- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

JAKARTA, Indonesia, March 12 (UPI) — An Indonesian military general was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for failing to prevent massacres by pro-Jakarta militiamen during East Timor's bloody break from Jakarta three years ago.

Brig. Gen. Noer Muis is the highest Indonesian military officer to be convicted for human rights violations in East Timor — now known as Timor-Leste — before and after the U.N.-sponsored referendum on Aug. 31, 1999.

Muis was the Indonesian military commander in East Timor and was accused of allowing pro-Jakarta militiamen to attack the Dili residence of East Timor's Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, and an attack of Ave Maria church in East Timor's district of Suai. Scores of people were killed or wounded in the attacks Sept. 5-6, 1999..

The Indonesian special human rights court earlier found two lower-ranking officers and two civilians guilty for their parts in the massacres. They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 3 to 10 years. Another 12 defendants have been acquitted.

On Wednesday, Judge Endriani Nurdin, in his ruling, said, "The defendant, General Muis, is found guilty for failing to prevent attacks by his subordinates that led the crimes against humanity took place in the shape of killings and tortures." Nurdin then announced the sentence of 5 years in prison.

Muis immediately said he would appeal.

The United Nations has estimated that more than 1,000 people were killed in the post-1999 referendum mayhem led by pro-Jakarta militias, backed by elements from within the Indonesian military.

East Timor was a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years before Indonesia invaded the territory in 1975 and annexed it the following year, a claim that was never recognized by the United Nations.

Indonesia's frequently brutal occupation, combined with starvation and disease, killed tens of thousands of East Timorese during Jakarta's reign. East Timor gained full independence last May after a period of transitional rule by the United Nations.

The East Timor trials are the first cases using Indonesia's new law on Human Rights Courts, enacted by Parliament in 2000. Under the law, for the first time Indonesian military officers are liable to civilian prosecution for gross human rights violations.




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