Subject: UN official: Tribunal needed for Timor crimes

also Timor jail release slammed

September 16, 2009

UN official: Tribunal needed for Timor crimes

By Deutsche Presse Agentur

Dili - The international community should consider setting up a tribunal for serious crimes in East Timor if former occupier Indonesia and East Timor were unwilling to prosecute suspects, a United Nations official said Tuesday.

The United Nations has criticised East Timor's government for the release from jail last month of Martenus Bere, a former pro-Indonesia militia leader accused of taking part in a 1999 massacre at a church in Suai district, in which up to 200 people died.

"If the two countries ... are not willing and are not intending to prosecute people who committed crimes against humanity, there is the principle of universal jurisdiction for these crimes," said Louis Gentile, the representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in East Timor.

Gentile said it was the responsibility of the international community to find a way to bring those who committed crimes against humanity to justice.

Gentile said the release of Bere was political because it did not follow legal procedures.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was annexed by Indonesia in 1976. The territory voted for independence in a UN-sponsored ballot in 1999, which was marred by violence blamed on pro-Jakarta militiamen and Indonesian troops.

According to a report by a UN-sponsored truth commission, the Indonesian occupation led to about 100,000 deaths from killings, starvation and disease.

The territory became formally independent in 2002.

Indonesia and East Timor have agreed to put reconciliation and friendship ahead of prosecution of those who committed crimes during the occupation.


The Age

Timor jail release slammed


September 17, 2009

NON-GOVERNMENT organisations in Dili have backed the United Nations' condemnation of the release of an Indonesian man accused of crimes against humanity.

The Catholic Church has also condemned the release of former militia commander Martenus Bere, with influential Bishop Basilio do Nascimento declaring: ''We have to forgive, but before we can forgive there must be justice.''

Bere allegedly led an attack on a church in the East Timorese town of Suai in September 1999, during which three priests and about 200 civilians were massacred.

In a blunt statement released in Dili, the East Timor NGO Forum described the Government's decision to release Bere on the 10th anniversary of East Timor's vote for independence, on August 30, as a ''cheap political decision'' that violated the independence of the country's judiciary.

''The NGO Forum and its members condemn the political intervention by the Republic of Indonesia into the judicial sovereignty of Timor-Leste [East Timor],'' said the forum, which represents more than 300 organisations.

The forum said Indonesia pressured for Bere's release after he was arrested in the Suai area in mid-August. He had crossed the border from Indonesian West Timor to attend a family funeral.

Bere, a West Timor provincial government official, was indicted by a UN Serious Crimes Tribunal in 2003 on charges of murder, extermination, enforced disappearance, torture, rape, deportation and persecution.

East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao secretly arranged Bere's release to Indonesian officials without a court order, which prompted new calls for the UN to establish an international tribunal to prosecute people accused of crimes in East Timor.

Mr Ramos Horta threatened to quit when Parliament last week voted to block his overseas travel plans until he explained his role in Bere's release.

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