Subject: Deep Flaws In East Timor-RI Truth Process: ICTJ Reports

Deep flaws in East Timor-Indon truth process: report

By Karen Michelmore, South East Asia Correspondent

JAKARTA, Jan 29 AAP - A truth commission into the violence in East Timor in 1999 risks becoming a "diplomatic charade" unless it delivers a strong and independent finding, a new report warns.

The International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) report found the joint Indonesia-East Timor truth body was "deeply flawed," falling short of international standards and the local justice needs of both countries.

The East Timor-Indonesia Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) was established by the presidents of the two countries three years ago in a bid to establish a "conclusive truth" about the 1999 violence to help repair relations.

It held six public hearings over the past year and is due to hand down its report early this year.

"The CTF appears to have been established more out of concern to enhance bilateral diplomatic relationships than to contribute substantively to truth telling or national reconciliation between the peoples of Timor-Leste and Indonesia," said the report, titled Too Much Friendship, Too little Truth.

The truth body, which favours friendship with Indonesia over prosecution, has long been criticised by human rights groups concerned it will recommend amnesties for alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses and cloud the history of the violence.

East Timor suffered heavily under Indonesia's 24-year rule, and only won independence after President Suharto was forced to step down in 1998.

Numerous investigations have found that up to 1,500 people were killed, hundreds of thousands were displaced, and about 70 per cent of the nation's infrastructure razed when militia groups linked to Indonesian security forces rampaged across East Timor before and after the historic vote.

But the ICTJ report said many witnesses at the public hearings presented an "alarming version of events".

Several alleged perpetrators of violence, including the former head of Indonesia's armed forces General Wiranto - who was indicted by a Dili court in absentia in 2003 for alleged crimes against humanity - told the hearings no gross human rights violations had occurred in East Timor.

Many blamed the carnage on a long-running internal conflict inside East Timor.

The ICTJ said the truth body only heard from 13 victims among the 56 mostly accused perpetrators and senior officials who testified at public hearings.

"Recognition has been widespread that the hearings have failed to reveal the truth," the report said.

"(The) CTF has not yet delivered substantive transitional-justice benefits, and its public hearings have seriously compromised the goals of truth and reconciliation.

"(To ensure) that it will be remembered not just as a diplomatic charade but as a useful transitional-justice mechanism, the commission must produce a report that can separate falsehoods from truth and propose strong and independent recommendations."

The ICTJ said the CTF could still make a positive long-term contribution, calling on the body to "take all possible efforts to rectify the public record by correcting apparently untruthful evidence given at CTF hearings" and to name dishonest witnesses in its final report.

It also urged the commission not to recommend any amnesties, and to seek input from victims in formulating its final recommendations.

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