The Weekend Australian
November 24, 2001, Saturday
21 charged with Timor massacre
UNITED Nations prosecutors in East Timor have lodged an indictment against 21 people, including senior Indonesian military, militia and government officials, over the massacre in the Catholic church in the town of Liquica in April 1999.
During the April 6 assault, militiamen backed by Indonesian military and police killed at least 50 civilians with machetes and guns.
Although only five bodies were recovered, witnesses have testified victims were thrown in nearby lakes and buried in mass graves under directions of military and militia leaders.
The indictment, filed with the special crimes panel of the East Timor supreme court, names the Liquica district military commander Lieutenant-Colonel Asep Kuswandi and his deputy, Captain Purwanto.
Other high-ranking officials listed in the 36-page indictment include the mayor, Leoneto Martins, the commander of the Besi Merah Putih (Red and White Iron) militia, Manuel Sousa, and the local police chief, Lieutenant-Colonel Adios Salofa. Of the 21 named, prosecutors say nine were serving members of the Indonesian army at the time.
They are charged with 18 counts of crimes against humanity. The indictment, which covers a variety of crimes by pro-Indonesian forces in Liquica between April and September 1999, cites acts of murder, extermination and forced deportation.
But the filing of the indictment highlights
the constraints on UN prosecutors in bringing the perpetrators of human
rights abuses under Indonesian rule to justice. Of the 21 accused,
only two low-ranking participants in the April 6 massacre are in custody
in East Timor.
The UN authorities in East Timor have signed a memorandum of understanding with Indonesia on extradition, but there is strong resistance in Jakarta to fulfilling extradition requests.
But even if the main culprits remain beyond the reach of the East Timor courts, the indictment may still serve some purpose. Law enforcement officials in Indonesia have promised prosecutions over the Liquica massacre, and included three senior figures on the list of suspects, including Lieutenant-Colonel Kuswandi and Mr Martins.
According to the latest timetable issued by the Indonesian Attorney-Generalís office, the first of five cases of human rights abuses in East Timor will be taken to a new human rights court next month.
The results of the investigation in East Timor, which is based in part on testimony from returned militiamen and ethnic East Timorese members of the Indonesian army, could assist, and put pressure on, Indonesian justice officials and encourage the Attorney-Generalís office to increase the number of people facing prosecution.
Ultimately, this is likely to reach retired armed forces commander General Wiranto.
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