Subject: Letter to ISF Commander
From: Takahashi Shigehito
Date: Tue, 25 Aug 2009 10:40:57 +0900
Subject: To ISF Commander
To: Commander, International Stabilisation Force
Caicoli, Dili, Timor-Leste
25 August 2009
First of all, I would like to express appreciation for you prompt reply of 12 August 2009, and commencement of investigation. I visited ADF Investigative Service at Camp Phoenix on 14 August and met two investigators to provide my statement.
In your letter, you refer to the Status of Forces Agreement which permits (but does not oblige) ISF members to carry weapons. Much has happened since the time the SOFA was agreed. Therefore I urge the ISF to review its policy of carrying arms at all times, particularly long arms to reflect the progress in the Timor-Leste security situation since 2006. Today people are renovating their homes and building their businesses, almost all refugee camps are closed and armed groups are no longer in the mountains. Hundreds of foreign tourists are coming for this week's Tour de Timor bike ride. In this environment the public display of weapons serves only to threaten and intimidate. It makes people feel unsafe. Feeling safe is particularly important for Timorese people, who have a long history of foreigners bringing armed conflict, i.e. Portuguese colonization, Japanese and Indonesian militaries committed the heinous crimes afflicted on them - for which almost no one is held account.
After sending the letter to you, several East Timorese people as well as foreigners contacted me to express their concerns over similar issues. Some described their own or friends' experiences of incidents of inappropriate, and sometimes dangerous, conduct by ISF members. They were unaware of how to report a complaint and the ISF's process for following up and addressing complaints. Based on this experience, I suggest that the ISF make their complaints registration process widely known to Timorese people and that such a process should be sensitive to issues like language barrier, fear of retaliation, means of access and explain how the ISF will follow-up with complaints. Publicity measures should ensure information on this process will reach everyone in Timor-Leste, and clearly explain what the military is and is not allowed to do.
As I sent my complaint as an open letter, do you mind if I make your reply available to the public? If not, I will summarize your reply and then make it public as my obligation of sending out an open letter.
Once again, thank you very much for your prompt and sincere measures to address this important issue.