Indonesia's human rights court called its first witness from East Timor to testify about the violence that swept the territory during its independence vote in 1999.
Domingos dos Santo Mouzinho told the new Jakarta human rights court how militiamen fired shots and surrounded her house in the East Timor town of Suai. She says that happened a day before 27 East Timorese, including three priests, were killed in a Catholic church. Five Indonesian police and military officers have been charged with failing protect the victims of the 1999 massacre. Mrs. Mouzinho is the first of several witnesses scheduled to testify this week. The trial is the first by the Indonesian human rights court created to try suspects accused of abuses in East Timor.
Human rights advocates fear the trials will not punish those responsible for the violence that swept East Timor before and after its vote for independence from Indonesia. Sidney Jones is the project director for the Jakarta think tank, the International Crisis Group. She says it is unlikely the trials will reveal the truth of what happened in East Timor or the full complicity of Indonesia's military in the violence. She says the court hearings may provide some useful information, but they are unlikely to get meaningful convictions for human rights crimes.
Pro-Jakarta militiamen, believed to be aided and backed by elements in the Indonesian military, killed hundreds of East Timorese after the independence vote, and razed large sections of the country. Ms. Jones says the problem is with the nature of the indictments and the mandate of the court.
Under a presidential decree, the trials only allow prosecution for crimes committed in April and September 1999. This excludes hundreds of crimes committed in the lead up to the independence vote in August 1999. Ms. Jones says Jakarta had been under intense international pressure to bring the perpetrators of the violence to account, but that pressure had eased as the world's attention has been diverted to other troubled regions.