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ETAN: Letter to RDTL President José Ramos-Horta on Justice and Accountability

March 23, 2010

H.E. José Ramos-Horta
President, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
Dili, Timor-Leste

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to express our sadness and deep dismay on reading your speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 11, 2010. In your address, you refer to having been "unfairly criticized by some fringe elements in this amorphous international community” for decisions made by you and the Government of Timor-Leste concerning justice and accountability.

While you did not mention Amnesty International by name, the target of your anger was clear as it directly followed a public dispute with them regarding your stance on an international tribunal. It is ironic that one whose heart is as forgiving as yours would issue such a strong attack on another Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Amnesty International has stood strongly for peace, and collaborated closely with you throughout the Indonesian occupation during the long campaign for human rights in Timor-Leste. To refer to them as “fringe” and accuse them of “regurgitating ready-made clichés or academic jargon on justice” is both disrespectful and engages in the same rhetorical excess you decry.


While we are aware of the difficulties and roadblocks to achieving meaningful justice and accountability, we believe that prosecutions of those most responsible for human rights and war crimes through a tribunal would offer tremendous support to democracy and human rights in both Timor and Indonesia.

ETAN shares a number of positions with Amnesty International concerning justice and accountability for crimes committed in Timor-Leste during the Indonesian occupation and the state of justice in independent Timor-Leste. Over the years, we have debated these positions with you, both publicly and privately, and respectfully. We share your frustration that the members of the UN Security Council have not acted to implement the UN’s promise that impunity must never be tolerated. We agree that it is unfair for the burden of achieving justice to be placed entirely on the shoulders of Timor-Leste.

We proudly stand with Amnesty International and many other organizations in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and elsewhere in continuing to support an international tribunal for Timor-Leste as the best way to achieve justice and accountability for crimes committed from 1975-1999. While we are aware of the difficulties and roadblocks to achieving meaningful justice and accountability, we believe that prosecutions of those most responsible for human rights and war crimes through a tribunal would offer tremendous support to democracy and human rights in both Timor and Indonesia. This would certainly help the people of both countries recover from their traumatic and oppressive experiences and move forward to peaceful, less-troubled lives under the rule of law.

You have often said that the East Timorese people do not want an international tribunal. We must strongly contest this assertion. When we ask East Timorese what ETAN should work on, nearly everyone urges us to continue to struggle for justice and accountability. As you are aware, there is a coalition of Timorese organizations called ANTI (National Alliance for the International Tribunal) with whom we work closely. In 2005, the Timorese Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation recommended a tribunal, as have Timorese, Indonesian, and UN commissions since 2000.

In August 2009, you opened a Solidarity Conference in Dili titled “The Struggle for Justice Continues,” which ETAN co-sponsored. The conference was attended by more than 200 people, at least three-quarters of them from Timor-Leste. The conference declaration, which grew out of the various panels and discussions, was approved by acclamation. It "urged the government of Timor-Leste, the international community and the UN to take principled action against impunity, and demanded an international tribunal for Timor-Leste” for crimes from 1975-1999.

Victims' Congress in Dili,  September 2009. Photo by John M. Miller, ETAN  

You told the UN Human Rights Council that "The victims demand acknowledgement of the truth, recognition of their suffering and a measure of individual or collective assistance." But their demands are deeper. In September 2009, victims and families of victims from all 13 districts of Timor-Leste met in Dili to form a national victims’ association. Participants cried out for justice, and called for an international tribunal.

We also stand with Amnesty International, the United Nations, the President of Timor-Leste’s Court of Appeals, as well as many Timorese citizens, attorneys, and civil society organizations in questioning the unconstitutional release of Maternus Bere. We believe that it undermines the rule of law in Timor-Leste and international law. When leaders decide that the “national interest” requires the violation of the separation of powers and legal rules to satisfy the request of a foreign government, they endanger Timor-Leste’s hard-won sovereignty and Constitutional democracy.

Candle-bearing vigilers protest release of Maternus Bere.  
Candles are lit at the Indonesian Embassy in Dili on September 6, 2009, the anniversary of the Suai Church massacre, where Maternus Bere was thought to be residing. Photo by La'o Hamutuk.

