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Senior Indonesian Police Official Sentenced for East Timor Violence - 2003-01-20

An Indonesian human rights court has sentenced a senior police official to three years in prison for failing to prevent a massacre in the run up to East Timor's vote for independence in 1999. Indonesia's attempts to bring to justice those responsible for the violence in East Timor have been heavily criticized.

As the former police chief in the East Timorese capital, Dili, Lieutenant Colonel Hulman Gultom was found guilty Monday of crimes against humanity. The special Jakarta court ruled that he failed to prevent pro-Indonesian militias from attacking the home of pro-independence leader Manuel Carrascalao. Twelve people, most of them refugees hiding in the home from violence elsewhere in East Timor, died in the April 1999 attack.

Colonel Gultom is only the second Indonesian security official to be sentenced in connection with the violence in East Timor. He maintains his innocence and remains free pending his appeal. The court has indicted 18 suspects for atrocities in East Timor. Four have now been convicted, eleven acquitted, and three other cases are still being heard.

In the run up to and immediate aftermath of the U.N.-organized referendum on East Timor Independence, pro-Jakarta militias, backed by elements in the army and police, killed thousands of people and drove nearly quarter of a million others into enforced exile, leaving little but ruins behind them.

Under intense international pressure, Jakarta set up special human rights courts to try those responsible for the violence. But the court's failure to probe the involvement of Indonesia's most senior security officials, and its willingness to acquit more junior players despite what critics say is overwhelming evidence against them, has put the court in the firing line.

Analysts here say they have few hopes for a more comprehensive accounting. In a world re-shaped by September 11, few governments are willing to put pressure on Indonesia, which is now a vital ally in the war on terror, for more concerted action against those responsible for the violence three years ago in East Timor.