it had offered to the prosecution, but the special Indonesian human rights court was not presented with any of this.

Instead, large numbers of witnesses were called - most of them military or police.

The UN estimates that more than 1,000 people were killed in East Timor during the violence surrounding the territory's vote for independence on 30 August 1999.

Relatives of pro-independence supporter Adlinda da Silva, 24, grieve over his body  (file photo)
Victims: 1,000 people were killed in the 1999 violence, according to the UN
The human rights group Amnesty International attacked the verdicts in a joint statement with the Judicial System Monitoring Programme, which says it was the only independent organisation to have legal observers present throughout the trials.

The statement called for the UN to set up an international criminal tribunal for East Timor.

"If Indonesia is to fulfil its international obligation to provide a credible remedy for the gross human rights violations committed in East Timor, both the weaknesses of Indonesia's judicial system and political resistance to holding perpetrators of human rights violations to account must be simultaneously addressed," it added.

'Mockery of justice'

The Human Rights Watch advocacy group said the three-year sentence for Soares was "a mockery of justice".

One of the group's Asia officials, Mike Jendrzejczyk, said: "This signals that Indonesia is not serious about holding the worst abusers accountable."

Key international reaction is awaited from the US, which recently decided controversially to resume funding training for the Indonesian military which was suspended after the East Timor violence.

Admiral Thomas Fargo, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, stressed that military officers responsible for the bloodshed in East Timor should be brought to justice.

Speaking before verdicts were announced, he said: "The issue of accountability and reform is a key component of our ability to pursue a normal military-to-military relationship."

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15 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
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