/** reg.easttimor: 3298.0 **/

** Topic: Indonesian army unfazed by possible "war crimes" threat **
** Written 4:05 AM Sep 11, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: Indonesian army unfazed by possible "war crimes" threat

Indonesian army unfazed by possible "war crimes" threat

JAKARTA, Sept 11 (AFP) - The Indonesian armed forces have always operated with total impunity here and are unlikely to be concerned by any United Nations threat to hold them accountable for "crimes against humanity", diplomats and analysts said here Saturday.

The Indonesian army has regularly been accused by international watchdogs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International of committing massive rights abuses, when it has been called on to restore order in troublespots here.

The army has a history of repression, being instrumental in a bloody crackdown on communists following the discovery of an alleged coup plot in 1965-1966.

It is believed anywhere between 500,000 and 1.5 million people were killed by the violence unleashed by the armed forces during the repression.

More recently, accusations of rights abuses by the military -- including massacres -- have focused on hotspots in Aceh province in northern Sumatra, Irian Jaya, Ambon and Borneo.

The military have also been responsible for bloodshed on the streets of Jakarta -- on November, 14 students were shot dead in the city centre less than a kilometre (half mile) from the parliament complex.

The role of the army's special forces unit the Kopassus in last year's May riots which rocked Jakarta and several other cities in the country has also been widely condemned. The Kopassus has also been particularly active in East Timor.

The unit has also been accused of persecuting political and religious groups and opponents of the Jakarta regime.

In spite of international pressure, open inquiries into political disappearances and the systematic rape of ethnic Chinese women in May of last year, allegedly by members of the military, have proved inconclusive.

The open inquiry into the massacre at the Santa Cruz Cemetery by the Indonesian army in the East Timorese capital of Dili in 1991 is frequently referred to by human rights groups as an example of the difficulties of holding the military accountable for alleged rights abuses.

After initially denying what had taken place, the Indonesian authorities eventually admitted 50 people had been killed after being confronted with documentary evidence from Western journalists.

Independent inquiries have established that more than 260 people were killed in the cemetery.

Senior military figures involved in the massacre were sanctioned, largely to appease international opinion, but the officers' careers have not been affected.

One of the two, General Sintong Panjaitan, took temporary cover by studying at Harvard University and is now a close advisor to President B.J. Habibie.

Information Minister general Yunus Yosfiah was part of the special forces unit in East Timor in 1975 which killed five journalists working for the Australian media in Balibo.

The general has confirmed he was present when the journalists were killed but has refuted charges that he was the officer who gave the order for the executions.

A familiar haze of mystery also shrouds a massacre at a church in East Timor in April.

Dozens of people were hacked to death by pro-Indonesia militias as they attempted to leave the church in Liquisa after police had thrown teargas grenades inside the building.

The Indonesian authorities have acknowledged international protests that 25 people were killed but have refused demands for an independent inquiry.

Western diplomats who were finally allowed to visit the site more than three weeks after the killings found a newly painted church.

They told AFP inquiries led them to believe "at least 50 and without doubt many more" had been assassinated.

** End of text from cdp:reg.easttimor **