Accessibility links

Breaking News

UN Charges Indonesia Presidential Candidate with Crimes Against Humanity


United Nations investigators are pushing for the arrest of an Indonesian presidential candidate for his role during the violence in East Timor five years ago.

The United Nations Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor has amassed thousands of pages of evidence against General Wiranto, who led the Indonesian armed forces during Jakarta's unsuccessful attempt to prevent the Timorese from seceding from Indonesia.

The prosecutors' office accuses him of crimes against humanity, saying he had command responsibility for the troops and the militias they trained and armed in East Timor.

The armed forces and the militias are accused of going on a rampage before and just after East Timor's 1999 vote on independence from Indonesia. During that period, more than a thousand people died, a quarter of a million were forced into exile and East Timor was reduced to little more than rubble.

"The evidence that we have presented is quite clear that a mass campaign of violence took place, that it was observed and known by people in East Timor, and it was in the international news," said Nick Koumjian, the deputy prosecutor general for serious crimes. "And the evidence is also absolutely clear that the military and police forces under Wiranto's authority failed to take any measures to prevent these crimes from occurring or to punish the perpetrators."

Mr. Wiranto, who has retired from the army, denies the charges, and says he tried to prevent the violence. He is a strong contender to be a presidential candidate in Indonesia's national elections this year.

Indonesia has refused to hand over any officials indicted in East Timor. Jakarta instead held its own trials of people accused of violating human rights in East Timor, but many rights activists say they were inadequate. Although three minor suspects were found guilty, no one has served time in prison.

The U.N. prosecutors in the East Timor capital Dili indicted Mr. Wiranto a year ago. However, the Timorese government has been reluctant to pursue the matter. President Xanana Gusmao, who helped lead the rebellion against Indonesian rule, has repeatedly said it is more important to develop a good relationship with Jakarta than to bring Indonesian officials to trial.

By publishing a synopsis of the case against General Wiranto, the Serious Crimes Unit hopes to persuade the East Timor courts to issue an arrest warrant. The warrant could then be passed on to Interpol as an international warrant, which would mean that Mr. Wiranto could be arrested if he travels to other countries.

The move is sure to anger Indonesia, and political analysts say it is unlikely the general will face charges any time soon.