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Indonesia Frees War Criminal: Goff Urged To Act

Indonesia frees war criminal Abilio Soares, the only person held in Indonesia for the 1999 East Timor Crimes.

Goff urged to take action on to bring about the International Tribunal he has previously supported

On Friday November 5, Abilio Soares, the only person to be held in custody in Indonesia following the orgy of violence, murder and destruction that took place in 1999 was released. Mr Soares, the last Governor of East Timor to be appointed by the Indonesians was released after just 111 days.

At the gates of the jail to greet him was notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres. He was also convicted in the shonky Jakarta ad hoc Human Rights Court but remains free while he pursues an appeal against his five year sentence..

Based on precedent it is likely that the court will also be exonerate him. If that happens then all of the 18 tried before the court will have been found to be innocent.

The entire Jakarta court process has been a travesty of justice from start to finish. Terrible crimes against humanity were committed and those responsible must be held accountable.

This is not solely a matter for the victims of East Timor's tragedy or for their grieving families, it is about upholding the international rule of law and about seeking to prevent an arrogant and unaccountable military from going on to commit new crimes against those in Aceh and West Papua who are also seeking self-determination.

Letter urging Foreign Minister Goff to act follows.

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Hon Phil Goff,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Parliament Buildings,

7 November, 2004.

Dear Phil Goff,

As you will be aware the former East Timor governor Abilio Soares was released from jail on Friday , 5 November, after winning an appeal against his three-year sentence
for human rights abuses committed in 1999.

The news reports about his release say that the notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres was there to greet him at the time of his release. Eurico Guterres recently had his 10 year sentence reduced to five years but he remains free while another appeal is pending.

Mr Soares, who spent just 111 days in prison, was the only person toserve any time in an Indonesian jail for the shocking crimes against humanity that took place in the period surrounding the United Nations-organised independence referendum of August 30, 1999.

The appeal court has ruled that Soares was unable to stop the violence because the power to do so was in the hands of the Indonesian military and police.

Of course the responsibility for the 1999 crimes should be borne collectively by the military , police and civilian officials who were involved. However, Governor Soares openly gave his support and backing to the militia on crucial occasions, such as the rally on April 17 which led directly to the murders of 17 people including the son of pro-independence figure Manuel Carrascalao.

On August 8 this year you called for the establishment of an International Crimes Tribunal so that there could be justice for those responsible for the crimes committed in East Timor.

We would like to know what steps you will take now to pursue this essential objective. Does the Government plan to support the proposal for the establishment of a United Nations commission of experts, charged with reviewing the processes for prosecuting serious crimes in East Timor?

We urge you to pursue the issue of justice for the crimes against humanity committed in East Timor for the sake of the victims and the sake of the innocent people in Indonesia who continue to suffer under oppression from an unaccountable military.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater
(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)

© Scoop Media

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