Subject: Joint Press Release: Rethinking Justice in East Timor

JOINT PRESS RELEASE By FORUM-ASIA, Watch Indonesia!, ELSAM, Perkumpulan HAK, East Timor National Alliance for an International Tribunal

Side Event “Rethinking Justice in East Timor” at the 61st Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, April 1, 2005 in Geneva

Human Rights Organizations Urge the UN to Fulfill Its Commitment to the Justice Processes in East Timor and Indonesia

Today, East Timorese, Indonesian and international human rights organizations demanded that the stalled justice processes in Indonesia and East Timor be reformed and effective solutions found by the two states and the UN. The event organized by Watch Indonesia!, International Service for Human Rights, FORUM-ASIA and ICJ addressed the newest mechanisms proposed by the two governments and the UN, the Commission on Truth and Friendship and the UN Commission of Experts.

Amado Hei from Perkumpulan HAK and the East Timor National Alliance for an International Tribunal stated that the proposed Commission on Truth and Friendship CTF is opposed by victims’ families and East Timorese civil society as it perpetuates impunity. He spoke out for an ad hoc international tribunal as the only effective mechanism to end impunity. The international community should take over the process and continue efforts to build a multilateral reform process.

Atnike Sigiro from the Indonesian human rights organization ELSAM described the failed justice process in Indonesia and underlined the negative consequences this precedent will have for other trials for past human rights violations in Indonesia. Ms. Sigiro stressed that the Commission of Experts should be seen as an opportunity by the Indonesian government to prove its seriousness about addressing human rights violations.

Alexander Mayer-Rieckh from the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) explained the mandate of the new Commission of Experts established by the UN Secretary-General to evaluate the judicial processes concerning the human rights crimes of 1999. He stressed that there will be no competition between the Commission on Truth and Friendship and the Commission of Experts, as the latter is not an accountability mechanism. The main challenge for the Commission of Experts will be to recommend “legally sound and practically feasible measures” to bring about justice that can be adopted by the international community. He also emphasized that crimes against humanity are not a national matter to be solved by bilateral agreements but a concern for the international community and the UN as well. ICTJ is of the opinion that “if an ad hoc international tribunal is not feasible, then the alternative is not to entirely to abandon efforts to bring justice but to adequately support existing mechanisms, in particular the serious crimes process in East Timor.”

The NGO representatives urged the UNCHR to support the Commission of Experts as it presents a tremendous opportunity to re-affirm international commitment to bring justice and support the cause of the victims of the serious crimes committed in 1999.

The ensuing discussion between the panelists and the audience was lively and intense. Three government representatives from Timor Leste, Portugal and Indonesia gave statements and engaged in the debate.

For more information, please contact:

Rashid Kang, FORUM-ASIA: hrd@forumasia.org Monika Schlicher, Watch Indonesia!: schlicher@snafu.de

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