|Subject: 3 Reports: E. Timor Rights Cases
Under Int'l Spotlight Again
The Jakarta Post Wednesday, May 18, 2005
East Timor Cases Under International Spotlight Again
Three members of the UN-sanctioned Commission of Experts (COE) are scheduled to arrive in Jakarta on May 20 to meet with legal people involved in the human rights tribunal for Indonesian officers and officials, who were charged with, but acquitted of rights violations in East Timor. Indonesia and East Timor jointly created a Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) late last year. Rafendi Djamin, coordinator of the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) gave The Jakarta Post's Ridwan Max Sijabat his opinion on COE's mission.
Question: Would you like to comment on the arrival of UN's COE representatives?
Answer: First of all, we support the United Nations' move to seriously deal with human rights abuses in East Timor, especially since the 1999 East Timor violence, which is classified as an international crime against humanity.
Secondly, we also appreciate Indonesia's cooperative gesture shown by the government in the issuance of visas for the three experts. We hope the UN experts will be given a wide access to meet with relevant sides and obtain needed documents so that they can work optimally and finally make an objective report.
Why do you give a thumbs-up to the UN mission?
Speaking frankly, we are disappointed with the Indonesian human rights tribunal since only two -- former East Timor governor Jose Abilio Soares and pro-independence militia leader Eurico Gutteres -- were given a guilty verdict, while all military and police officers and officials allegedly involved in human right abuses were acquitted of all charges.
This has shown Indonesia's unwillingness and incapacity to investigate the human rights abuses thoroughly and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The establishment of the COE is also consistent with the international nature of the 1999 East Timor violence. It is also a good opportunity for local police, prosecutors and judges to give a satisfactory explanation about the unfair tribunal.
Do you think it is possible to establish another tribunal on human rights abuses in East Timor?
Of course, it is impossible to bring suspects again to court for the same cases, but the human rights abuse cases could be reopened to identify other violations, which have not been tried yet. There have been many allegations of rape, slavery and abduction also, none of which have been investigated. Besides, top military and police officials with the responsibility for security and defense in East Timor have not gone to trial.
Do you see any other things the COE should pursue?
The UN experts are also expected to give input and recommendations for the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), in accomplishing its tasks in accordance with the accountability principle.
They are expected to convince the joint commission on the importance of promoting reconciliation between the two countries without forgetting the human rights abuses and justice.
Are you skeptical about the CTF's commitment to helping settle human rights issues in East Timor?
After learning its terms of reference, we have become skeptical of CTF's commitment to bringing justice with regard to human rights abuses. Article 13 of the terms of reference stipulates that based on the spirit of a forward-looking and reconciliatory approach, the CTF process will not lead to prosecution and will emphasize institutional responsibilities. This means that the CTF will be a chamber of impunity.
The two countries' governments have focused more on strengthening bilateral ties than on prosecuting human rights perpetrators, but many people in East Timor, including the relatives of human rights abuse victims, are still awaiting a fair trial of the human right abuses.
The ad hoc tribunal's failure to imprison notorious military and police top brass has indirectly contributed to the stagnant internal reform in those two institutions.
What is the best that the COE can expect from this mission?
The COE could recommend the establishment of a hybrid tribunal either in Jakarta or Dili, in addition to supporting the ongoing appeal by prosecutors to the Supreme Court for three military and police officers, who were acquitted by the tribunal.
Besides, the COE could also recommend the extension and the empowerment of the special panels for serious crimes in Dili so that they could interrogate former Indonesian officials involved in human rights abuses.
The Jakarta Post Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Skepticism Greets UN Mission
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Observers cast doubt on Tuesday over the ability of the UN-sanctioned Commission of Experts (COE) to bring the perpetrators of the 1999 atrocities in East Timor to justice.
They said the UN mission could instead actually disrupt the efforts by a reconciliation commission jointly established by Indonesia and East Timor to heal past wounds.
Agung Yudhawiranata of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam) said the UN and the international community had been facing what he termed "technical and psychological" difficulties in pushing the COE to work optimally as they lacked political support from both Indonesia and East Timor, which have set up the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) to promote reconciliation between the two countries.
"The COE's credibility has been at stake as it is not fully backed up by Indonesia and East Timor. And its position has become more difficult since the Special Panel for Serious Crimes in East Timor and the Indonesian rights tribunal failed to bring the perpetrators of the 1999 mayhem to justice," he said.
COE members Justice Prafullachandra Natwaral Bhagwati from India, Prof. Yozo Yokota from Japan and Dr. Shaista Shameen from Fiji are scheduled to start their three-day mission on Wednesday to evaluate the judicial process against members of the Indonesian military and officials charged with involvement in the 1999 violence in East Timor.
During their visit here, they are slated to meet with the ad hoc rights tribunal's prosecutors and judges to obtain documents on the human rights cases.
Johnson Panjaitan, a member of the team of lawyers representing human rights victims in East Timor, said he and many other lawyers and activists were not only skeptical about the UN mission, but also afraid of the consequences of being outspoken in calling for the trial of the Army generals believed to have been responsible for the crimes against humanity in East Timor.
"It looks unlikely that the UN experts will recommend another ad hoc tribunal or call on the International Court of Justice to try the human rights perpetrators because besides all this being costly, the experts will find it difficult to work independently and objectively simply because they lack support from Indonesia and East Timor," he said.