You informed the Human Rights Council that “there was not a single soul lighting a candle in protest at the gates of the said embassy where the alleged mass murderer had been sheltered while awaiting medical evacuation.” This is clearly not true. Several of our members witnessed more than a hundred Timorese, many women dressed in black for mourning, participate in a candle-light vigil in front of the Indonesian embassy which was hosting Bere was at the time and for nearly two months afterwards (see photos at

In closing, we respectfully ask you to acknowledge and listen to the many organizations and individuals, both Timorese and non-Timorese, who continue to believe that an international tribunal is the best legal, moral and practical way for the people of Timor-Leste to move beyond conflict, trauma and injustice toward a peaceful future.

'We write this letter to express our desire for continuing dialogue. Whether or not we eventually reach the same conclusions, we believe that our debates can be conducted without casting aspersions, questioning motives, or engaging in insults or personal attacks. In Timor-Leste, you are well-known for supporting honest dialogue conducted with mutual respect as a method to resolve differences. These principles should also apply internationally, and we encourage you to return to them.



John M. Miller, National Coordinator
for the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)

cc: Amnesty International
UN Human Rights Council Members

see also

23 Marsu 2010

Sua Exelénsia Prezidente José Ramos-Horta
Prezidente da Republika, RDTL
Dili, Timor-Leste

Sua Exelénsia:

Ami hakerek surat ida ne’e hodi hato’o ami nia triste no hakfodak bainhira ami le’e Ita-Boot nia diskursu ba Nasoins Unidas nia Konsellu Direitus Umanus nian iha Geneva iha loron 11 Marsu 2010. Iha diskursu ida ne’e, Ita-Boot koalia kona-ba “kritika ne’ebe la justu husi grupus ne’ebe iha ninin iha komunidade international”. Kritika ne’e kona-ba desizaun sira ne’ebe Ita-Boot no Governu Timor-Leste halo kona-ba justisa no akontabilidade.

Maske ita la uza sira nia naran, klaru katak Amnesty Internasional mak tarjeitu ita nia hirus tamba foin iha argumenta publika ho sira kona-ba ita nia posizaun ba tribunal internasional. Parese ironiku katak Ita-Boot ne’ebe iha fuan boot atu fo perdua bele mos hatete liafuan todan hasoru organizasaun ne’ebe hetan Prémiu Nobel ba Paz hanesan Ita-Boot. Amnesty Internasional servisu makaas ba dame, no servisu hamutuk no besik Ita-Boot durante okupasaun Indonesia nian durante kampaña ba direitus umanus iha Timor-Leste. Hanaran sira “iha ninin” no akusa sira “repete koalia ne’ebe fasil no la iha sentidu ka sai nudar koalia akademiku deit kona-ba justisa” la fo respeitu ba sira no halo buat ne’ebe ita du’un sala.

ETAN iha posizaun hirak ne’ebe hanesan ho Amnesty Internasional kona-ba justisa no akontabilidade ba krime sira ne’ebe mosu iha Timor-Leste durante okupasaun Indonesia nian no mos situasaun justisa nian iha Timor-Leste ne’ebe independente. Tinan barak ona ita halo diskusaun kona-ba posizaun sira ho Ita-Boot, iha manera publiku no mos privadu, no ho respeitu boot. Ami mos iha frustrasaun hanesan Ita-Boot tamba membru Konsellu Seguransa ONU nian la implementa promesa ONU nian katak impunidade la bele iha. Ita hamutuk konkorda katak la justu se Timor-Leste tenke buka justisa mesak deit.

Ami sente orgullu hamriik hamutuk ho Amnesty Internasional no organizasaun sira barak iha Timor-Leste, Indonesia no rai seluk hodi kontinua ami nia suporta ba tribunal internasional ba Timor-Leste. Hamutuk, ami sente tribunal internasional mak manera di’ak liu hodi hetan justisa no akontabilidade ba krime sira husi 1975 to’o 1999. Maske ami hatene iha susar no obstakulu sira, ami fiar katak foti prosesu hasoru sira ne’ebe responsavel ba krime funu no violasaun direitus umanus sira bele fo apoiu boot lahalimar ba demokrasia no direitus umanus iha Timor-Leste no Indonesia. Ida ne’e bele ajuda povo sira iha rai rua ne’e hodi la’o ba oin husi sira nia trauma ba moris ho dame iha lei nia okos.

