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Indonesia's Chief Justice Accuses Amnesty International of Never 'Being Satisfied' - 2003-04-17

The head of Indonesia's supreme court has lashed out at Amnesty International for criticizing its human rights court trying cases of atrocities in East Timor. The chief justice gave an interview accusing Amnesty International of only being interested in convictions - not justice. Indonesia's chief justice defended his country's court system Thursday in an interview with the Koran Tempo Daily. Bagir Manan says he believes the human rights group Amnesty International is "never satisfied" with the work of the Indonesian legal system.

The judge says Amnesty's standards appear to require that all the defendants accused of atrocities in East Timor be convicted in order for Jakarta's human rights court to be credible.

Tuesday, Amnesty International issued a report criticizing Indonesia's trials as not fair, truthful or honest. The group urged the United Nations to form an international war crimes tribunal for East Timor. Amnesty says the Indonesian indictments were weak and failed to charge top members of the Indonesian military - which is believed to have had a role in orchestrating violence and supporting militias.

Hundreds of people died in East Timor in 1999 at the hands of anti-independence militias before, during and after a U.N.-sponsored vote on separating from Indonesia.

Indonesia has formed a special human rights tribunal to hear cases of alleged atrocities committed by its officials. There have been close to two dozen indictments. In the cases tried so far, twice as many defendants have been acquitted as convicted. All five people found guilty remain free pending an appeal.

Munir is the head of the Indonesian human rights group, "Impartial." He says he agrees with the Amnesty International report and favors an international tribunal to hear East Timor rights cases, because of corruption within the Indonesian legal system. "This process is still under control very very strongly, by the military - and the court is not independent," he said.

Separately, the United Nations is assisting the government of East Timor with human rights investigations. U.N. prosecutors in East Timor have indicted more than 240 people for alleged war crimes achieving 30 convictions.

Among those indicted is Indonesia's former minister of defense, General Wiranto.

But U.N. prosecutors admit that real justice may be difficult to achieve. Indonesia's government has said it does not recognize the legitimacy of the East Timor indictments and has no plans to hand over suspects for trial in its former territory.