Subject: IHT Letter: Justice in East Timor

International Herald Tribune



Justice in East Timor

Regarding "When peace and justice collide" by Ramesh Thakur (Views, Aug. 31): East Timor's future does indeed depend on friendly relations with its neighbour, Indonesia. But I find it questionable to warn critics of the two countries' deal regarding the Truth and Friendship Commission not to impose "judicial colonialism."

Accusing human rights activists of colonialism has a long tradition, especially within autocratic regimes. Rather than furthering a critical debate, however, it is a killer argument intended to end it. And it becomes implausible when, as in this case, it is used against the UN Commission on Human Rights, a body where developing countries now find themselves in the majority.

Yet reality is more complex. Indonesia and East Timor are bound by certain norms of international law, including the principle that genocide and crimes against humanity must be subject to prosecution. Bringing those crimes to court is in the interest of humanity, not merely of certain nations.

Moreover, as the author himself points out, East Timor, a poor and weak country, is in no position to force Indonesia into prosecuting the people responsible for the massacres of the past. Therefore, it is the international community's responsibility to seek that course. By doing so, it does have the people of East Timor on its side.

Benjamin Wacker Freiburg, Germany

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