Dala barak Ita-Boot dehan katak povo Timor-Leste lakohi tribunal internasional. Ami la konkorda. Bainhira ami husu ema Timor-Leste saida mak ETAN tenke halo, besik hotu mak dehan ami persisa kontinua halo luta ba justisa no akontabilidade. Hanesan ita hatene, iha koalisaun ANTI (Aliansa Nasional ba Tribunal Internasional) ne’ebe ami servisu hamutuk ho besik. Iha 2005, CAVR halo rekomendasaun ba tribunal, hanesan komisaun sira husi Timor-Leste, Indonesia no ONU desde 2000.

Iha Agostu 2009, Ita-Boot haloke konferensia solidariedade iha Dili ne’ebe iha naran “Luta Nafatin ba Justisa” no ne’ebe ETAN sae ko-organizador. Ema nain atus rua resin tuir no pelumenos ¾ mak husi Timor-Leste. Deklarasaun konferensia, ne’ebe sai husi diskusaun sira no hetan konkorda husi partisipante, “ezije ba governo Timor-Leste, komunidade internasional, no ONU atu halo asaun ne’ebe bazeia ba prinsipiu kontra impunidade, no ezije harii tribunal internasional ba Timor-Leste, hodi dehan katak la bele iha impunidade ba krime graves ne’ebe akontese durante 1975 to’o 1999.”

Ita-boot dehan ba Konsellu Direitus Umanus ONU nian katak “Vitima sira ezije rekonhesimentu ba lia loos, rekonhesimentu ba sira nia terus no asistensia balun nudar individual ka kolektivu.” Maibe vitima sira nia ezijensia sira klean liu. Iha Setembru 2009, vitima sira no familia vitima sira husi 13 distritu hotu iha Timor-Leste hasoru malu iha Dili hodi forma asosiasaun vitima iha nivel nasional. Partisipante sira hakilar ba justisa, inklui nesesidade ba tribunal internasional.

Ami mos hamutuk ho Amnesty Internasional, ONU, Prezidente Tribunal Rekursu TL nian, no cidadaun Timor-Leste nian, advogadu sira, no organizasaun sira iha sociedade sivil, no sira seluk ne’ebe kritika libertasaun Maternus Bere nian ne’ebe la tuir Konstituisaun RDTL. Ami fiar katak desizaun ida ne’e kontra lei Timor-Leste nian no mos lei internasional. Bainhira lider sira deside atu halo violasaun ho fahe kbiit no regra legal tamba “interese nasional” persiza tuir governu rai seluk nia hakarak, sira halo perigu ho Timor-Leste nia soberania no demokrasia iha Konstituisaun nia okos. 

Ita-boot dehan ba Konsellu Direitus Umanus nian katak “la iha ema ida ne’ebe sunu lilin nudar protesta iha embaisada ne’ebe fo mahon/fatin seguru ba ema ne’ebe karik asasinu ema lubun-boot enkuantu hein evakuasaun médiku.” Ida ne’e la lo’os duni. Ami nia membru sira balun haree rasik ema Timor nain atus resin, feto sira barak hatais metan, ne’ebe partisipa iha vijilia ho lilin iha Embaisada Indonesia nia oin, fatin ne’ebe Bere hela no kontinua hela fulan rua depois. (Bele haree foto sira iha

Atu taka, ho respeitu ami husu katak ita rekonhese no rona organizasaun barak no individual sira, Timor-oan no mos sira husi liu, ne’ebe fiar katak tribunal internasional mak manera ne’ebe di’ak liu iha aspeitu legal, moral no mos pratikal hodi povo Timor-Leste bele sai husi konflitu, trauma no injustisa ba futuru ne’ebe dame.

Ami hakarak kontinua dialogu ho Ita-Boot. La importa se ita hetan konkluizaun hanesan ka la’e, ami fiar katak ita bele halo debate la ho lian ne’ebe buka halo foer parte ida nia reputasaun, dudu parte ida nia intensaun, ka koalia insulta ka a’at iha nivel personal. Iha Timor-Leste, ema barak hatene kona-ba Ita-Boot nia apoiu ba dialogu ne’ebe honesta no ho respeita malu nudar dalan hodi resolve diferensia sira. Importante tebes uza prinsipiu sira mos iha nivel internasional, no ami hein katak ita boot fila fali ba prinsipiu sira ne’e. 



John M. Miller, Kordinator Nasional
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)

cc. Amnesty International
Membru sira iha Konsellu Direitus Umanus ONU nian.



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