|Subject: LUSA: Truth and Reconciliation
Commission Takes Office in Dili
21 Jan 02 13:54 East Timor: Truth and Reconciliation Commission Takes Office in Dili
East Timor´s seven-member Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission took office at a ceremony in Dili Monday, pledging "to promote reconciliation, national unity and peace".
The commission, sworn in by UN transition administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello and Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri, will oversee hearings on violence and human rights abuses from 1974 through 1999, the period covering the territory´s brief civil war and the 24 years of Indonesian occupation.
The hearings, based in part on a post-apartheid South African initiative, would "gather all those involved in the conflict, offering a path to the future and an opportunity for lasting and genuine reconciliation", Vieira de Mello said.
Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, challenged the commission, saying its work would aid East Timor "to avoid similar tragedies" in future and "open the door to forgiveness".
The seven-member commission, which includes, among others, two women, two clergymen and a former apologist for Indonesian integration, will oversee hearings of both victims and protagonists of human rights violations during the past quarter-century.
The national commissioners will undergo training from international experts before beginning the selection of 25 to 30 district commissioners.
The Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission does not have the power to grant amnesty. It will have a complementary mandate to the courts, dealing with less serious human rights abuses.
In a message to the Dili ceremony, South Africa´s Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu said the hearings would give a "voice to silenced victims", helping them regain "dignity and heal wounds".
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, also sent a message, underlining the difficulty of establishing the truth.
She urged victims to come forward with "strength and openness" and violators of human rights "to publicly recognize their role and assume responsibility" for their actions.
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