|Subject: AGE: Amnesty offer over East Timor
Amnesty offer over East Timor
Lindsay Murdoch, Jakarta
January 15, 2007
A joint Indonesian and East Timorese commission will recommend amnesty for people responsible for atrocities in East Timor in 1999 if they admit their involvement and apologise to their victims.
The Commission of Truth and Friendship plans to invite 70 people, including top Indonesian military officers and political leaders from the two countries, to tell what they know about the atrocities at hearings in Indonesia and East Timor over the next six months.
People who refuse or are not considered by the commission to have told the truth would not be among those the commission would recommend to the East Timor and Indonesian governments for amnesty, commission members said.
More than 1200 people were killed, most of East Timor's infrastructure was destroyed and more than 250,000 people were forced into refugee camps in Indonesian West Timor after East Timorese voted for independence in a United Nations-supervised ballot in August 1999.
The UN blamed militias directed by Indonesia's military for atrocities that included rapes, torture and mass executions.
Militia commander Eurico Guterres is the only person serving a jail term in Indonesia for involvement in the violence, despite demands by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and human rights groups for perpetrators to be brought to justice.
Achmad Ali, an Indonesian member of the commission, said that to receive an amnesty recommendation a person must give their full co-operation to the commission and express regrets and apologise for their actions. "For instance, it is impossible for us to recommend amnesty if they refuse to come (to a hearing)," he said.
Professor Ali said it was important to invite people to testify from both Indonesia and East Timor to "avoid the impression that the commission merely corners Indonesia instead of seeking the truth".
Among the invitees will be former Indonesian president B. J. Habibie and East Timor President Xanana Gusmao.
Indonesia's former military commander Wiranto, who this month formed a political party in Jakarta, has indicated he will testify before the commission, which was set up in 2005 along similar lines to South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Professor Ali said that the Indonesian-East Timor commission had no judicial powers and could only make recommendations to the governments in Dili and Jakarta.
"We will not be able to guarantee that amnesties will be accepted by the heads of governments," he said.
But Benjamin Mangkoedilaga, the Indonesian co-chairman of the commission, said amnesties were a recognised part of Indonesia's legal system. "The important thing is to give trust to the invitees that our invitation will not lead to any trial or the setting up of any tribunal," Mr Mangkoedilaga said.
East Timor member and co-chairman Dionisio Soares said the commission's aim was to "get all the facts from the people who know what happened".
He said that in South Africa's case amnesties were accepted by the world community because its Truth and Reconciliation Commission was considered credible.
Several of East Timor's representatives on the Indonesian-East Timorese commission also sat on East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation. This recommended in a report last year that the UN Security Council set up a tribunal to try those responsible for the atrocities "should other measures be deemed to have failed to deliver a sufficient measure of justice and Indonesia persists in obstructing justice".
The East Timor commission was set up by the UN in 2001.
January 13, 2007
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