|Subject: JP: Truth body 'may vote' on E.
October 29, 2007
Truth body 'may vote' on E. Timor violations
Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Members of the Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) may decide by vote if gross violations of human rights occurred before and after the 1999 referendum in East Timor if they fail to reach a consensus on the matter.
CTF co-chairman from Timor Leste Dionisio Babo Soares said the commission would consider the stance and opinions of individual members to determine the commission's final conclusions.
The commission's report is due to be submitted to the Indonesian and Timor Leste governments in January.
"We are now discussing the substance of the report so I can't say if we have made a decision on whether or not gross human rights violations were committed at the time. If we fail to reach a consensus then we will vote," Soares told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
He said as each commissioner's opinion was important, the CTF would include notes on the opinions of individuals in the report to demonstrate to the public the democratic decision-making process the commission follows.
After almost two years of work, the CTF is moving closer toward submitting its conclusions about alleged human rights abuses in Timor Leste, with the final public hearing held last Wednesday.
The hearing featured the testimonies of Lt. Gen. (ret) Kiki Syahnakri, the East Timor province military commander in 1999, and Col. Aris Martono, who headed an army battalion deployed to the province that year.
CTF commissioners are currently attending a series of meetings to conclude Tuesday, during which the substance of the commission's final report will be discussed.
The report is to be based on public hearings, submissions, research and document reviews.
CTF co-chairman from Indonesia Benjamin Mangkoedilaga said the report had to be completed by its January deadline to avoid criticism, as the commission had already been granted a year-long extension.
"Whatever happens, we must finish the report by January as more delays will only invite public criticism. At this stage, we must decide first whether gross human rights violations occurred based on our hearings and reviews before moving to other matters, such as determining which party was responsible," he told the Post.
Benjamin also refused to comment on whether the commission had made a decision on the occurrence of gross human rights violations in the former Indonesian province.
During the public hearings, several witnesses testified that they were tortured or that members of their families were killed by armed civilians supported by the Indonesian military.
Kiki Syahnakri, who was also the martial law commander in East Timor in 1999, confirmed at Wednesday's hearing that Timor Leste civilians armed and trained by the TNI had formed people's self defense groups known as wanra, which are still recognized in defense law.
However, he maintained the military and police were not involved in human rights violations.
International relations expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Bantarto Bandoro said if the CTF report denied the occurrence of gross human rights violations in East Timor it would be met with harsh criticism from the international community.
He also said if such a decision was made, the credibility of the commission would be at risk, casting further doubt on improving relations between the Indonesian and Timor Leste governments.
"If the CTF report concludes that human rights violations occurred, then both governments must follow up on the commission's recommendations with actions. But if the commission fails to establish that gross human rights violations occurred, the UN should take over the investigation," he told the Post.
In July, the UN prohibited its officials from testifying at the commission due to the fact the CTF was given the mandate to recommend individuals for amnesty.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said last Friday that the CTF should again summon former officials of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) to testify.
UN rights official criticizes RI over access
Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Despite being a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Indonesia is among those countries that continue to refuse a visit by a UN official responsible for investigating extrajudicial killings.
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston has expressed frustration over the lack of response from countries he believes need to answer questions about alleged extrajudicial killings, including Indonesia, to his requests for access.
"From the perspective of my mandate to respond to alleged killings, the majority of governments are failing the basic test of accountability," Alston was quoted as saying by AP on Saturday.
"If a country has problems of extrajudicial executions and doesn't let (me) in, that should be of concern to the General Assembly and Human Rights Council, but none of those countries are ever really challenged for their failure."
He said this was especially serious for the Human Rights Council members that have failed to respond to his requests -- Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia -- "because the council members are supposed to have said, 'We promise to cooperate fully with the council' as part of being elected."
Many domestic and international parties have accused Indonesia of extrajudicial killings during its contemporary history, including the "mysterious killings" of criminals in the 1980s, the disappearance of political activists in the 1980s and '90s, the Tanjung Priok massacre, Timor Leste killings and the more recent murders of Trisakti university students in 1998 and noted right activist Munir Said Thalib in 2004.
While acknowledging Alston's request for access, the Foreign Ministry's director general for multilateral affairs, Rezlan Izhar Jenie, said Indonesia saw no need for the special rapporteur to visit the country.
"Judging from his mandate, we have not seen the need for him to come because we are still in the process of investigating the matters (extrajudicial killings)," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
Rezlan said Indonesia had received numerous UN special rapporteurs on various human rights issues, including United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and Hina Jilani, the special representative to the UN secretary-general on the situation of human rights defenders.
He added the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, was scheduled to visit Indonesia in November.
A member of House of Representatives Commission I on security and international affairs, Marzuki Darusman, said most recent killings, including Munir's murder, were still being investigated and thus could not yet be categorized as extrajudicial killings.
"But we do have several extrajudicial killing cases, such as killings during the New Order era, that need to be explained to the international community. I think our slow response has been caused by a lack of clearance on which institution is responsible for the problems, and lack of coordination among government agencies," he told the Post.