Subject: JP: Truth commission to continue work despite Timor violence

The Jakarta Post

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Truth commission to continue work despite Timor violence

Rita A. Widiadana, The Jakarta Post, Sanur

The joint Indonesia-Timor Leste Truth and Friendship Commission will continue its work despite the outbreak of violence in Timor Leste, an official said Friday.

"We certainly must anticipate any delays in completing the job because some members of the commission are still there (in Timor Leste) and some documents are still being processed," Benjamin Mangkoedilaga, the commission's cochairman, said in Sanur, Bali, at the end of a five-day gathering with local and international experts.

Indonesia and Timor Leste established the Truth and Friendship Commission in August 2005. The 10 members of the commission are meant to investigate human rights abuses in the violence that preceded and followed the 1999 independence referendum in the former Indonesian province.

Dionisio Babo Soares, Timor Leste's cochairman, said his country was committed to helping the commission complete its work. "I am sure that the current situation in my country will not affect our work," Soares said.

He said delays in delivering documents and evidence from Timor Leste were the result of a complicated bureaucracy and having to deal with officials from the United Nations.

The meeting in Bali was held to discuss the commission's work from August 2005 to April 2006. The commission's mandate was scheduled to end in August 2006, but because there is so much work left to do it has been extended until August 2007.

"The commission has entered a review stage, matching documents from all the relevant institutions from both countries, as well as overviewing 14 major cases," Soares said.

He said the commission has finished the preliminary draft of a "yellow book", containing all the supporting data, information and evidence it has gathered.

Members of the body are tasked with collecting information, presenting thousands of witnesses and summoning alleged perpetrators from both countries to uncover gross human rights violations in the former East Timor. They also will examine all the charges, defense arguments and court verdicts presented by an Indonesian ad hoc human rights court, as well as some 11,000 documents presented by the Timor Leste Supreme Court.

During the meeting, the commission members were briefed by a number of experts, including Dr. Robert Evans of the American-based Plowshares Institute, Muladi, the governor of the military think-tank National Resilience Institute, Gen. Fahrul Razi of the Indonesian Army and Timor Leste Attorney General D. Longuinhos Monteiro.

According to commission member Benjamin, during the meeting Gen. Razi only presented information on the role of the Indonesian Army before and after the 1999 independence referendum. "A local daily reported that the general was summoned to testify before the commission. That is not true," Benjamin said.

The Indonesian Army has been accused of involvement in the l999 violence. According to the United Nations, before and after the referendum at least 1,500 people were killed by militia groups, backed by the Indonesian Military. The Indonesian ad hoc human rights court tried 18 people from the military over the violence, including the former head of the Dili Military Command, Lt. Col. Sudjarwo. The court also sentenced Eurico Guterres, the former leader of the pro-Indonesia militia Aitarak, to 10 years in prison.

"We will summon members of the Army, including Gen. Wiranto, as soon as we have finished with all the documents," Benjamin said. Wiranto was chief of the Army when the violence occurred.

"He (Gen. Wiranto) is open to testifying. He said it (testifying before the commission) would reveal the facts and release him and other members of the Army from their heavy psychological burdens," Benjamin said.

------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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