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Annan plays down need for tribunal

South China Morning Post - February 22, 2000

Agence France Presse, Canberra – United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Australian Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday that the Indonesian judicial process should be given a chance and played down the need for an international war crimes tribunal for East Timor.

Mr Annan said it was important to "make those responsible accountable and the Indonesians are moving ahead in a determined manner to do that". "I met the Indonesian attorney-general and human rights commissioner in Jakarta and I think they are taking it very, very seriously," he said. "If they do mount a transparent and credible trial, I do not think the [Security] Council will see any need to set up an independent tribunal."

Mr Annan said the UN would co-operate in the prosecution and suggested Australian intelligence should also be made available. "Whoever has information regarding the atrocities which were committed should co-operate with the prosecution," he said. "We obviously will co-operate to make sure those accountable are brought to trial."

And he urged Jakarta to embrace an independent East Timor, saying "both Indonesia and East Timor realise they are bound together by history and geography and it is in their interests to have good relations".

Mr Howard agreed the judicial process in Jakarta should be allowed to take its course. "I totally share the view of the Secretary-General on that," he said. "Indonesia deserves a lot of credit and understanding for what she's done on this and I think the process should be allowed to work in Indonesia. I believe the Indonesian Government has displayed a great deal of strength on the issue. It's not easy. Australia joins the UN in encouraging the Indonesians to firmly, fairly and effectively deal with that issue."

Privately, some diplomats say an international trial will never take place because China and Russia would probably block it. But Amnesty International said it was imperative an international investigatory body be established because Indonesia's judicial system could not cope without major reforms.