Jakarta names 19 for East Timor abuses

Big names who had hand in violence, including former military strongman Wiranto, are missing from the list.

Indonesia named 19 people, including three generals, as suspects in last year’s mayhem in East Timor yesterday – a move which has peeved the military, but bought Jakarta breathing space in the face of international pressure.

Any enthusiasm generated by the Attorney-General’s Office’s announcement was tempered by the exclusion of former military strongman General Wiranto, ex-intelligence operative Zacky Anwar Makarim and pro-Jakarta militia leader Eurico Gutterres – all of whom were accused of having a hand in the violence which hit the territory after its historic vote for independence.

All three were named as suspects in an earlier investigation by the National Human Rights Commission.

Chief investigator Muhammad Abdul Rachman did not say why the trio were not suspects, but suggested the list could grow if there was enough evidence.

“I will not close any possibility to that happening … but there is no evidence at this point,” he said, when asked if Gen Wiranto and other senior officers would be named.

But he said there was enough evidence to identify other officers who allegedly committed abuses.

That included regional military commander Major-Gen Adam Damiri, who had overseen the territory; former East Timor army commander Brig-General Tono Suratman; and police chief Brig-Gen Timbul Salaen.

Also on the list were army colonels and those holding field appointments, three pro-integration militia leaders and ex-East Timor Governor Abilio Soares.

Political observers said that while the list was far from ideal, it could go some way to ward off international pressure.One diplomat said: “It is not perfect because key players were not there. But a few sacrificial lambs does have enough credibility to give the government breathing space to hold Washington and the United Nations at bay.”

The Attorney-General’s Office went to great pains yesterday to point out Jakarta released the names of its own accord – not because of external pressure.

But sources said the government was prompted to name the suspects because of fears an international tribunal would be convened by the UN, and by the need to brush up its reformist credentials while other high profile cases – including the Suharto trial – were being held.

The decision to release the list also comes amid growing criticism from human rights groups of a constitutional amendment which provides a loophole for military personnel, accused of abuses, to escape trial and punishment.

The amendment, adopted by the People Consultative Assembly last month, prevents the prosecution of anyone facing human rights abuses under laws which did not exist at the time a crime was allegedly committed.

The government sought to nullify these fears by explaining the amendment would not apply to the 19, who are expected to stand trial in a matter of weeks.

There was no official comment from the Indonesian armed forces (TNI). But senior military sources were bitter that the military was again being forced into a corner. Its pride was bruised because its generals were being hauled up to court for the first time in history.

An army general said: “Why should we be on trial for taking orders from a civilian administration to carry out black operations in East Timor? The civilians should bear the brunt of the blame.”

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