Subject: Indonesia, E. Timor Form Commission On Rights Violations

also: AFP: Indonesia, East Timor plan joint commission on 1999 violence

Indonesia, E. Timor Form Commission On Rights Violations

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 21 (AP)--Indonesia and East Timor informed Secretary-General Kofi Annan that they have established a joint Commission on Truth and Friendship to deal with human rights violations during 1999 violence in East Timor that killed 1,500 people.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirjuda and East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta discussed the commission privately with Annan and then announced its creation Tuesday, calling for international assistance to get it up and running.

"This is an initiative that we believe is highly positive and will shed truth on the events of the past," Ramos-Horta said, calling it an "unprecedented initiative" for the two countries.

The announcement came a month after the U.N. Security Council expressed concern at Indonesia's failure to punish those responsible for the violence that followed East Timor's vote for independence.

Immediately after the results were announced, the Indonesian military and its proxy militias unleashed a wave of violence that displaced 300,000 people. After an Australian-led force helped end the fighting, the U.N. administered the territory for 2 1/2 years before handing it to the Timorese on May 20, 2002.

Last month, U.S. Ambassador John Danforth urged Annan to send experts to East Timor and Indonesia to figure out how to ensure some level of accountability for the atrocities "to create a climate conducive to the development of democratic institutions in both Indonesia and East Timor."

He cited East Timor's limited jurisdiction and the Indonesian tribunal's failure to punish perpetrators of the violence. The Indonesian court charged 18 people - most from its police and military - with human rights crimes but 12 were acquitted and four had their sentences overturned on appeal. Two other appeals were pending.

Wiruda said Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao agreed to create the joint commission at a Dec. 14 meeting on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali.

"The details and terms of reference of this commission will be worked out by the two foreign ministers," he said.

Ramos-Horta said the secretary-general told them he would study the initiative.

"He seemed to be very positive about it, coming from two parties," Ramos-Horta said.

Wiruda told reporters the commission is meant as an alternative to the establishment of a commission of experts, which Annan was considering. But Ramos Horta said if Annan decides to go ahead with the commission of experts, both countries would study the terms of reference.

Ramos Horta noted that many countries have created Truth and Reconciliation Commissions including South Africa, El Salvador, East Timor over three years ago, and recently Indonesia.

"But never before has there been a joint one where leaders of the two countries decide to create a joint commission to look at their shared past, shared history," he said.

Ramos Horta express hope that the commission would "finally close the chapter" surrounding East Timor's independence.

"We would hope and intend that this initiative would resolve once and for all the pending issues, one being the violent events of 1999," he said.

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AFP, December 22, 2004

Indonesia, East Timor plan joint commission on 1999 violence

Indonesia and East Timor announced plans for a historic joint commission to draw a line under past hostilities and resolve the 1999 bloodshed that marred the East Timorese march to independence.

They said the initiative could make redundant plans by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for a committee to see if justice was served over attacks by the Indonesian army and its militia allies that left 1,000 people dead.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda and his East Timorese counterpart Jose Ramos-Horta told reporters they had unveiled the plan, crafted by their respective presidents, in a meeting here with Annan on Tuesday.

"This is an unprecedented initiative in international relations. There has never been any such initiative involving two countries," Ramos-Horta said in a joint press appearance with Wirayuda.

"We would hope (and) intend that this initiative would resolve once and for all the pending issues, one being the violent events of 1999," he said.

Militiamen, aided by Indonesian soldiers, waged a campaign of intimidation and revenge before and after a UN-organised vote in August 1999 which saw East Timor choose overwhelmingly to split from Indonesia.

The decision to create the Commission on Truth and Friendship was made when new Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and East Timor President Xanana Gusmao met in Bali on December 14, the ministers said.

Wirayuda said it was "meant as an alternative to the idea of establishing a commission of experts by the secretary general." The ministers said Annan had not indicated if he would go ahead with his own plans for a commission.

"He might consider (his plans) redundant but if he decides to go ahead we will have to study the terms of reference," Ramos-Horta said.

The ministers appealed for international help in establishing the commission as their countries move to improve relations and put their recent bloody separation behind them.

East Timor, which won full autonomy in 2002, has downplayed trials in Indonesia, where convictions over the killings have been quashed, and instead stressed the importance of building good relations with Jakarta.

The trials were criticised from the outset, chiefly for their failure to try General Wiranto, who was in charge of Indonesia's military at the time of the bloodshed.

Indonesia invaded the half-island nation in December 1975, shortly after Dili declared independence from centuries of Portuguese colonial rule.


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