Subject: JP update: Timor Leste Truth Commission starts work

Also: Rights groups oppose formation of Truth and Friendship Commission

The Jakarta Post Friday, August 5, 2005

Timor Leste Truth Commission starts work

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post/Denpasar

The ten-member Commission of Truth and Friendship began its task of trying to mend, without rendering any punishment, the wounds afflicted by pro-Indonesian militias in the bloody aftermath of Timor Leste's independence referendum in 1999.

On Thursday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda and his Timor Leste counterpart Jose Ramos-Horta led the commission's inaugural meeting in Bali.

Hassan said that the commission should seek out the truth to clarify who was involved in the "dark chapter of the history of the two countries".

However, he made clear that the commission's findings and recommendations would not be used as a basis for judicial prosecutions.

"This process will not lead to punishment for those held accountable, but will lead to reconciliation," he told a press conference following the closed-door meeting.

The commission, which has five members each from the two countries, was established to investigate the ensuing chaos following the referendum that ended Indonesia's 24-year rule of the former Portuguese colony. The United Nations have alleged that the atrocities, which claimed up to 1,500 lives, were carried out by militia gangs trained and sponsored by the Indonesian military.

Ramos-Horta concurred with Wirayuda's view that reconciliation, and not retribution, was best for the future relations of the two countries.

"Between the government, the leaders of the two countries, the people, we have reconciled, we have to come forward, step forward in this relationship," he said. "We look at justice as not only being the prosecutorial system," he said.

However, he admitted that there was debate in his country as to whether the commission was appropriate.

Earlier in the week, Timor Leste's Catholic Church bishops said that justice could only be found in the form of a United Nations-sponsored international tribunal.

Of the 18 men tried here for the 1999 atrocities in an Indonesian ad hoc human rights court, 17 have been acquitted. The 18th man, militia leader Eurico Guterres and a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's security wing, remains free pending the results of his appeal.

Those results prompted the UN to call for retrials within six months or face the possibility of an international tribunal.

However, the two countries have expressed opposition to the UN recommendation, saying it would harm relations between the two nations and so they say they prefer the joint commission.

The commission has a one-year mandate, renewable for a maximum of another year, to carry out its investigations. The commission's terms of reference specify that it has the power to access all available documents, to interview all related parties and to possibly grant amnesty to those held responsible for the violations.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Timor Leste president Xanana Gusmao are scheduled to meet in Denpasar next week and to officially open the commission's Bali secretariat.


Rights groups oppose formation of Truth and Friendship Commission

Kompas - August 3, 2005

Jakarta ≠ A number of non-government organisations (NGOs) have declared their opposition to the formation of the Indonesia-East Timor Truth and Friendship Commission (KPP). Aside from being little more than a political tool for the perpetrators of crimes can evade justice, the NGOs believe that the commission will become a political bargaining tool for Indonesia and East Timor.

This was conveyed in a joint statement presented by Rafendi Djamin (Human Rights Working Group), Usman Hamid (Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, Kontras) and Agung Yudha (Institute for Human Rights Studies and Advocacy, Elsham) on Tuesday August 2.

The government has already announced the names of 10 commission members, comprising five people from Indonesia and five people from East Timor. The members from Indonesia are Benjamin Mangkoedilaga, Achmad Ali, Mgr Petrus Turang, Wisber Loeis and Agus Widjojo. The members from East Timor are Jacinto Alves, Diorinicio Babo, Aniceto Guterres, Felicidade Guterres and Cirilio Varadales. The commission will meet in Bali on August 4-5.

The NGOs believe that formation of the commission, which was announced by the Department of Foreign Affairs last Monday, is evidence that it will be difficult to create justice and uphold human rights in Indonesia. This view has been further strengthened by the lack of substantial changes in the commissionís terms of reference. The fact is that there has been criticism of the terms of reference since it was signing by the presidents of the two countries.

They believe that the terms of reference which have been agreed to have many weaknesses. For example, it does not differentiate between perpetrators and witnesses, it confuses those people who are responsible for serious and ordinary crimes and does not have any mechanisms to act on serious crimes. Amnesty can even be granted to perpetrators of crimes who would not be allowed such amnesty under international legal standards.

The formation of the commission is loaded with political interests. The human rights NGOs therefore oppose the formation of the commission unless there are amendments to its terms of reference. (SON)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

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