Subject: Decision to accept UN experts prudent

Jakarta Post

Decision to accept UN experts prudent

Opinion and Editorial - June 01, 2005

Dede A. Rifai, Geneva

The government finally approved the visit of the Commission of Experts (CoE) formed by the UN secretary-general. During their visit in Indonesia on May 18 to May 20, the CoE met with various top Indonesia officials such as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, foreign minister Hassan Wirayudha and Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh.

Previously, the government considered the CoE unnecessary and redundant because of the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) established by the governments of Indonesia and Timor Leste.

The government shifted its policy, as stated by Minister Hassan, after looking at the changes in the CoE's mandate. According to its Terms of Reference (ToR), the CoE will complement the CTF by considering how its analysis can be of assistance to the CTF.

The Indonesian decision to accept the CoE was realistic, rational and proper, since it poses the least amount of risk of all the available options. If Indonesia did not accept CoE, it would have been unable to provide any information from its side on the judicial process in Indonesia regarding the human rights violations in East Timor in 1999. This could have negatively affect the recommendations formulated by CoE.

Although the CoE was only formed by the UN secretary-general, not the Security Council, the CoE's recommendations will be the main reference point for the Security Council in formulating its actions on this case.

If Indonesia did not accept the CoE, Indonesia would have been considered as not cooperating with the commission. The UN Security Council, as mentioned in Resolution 1599 (2005), calls on all parties (including Indonesia) to cooperate fully with the work of the CoE.

If its resolutions are breached, the Security Council usually adopts acts under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which has bad implications for the breaching parties.

However, the Security Council, in the same resolution, acknowledges the improvement of relations between Indonesia and Timor Leste, including the agreement to establish the CTF.

The council also slightly softened its position on the judicial process regarding serious human rights violations in East Timor in 1999, by only reaffirming the need for credible accountability, instead of reaffirming the fight against impunity mentioned in the Resolution 1573 adopted last year.

In general, international law prohibits intervention in sovereign states. One of the exceptions is in the case of serious human rights violations that can be considered a threat to peace and security, as discussed in Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

UN Security Council Resolution 1264 (1999) considered the situation in East Timor, specifically the serious human rights violations taking place there, a threat to peace and security. Therefore, the UN Security Council had the authority to intervene.

Indonesia argued in 2000 that reported human rights violations were committed in East Timor when it was still part of the territory of Indonesia. Therefore, the judicial process of the case is under the jurisdiction of Indonesian law, which is functioning and capable of disposing of justice.

However, Indonesian's decision to accept and hold various meetings with the CoE, and the UN's position to recognize and assist the CTF, show that Indonesia and the UN have been able to put aside their differences.

By accepting the CoE, the government has shown to the international community that Indonesia respects international law, including international humanitarian and human rights laws.

Indonesia has been a shining example of democracy for developing countries and "Islamic countries". This recent cooperation by Indonesia in addressing the UN intervention, while protecting its national sovereignty in the case of human rights violations in East Timor, could also be a good example for other developing countries experiencing similar situations.

The writer is studying at the Diplomatic Studies Program, Graduate Institute of International Studies, University of Geneva, Switzerland. He can be reached at


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