Johnson said his team had long doubted Indonesia's willingness and ability to carry out a thorough investigation into the gross human rights abuses.
"We were skeptical ever since General Wiranto, who should have been held responsible for the rights violations, became involved in the presidential election last year, while many other generals and officers were acquitted of all charges, and even got promoted," he said.
He also expressed disappointment with East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao, who he once represented when on trial here, as well as former Indonesian presidents Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid and Megawati Soekarnoputri for their failures to press for fair and objective trials.
According to Johnson, the most important thing at present was to encourage the victims of the atrocities to seek justice.
Kusnanto Anggoro, a military analyst with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said the ad hoc tribunal has failed to force the Indonesian Military (TNI) to push through its much touted internal reform.
"In fact, the reform process within the TNI has stagnated and it has retained its colonial style. This means there will be no changes as regards its stance on human rights violations, as shown by the way it treats Aceh and Papua," he said.
The Jakarta Post Wednesday, May 18, 2005
New International Initiative Needed to Create Justice for East Timor
Agung Yudhawiranata, Jakarta
In an effort to stave off the creation of an ad hoc international rights tribunal to investigate the clearly orchestrated violence that accompanied the vote for independence in East Timor, Indonesia made unambiguous commitments to the international community and the people of East Timor to prosecute those individuals responsible for the atrocities.
Despite its creation of the Human Rights Court on East Timor in Jakarta (the ad hoc court), which was created specifically to hear these cases, Indonesia has signally failed to keep its commitments. The Special Panels prosecution division at the Dili District Court has only made a modest contribution in addressing the larger issues of justice and accountability that continue to hang over the world's newest country, primarily for technical and financial reasons.
The main reason appears to be the lack of political will in Jakarta to prosecute senior Indonesian officials responsible for the violence. Ironically, such a lack of political will was later endorsed by the East Timorese government.
In fulfillment of the UN Security Council's request that the secretary-general inform it of developments in the area of prosecution of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in East Timor in 1999, a three-member Commission of Experts was appointed by the UN secretary-general in February 2005 to assess the progress made in bringing to justice those responsible for such violations and to determine whether full accountability has been achieved.
It is inexplicable that, instead of demonstrating a clear commitment to human rights on the world stage, the Indonesian government is instead expressing less than full cooperation regarding the UN security-general's own representatives. The Indonesian government has refused to issue visas to members of the Commission of Experts.
The latest effort to bring to justice those most responsible for atrocities in East Timor is the creation of a bilateral Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), which resulted from a bilateral meeting between the governments of Indonesia and East Timor in Bali on Dec. 14, 2004, in reaction against the establishment of a Commission of Experts by the UN secretary-general.
The working principles of the CTF are, among others:
Fist, the CTF shall bear in mind the complexity of the transitional situation in 1999, aiming at further strengthening of reconciliation and friendship between the two countries and peoples.
Second, the CTF will not lead to prosecution and will emphasize institutional responsibilities.
Third, the CTF will further promote friendship and cooperation between governments and peoples of the two countries, and promote intra and inter-communal reconciliation to heal the wounds of the past.
Fourth, the CTF does not recommend the establishment of any other judicial body.
The CTF shall have the mandate to reveal the factual truths of the violence; the cause and the extent of reported violations of human rights prior to and following the 1999 popular consultation by:
Reviewing all the existing materials, with a view to recommending follow-up measures in the context of promoting reconciliation and friendship among peoples of the two countries.
Issuing a report establishing the shared historical record of the human rights violation related to the 1999 popular consultation.
Devising ways and means as well as recommending appropriate measures to heal the wounds of the past, to rehabilitate and restore human dignity, inter alia: recommending amnesty for those involved in human rights violations that cooperate fully in revealing the truth, recommending rehabilitation measures for those wrongly accused of human rights violations, recommending ways to promote reconciliation between peoples based on customs and religious values, and recommending innovative people-to-people contacts and cooperation to further enhance peace and stability
In the conduct of their work, the commission shall be guaranteed: freedom of movement throughout Indonesia and East Timor; free access, in accordance with the law, to all documents of the KPP HAM, the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta, the Special Panels in Dili and the CAVR final report; the right to interview all persons in possession of information considered relevant by the commission, guaranteeing privacy and confidentiality if necessary; and security arrangement by both government to the commission members and persons interviewed by the CTF, and persons who provide information and documents to the CTF, and for documents obtained and retained by the CTF.
From the facts above, one should note that there is no requirement of the CTF -- in their work to try and reveal the truth of the events prior to and following the 1999 popular consultation -- to hold hearings involving both the alleged perpetrators and victims and/or survivors of human rights violations.
Furthermore, the CTF mandate is limited to the examination of documents. However, the CTF does not have guaranteed free access to documents of the Indonesian intelligence and military institutions that played a role in East Timor prior to and following the 1999 popular consultation.
In the same context, the CTF has only the rights to interview all persons in possession of information considered relevant by the commission, but has no right to request by force (subpoena) or to confiscate documents.
There are no problems at all between Indonesians and East Timorese, so a reconciliation between peoples of the two countries is not needed. The problem of human rights violations in East Timor does not lie in people-to-people relations, but lies instead with the TNI and its militias as the alleged perpetrators of the violence against the East Timorese.
It is time for the international community, led by the UN, to launch a new initiative to bring the perpetrators of the violence in East Timor to justice.
The writer is an international relations researcher at the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ESAM), a Jakarta-based rights group. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org