Subject: Disband RI-Timor Truth Commission: Protesters

Also East Timorese seek international court for 1999 abuses

Protests Mark Indonesia-ETimor Vote Hearing

DILI, Sept. 25 (AFP) - Protesters called Tuesday for the disbanding of an Indonesia-East Timor commission looking into violence surrounding East Timor's 1999 independence vote, demanding justice for what happened.

The Indonesia-East Timor Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), which has no prosecution powers but is aimed at reconciliation, had just opened a hearing when about 70 protesters held a noisy rally outside.

"We want justice," chanted members of student and rights groups as about 100 security personnel stood on standby.

"There is no tolerance for anyone intending to eradicate justice," read one banner, while another said: "Justice should go through the courts, not through compromise."

The commission, modelled along the lines of South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is aimed at determining what happened during the August 1999 UN-backed ballot.

The United Nations has strongly criticised the CTF and refused to send any of its officials to testify at several rounds of hearings, saying those guilty of rights violations should face justice.

"This hearing session is quite special, not only because it is the first time it is being held in Dili... but also because this will be the last public hearing held by the commission," said Benjamin Mangkudilaga, the Indonesian co-chairman of the commission.

The hearing will continue throughout this week.

East Timor and Indonesia, which ruled the former Portuguese colony for 24 years, set up the CTF in 2005.

In the 1999 vote the East Timorese voted in favour of breaking away from Indonesia, leading to serious violence blamed on militias backed by the Indonesian military. About 1,400 people were killed and much of the nation's infrastructure was deliberately destroyed.

East Timor's leaders have taken a largely conciliatory stance towards Indonesia since then, arguing that good relations with its giant and more powerful neighbour are crucial to its future.

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East Timorese seek international court for 1999 abuses

Tuesday, September 25 2007

DILI, Sep 25 (Reuters) About 50 people demonstrated in East Timor's capital today, calling for an international tribunal to try individuals who committed atrocities during the vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999.

The Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), which was set up by Indonesia and East Timor to promote reconciliation between the two neighbours, is holding a final round of hearings this week in East Timor.

But critics say that the commission, which is meant to uncover details of the violence and human rights abuses that occurred as East Timorese prepared to vote, is toothless because it lacks the power to punish those found responsible for abuses.

Yesterday, the commission heard the testimony of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who led the nation's fight against Indonesian rule and who spent seven years in jail in Jakarta.

Protesters in Dili demanded that the commission be disbanded.

''The CTF only defends the criminals and stands in the way of justice,'' said Xisto da Costa, one of about 50 protesters who rallied outside the commission's office in Dili.

''They don't hear the victims' voices,'' he said.

The United Nations estimates about 1,000 East Timorese were killed when pro-Indonesia militias went on a rampage before and after the territory voted to break away from Jakarta rule.

Indonesian officials have told the commissions that only about 100 people were killed.

The militias, backed by members of the Indonesian army, also destroyed most of East Timor's infrastructure.

Today, a former district chief told the commission that before the vote he had been asked by the Indonesian military to set up a militia to defend integration.

''We were trained by General Prabowo in Aileu and we had weapons,'' Tomas Gonsalves told the hearing, referring to the former head of the Indonesian military's special forces, Prabowo Subianto.

He alleged that then-governor Abilio Soares, who died this year, asked militia members to kill independence supporters and church leaders.

Predominantly Catholic East Timor became fully independent in May 2002 after 2-{ years of UN administration that followed 24 years of Indonesian occupation.


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