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History demands that General Wiranto be tried for war crimes

By Gwynn Mac Carrick - posted Monday, 1 March 2004


In May 2002, East Timor took its place within the world as a fledgling nation whose birth had principally been associated with horrifying violations of human rights. This tiny half island’s transition from the 27th province of Indonesia to an independent state, had been at great human cost.

Thousands were murdered and a further 200,000 fled as refugees to West Timor as pro-autonomy Timorese militia, acting under the command of General Wiranto and the superior officers of the Indonesian military, launched a violent campaign of intimidation and terror in September of 1999.

Today, General Wiranto resides in Jakarta and the brutal military he led remains largely intact, free to continue its campaign throughout the greater Indonesian archipelago.

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Today in Jakarta these authors of atrocities evade international justice and perpetuate the exemption from punishment enjoyed by agents of state, who have for a quarter of a century, flagrantly violated the human rights of indigenous Timorese.

As if his impunity was not enough for the Timorese to bare, General Wiranto has recently announced his candidacy in Indonesia’s first direct election for President scheduled for July this year.

Wiranto is one of two presidential candidates vying for the coveted nomination of the Golkar Party (the political party machine behind former President Suharto). Recent indications are that the Golkar Party are ahead in the polls leading up to the April 5 elections.

Wiranto’s presidential campaign has won still further political reprieve last week when American UN judge in East Timor denied the prosecutor’s demand for a public hearing to determine whether the arrest warrant issued against the General in February 2002 should be executed.

The application for a public hearing, (which was accompanied by 1300 pages of supporting evidence), relates to an arrest warrant issued in connection to an indictment naming General Wiranto as Commander-in-Chief responsible for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in East Timor in1999.

The Special Panel for Serious Crimes (Massachusetts Appellate judge Phillip Rapoza presiding) held that there was “no precedent in international criminal procedure” for a public hearing of this nature. This setback came despite concessions by the prosecutor that Wiranto could send a legal representative or appear by video link if he feared being arrested, and despite an indication from Wiranto’s legal representative that he would participate in a public forum.

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On February 9, 2004 Longuinhos Monteiro, (East Timor prosecutor ) made the statement to Radio Australia that:

General Wiranto is willing to give his testimony through the visual link and also it is a good opportunity for him to defend himself, to give his answer on our demands. The next arrangement is will be for me, my office and those from Indonesia who will provide the link for video conference ...

In a written decision, the Special Panel Judge denied the motion of the Deputy Prosecutor General citing the reasons, inter alia, that such an oral hearing was not provided for in the regulations of the Special Panels.

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About the Author

Gwynn MacCarrick is a Human Rights lawyer based in Hobart. She has appeared as Defence counsel before the UN Special Panel for Serious Crimes in East Timor, has worked with the Office of the Prosecutor at the UN Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and in between her domestic criminal practice has taken up various postings with the UN High Commission for Refugees. Gwynn is undertaking a doctorate in international criminal law at the University of Tasmania Law School.

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