Subject: East Timor: A long way from international justice

East Timor: A long way from international justice

Usman Hamid and Yati Andriyani , Liquisa, east timor | Wed, 09/30/2009 9:50 AM | Opinion

Mentioning Timor Leste not only brings to mind a state that was once Indonesia’s 27th province, but also a place where gross human rights violations took place before, during and after its UN-sponsored August 1999 referendum.

According to Geoffrey Robinson (East Timor 1999; Crimes Against Humanity, 2006), around 400,000 people were forced to leave their hometowns following massive riots after the referendum, 70 percent of buildings across the territory were burned and destroyed, and an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 people were killed.

But 10 years later, Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta reiterated again that “there will be no international tribunal”.

A serious move to pursue justice over the crimes against humanity and war crimes that took place during the Indonesian occupation in East Timor will enable both Indonesia and Timor Leste to bring about a sense of democracy and respect for the principles of human dignity and rule of law. Until there is justice, neither country can leave the past behind.

Our concern now is about the monitoring report of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) entitled Embracing Friendship, Forsaking the Truth: Monitoring Report of the Commission for Truth and Friendship for Indonesia and Timor Leste, 2008, which says several mechanisms of court and truth revelation were “carried out in response to the crimes against humanity that occurred in Timor Leste”.

First, there was an official mission carried out by three UN special rapporteurs and the UN Commission of Inquiry on East Timor. This team reported that the Indonesian Army (TNI) was involved in orchestrating violence in East Timor in 1999 and therefore must be held responsible for human rights violations there. This report recommended that should Indonesia fail to set up a credible court, an international court should be formed.

Second, Indonesia formed a commission to investigate human rights violations (KPP-HAM), and an ad hoc Human Rights Tribunal.

The KPP-HAM concluded in its report that serious human rights violations did occur in 1999 in East Timor and it also disclosed the names of 33 security officers and officials held responsible for such violations.

The Indonesian government followed up the recommendation by setting up the tribunal. However, the Supreme Court eventually released all defendants. None of the verdicts endorsed compensation for the victims.

Third, a Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) was established in East Timor in 2002 to investigate and file a report on human rights violations that occurred between April 25, 1975 and October 1999 in East Timor. In 2005, the CAVR completed its investigations and issued several points of recommendations, including, among others, to award reparation for victims and establish an international-style tribunal.

Forth, the UN Commission of Experts (2005) was established in response to the failure of the ad hoc human rights tribunal in Indonesia and the Special Panel in East Timor. The report concluded that the ad hoc tribunal in Indonesia and the process of revealing serious crimes in East Timor had failed. They recommended the establishment of an international-style justice process should there be no improvement in domestic justice mechanisms within six months.

Fifth, both Indonesian and East Timor administrations agreed to establish the Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) in 2004. In the rounds of hearings held by the commission, “the accused” as well as senior officials of related institution dominated the testimonial-giving process, leaving the victims with a little space. The CTF acknowledged that crimes against humanity occurred in East Timor. This should open the way for future prosecutions.

Ten years after referendum, it is important to reflect on whether any efforts have fulfilled the victims rights to justice, to knowing, to reparation, and to a guarantee of non-recurrence.

Politically, and substantially, the fundamental problem lies in the failure to scrap impunity practices; and it is not only the victims who should be, again, being victimized as they continue suffering from “damages” until today, but also such practices have endangered the human rights movement ­ a movement that agrees to see crimes against humanity as the enemy of all mankind.

The writers work for the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras). 


Published: Tuesday September 29, 2009 MYT 8:28:00 AM

East Timor defends decision not to try war crimes

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - East Timor's government is defending its policy of not pursuing war crimes trials for Indonesian officials responsible for thousands of deaths during their 24-year occupation of the half-island nation.

Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa says the country needs to balance justice with the need to reconcile with its giant neighbor, which has refused to cooperate with war crimes probes.

Da Costa acknowledged that his government has faced sharp criticism over the issue by human rights groups calling for an international war crimes tribunal to try those responsible.

The former Portuguese colony broke free of Indonesian occupation in 1999, when 1,500 people were killed by departing occupation troops. After three years of U.N. governance, East Timor declared independence in 2002.

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