Subject: Timor-Leste President says: "the national interest can override the law"

MSO ­ Lusa 21 September 2009

Dili - The President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta in an interview today broadcast on TVTL, admitted that the national interest can override the law, as has been the case with Bere.

Questioned about whether or not the delivery of Maternus Bere, who is indicted for crimes against humanity in the massacre of 1999 in the Suai Church to Indonesian authorities, the Head of State responded that "not everything that is legal can support the national interest and the interests of the State.”

Ramos Horta, in the interview in Tetum, the language most spoken in the country, said that as head of state his first duty is to ensure the sovereignty and independence of East Timor and so he has to cultivate good neighborly relations, particularly with Indonesia, which has its own difficulties in moving towards democracy.

The President made the analogy of delivery Maternus Bere, who is Indonesian nationality, to the agreement made with the United States in 2002 by the government of Mari Alkatiri, which states that crimes committed in Timor-Leste by the US military cannot be tried in Timor, but would be handed over to the American authorities.

Drwaing parallels between the U.S. and Indonesia, Ramos-Horta stressed that both countries, unlike East Timor, have not ratified the Treaty of Rome, so if the International Criminal Court were to issue an arrest warrant against a U.S. citizen within Timor-Leste’s jurisdiction, it is bound by the agreement to deliver him to the United States.

According to Ramos-Horta’s interpretation, in agreeing with Indonesia to deliver Bere to them, Timor-Leste would be doing the same as if it were an American citizen, as both the USA and Indonesia, have not ratified the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court.

The President also said that the establishment of an international tribunal to try serious crimes committed between 1975 and 1999 in Timor-Leste is not generally supported in East Timor, nor is it consistent with the position of both parties, but shows the "hypocrisy" of some sectors at home and abroad.

"FRETILIN was in power from 2002 to 2007, with a majority in Parliament and did not want a tribunal, understanding the importance of neighborly relations with Indonesia," he recalled.

On the other hand, Ramos-Horta recalled that the UN had the exclusive administration of East Timor from 1999 to 2002, as mandated by the Security Council and "did nothing" regarding serious crimes at that level.

"So why is that the Security Council did not adopt a resolution to create an international tribunal at the time," questioned the Head of State.

During the interview, he also commented on the recent incident with the National Parliament, which took the decision to prevent him traveling abroad on an official visit, pending clarification on the case Bere, but then reconsidered it.

Ramos-Horta pointed out that, constitutionally, the President, is directly elected, and is not accountable to neither the Parliament or to the government, so the first parliamentary decision was vitiated by an unconstitutionality, and also said to have been itself a surprise.

"The secretary general of Fretilin, Mari Alkatiri, had attended a meeting to consider a way out and gave his contribution, showing understanding of the relationship with Indonesia. We were surprised that Alkatiri’s moderated analysis of the problem was not reflected in the position taken by his party in the parliament," he said.

Questioned about the censure motion against the government of Xanana Gusmão, tabled in Parliament by FRETILIN, Ramos-Horta said that as President of the Republic, he considered this to be a normal practice in democratic regimes.

"Personally as a citizen, I Ramos-Horta, support the AMP government 100%, which I believe have all the constitutional legitimacy and have total confidence in the Prime Minister," he said.


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