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No accountability for crimes against humanity

Jail for visa violations - but no accountability for East Timor crimes against humanity

On December 30 American nurse Joy Lee Sadler and British academic Lesley McCulloch were sentenced to four and five months jail in an Indonesian court for violating their tourist visas in Aceh. Deducting the time the two already served, Sadler's four-month sentence will end around January 13, and McCulloch's five months sentence will be over in February.

"These sentences are outrageous," said Maire Leadbeater speaking for the Indonesian Human Rights Committee. "Other academics and business people routinely travel to Indonesia to attend meetings or to conduct research using a tourist visa. The two women have already suffered beatings, sexual harassment, threats, long interrogation sessions, and the trauma of witnessing violence against other prisoners. Joy Lee Sadler, who is 57 and in poor health, is now on the 34th day of a hunger strike in protest at her detention and there are fears she may die in Indonesian custody. Lesley also has significant health problems."

"The New Zealand government has been silent so far about this case but must speak now against what is clearly political victimisation. Indonesian officials openly said that they planned to make an example of the two women . They are trying to frighten anyone who calls attention to Indonesian military abuses against civilians in Aceh. At the same time the phony human rights trials for East Timor are dealing out 'wet bus-ticket' penalties."

"Lesley McCulloch has written carefully researched articles for both the mainstream media and for academic journals on the conflict in Aceh - she is respected as an international expert."

On the very day that the women were sentenced in Aceh an Indonesian court acquitted yet another Indonesian military officer of charges of grave human rights abuses in East Timor. Lt. Col. Yayat Sudradjat was found innocent of failing to stop his subordinates from joining an April 1999 attack on a church in Liquicia, East Timor, in which at least 22 people were killed. Sudradjat is the ninth Indonesian officer to be acquitted in the trials. Notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres was sentenced to ten years but immediately released to seek an appeal. Lt Colonel Soedjarwono was convicted of 'failing to prevent' an attack on Bishop Belo's house in which at least 13 people died. But he hasn't started to serve his five year sentence - like Guterres he is free pending an appeal.

Impunity for war crimes but jail for visa violations - Indonesia is literally getting away with murder. New Zealand should demand the release of Lesley and Joy and a just international tribunal for East Timor's war criminals.

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