Subject: Victims Congress in Dili: No Amnesty for Human Rights Crimes

Victims Congress in Dili: No Amnesty for Human Rights Crimes


2 September 2009

Dili, 2 Sept (Lusa) - The idea of a general amnesty for crimes committed between 1974 and 1999, launched by East Timorese President Ramos-Horta, was hotly debated in Congress of the network of victims of human rights violations in East Timor.

The congress which is meeting in the capital, Dili, is being attended by one hundred and fifty delegates, will run until Friday, and comes just days after the East Timorese president has advocated for the adoption of a general amnesty.

The spokesman of the organizing committee, Elio Saldanha, told Lusa that the first national congress of the victims want their rights to be safeguarded.

"The purpose of this meeting is to present their ideas and demands, and seek to protect and safeguard the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparations," said Saldanha.

The congress is sponsored by various non government organizations, including the "November 12 Committee", formed by survivors of the massacre at Santa Cruz, and is being attended by a delegation of Indonesian victims from the time of the Suharto dictatorship.

Moreover, representatives from various districts participated, chosen at local gatherings of victims and their families, brought about since March by the forum for non-government organizations FONGTIL.

The network aims to protect victims' interests and views in the national discussion with the intention of expanding the possible solutions for outstanding issues relating to justice, reconciliation and compensation.

On the first day of work, the Congress had as guest speakers Aniceto Guterres, Frentlin MP and member of the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), Lois Garcia, of Integrated Mission in East Timor United Nations (UNMIT) and Marek Michon, Head of the Serious Crimes Investigation (SCIT) of that mission.


Numerous participants criticized the idea of a general amnesty for the crimes they suffered, and the predominant view was synthesized by Saldanha.

"Crimes against humanity can not go unpunished, so we do not accept that they are capable of being amnestied," he said.

Most of the congress participants come from the districts, and they support the establishment of a tribunal to try serious crimes that occurred in the country, basing their demands on the Constitution of East Timor.

According to Saldanha, "the President's thinking breaches the 2002 Constitution, which stipulates in Article 160 that crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes must be prosecuted in national and international courts."

"The justice that we claim is not intended to revive hatred or revenge, but to educate future generations of this nation and prevent future violations of human rights," he added.

"We believe it will be useful to promote justice and peace, and to conflict prevention, ensuring respect for the rule of law, as a condition for peace," he said.


September 5, 2009

East Timor war victims' group demands justice

Text of report by Japan's largest news agency Kyodo

Dili, Sept. 5 Kyodo - A group of war victims and their families established a victims' association Friday, looking to demand special rights for war victims in East Timor, a move to fight against the granting of impunity and amnesty for war crimes in the country between 1974 and 1999.

The association for victims and their families was established after a three-day congress attended by 122 people from the country's 13 districts.

Edio Saldanha, spokesman for the new group, told Kyodo News the main role of the association will be to advocate for the rights of victims and their families.

"The main demand is justice and reparation for the victims as well as to prevent such human rights violations from recurring in the future," Saldanha said, adding the group will press for an international tribunal to examine the abuses.

In a petition to be submitted to parliament, the group declared that during 24 years of Indonesian rule East Timorese suffered from various human rights violations, including death.

"Unfortunately, so far, the government has never come up with any policy to show its good will to uphold justice for the victims, but, to the contrary, it has been even trying to ignore the rights of the victims," the petition charges.

During a ceremony last Sunday to commemorate of the 10th anniversary of a UN-monitored referendum on independence from Indonesia, President Jose Ramos-Horta had called for an end to demands for a tribunal to examine the past.

"(That) constitutes an abuse of power (by the president) as well as an abuse of the country's penal code and violates our constitution," Saldanha said.

Flavio Magno, a congress participant, also decried Ramos-Horta's statement.

"I was so sad to hear that. It does affect the feelings of the victims," Magno said. "If that is the commitment of our president then he will not deserve my vote in the next election." Magno, whose father was killed during the Indonesian invasion in 1975, said justice must be upheld for the victims and those who committed crimes must take responsibility for what they have done.

In the 1999 referendum, Magno's daughter, who was a staffer at the Ermera polling station, was killed by pro-Indonesia militiamen.

About 200,000 people are believed to have been killed during Indonesia's 24 years of occupation of East Timor.

And hundreds were killed during a wave of terror by militants backed by the Indonesian military following the release of the results of the referendum on Aug. 30, 1999 when it became clear the vast majority of East Timorese had voted for independence.

Source: Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 0644 gmt 5 Sep 09

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