Subject: Lusa: Church leader urges UN chief to set up int'l war crimes court

East Timor: Church leader urges UN chief to set up int'l war crimes court

Dili, Dec. 16 (Lusa) - The head of East Timor's Catholic Church has written to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to reaffirm the need for an international tribunal to bring justice for victims of violence during Indonesia's quarter-century occupation of the territory.

Bishop Alberto Ricardo of Dili, in a letter dated Dec. 5, reminded Annan of "the importance of justice for the people of Timor and for our young and fragile democracy".

"The reluctance of political leaders to release the report of the Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR) to the public is proof that the politicians want to conceal the truth and ensure that there is no accountability for those guilty of atrocities committed between 1975 and 1999".

Timor and Indonesia formally rejected earlier this year a recommendation by a UN panel of experts that an international tribunal be set up to judge military officers and others accused of atrocities in Timor in 1999.

Reacting to the call from Timor's religious leader to Kofi Annan for the creation of an international tribunal, Foreign Minister Ramos Horta said the Dili government had sole responsibility for making political decisions.

President Xanana Gusmão presented the 2,000-page CAVR report to parliament last month, criticizing some of the document's recommendations, such as bringing the United States and Australia to book for discreetly sanctioning Indonesia's invasion in 1975.

Gusmão, along with other Timorese leaders, has repeatedly said that reconciliation with Dili's larger neighbor must come before seeking justice for an estimated 200,000 people who died in the mainly Catholic territory under Jakarta's iron rule.

The CAVR was set up in 2001 and its report based on interviews with some 8,000 sufferers and witnesses of violence. It has also organized some reconciliation acts between perpetrators and victims of atrocities.

Dili has also set up a joint truth commission with Jakarta, with no powers to punish, to probe rights abuses before and after Timor's 1999 independence vote.

Jakarta officials on the Indonesia-Timor Truth and Friendship Commission were cited by various media Friday as saying they wanted to interview as many people as possible, including senior military commanders, on their involvement in the scorched-earth pullout by the Indonesian military after the resounding "yes" vote for independence.

Dili and Jakarta set up their commission last December after widespread international criticism at the failure of an ad-hoc Jakarta war crimes court to convict any former or serving senior Indonesian security officials.



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