Subject: AGE: Amnesty offer over East Timor

Also KKP to invite Habibie and Xanana in February

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

KKP to invite Habibie and Xanana in February

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesia-Timor Leste Truth and Friendship Commission (KKP) will invite around 70 people and those concerned with human rights violations in the 1999 post-plebiscite period in East Timor, including former President BJ Habibie and President Xanana Gusmao.

Benyamin Mangkoedilaga, chairman of KKP from Indonesia made the remarks here Friday on the sidelines of the 19th plenary meeting of the Commission.

"We will invite parties or people who were in some way or other related to the human rights violations in East Timor, for their information and knowledge about those happenings, next month. Everybody, including those involved in the act in the field," Benyamin said.

According to him, Habibie was invited because he was Indonesian president in those days.

He also mentioned some other names, inluding Xanana, Archbishop Belo and Gen (ret) Wiranto, former commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI).

The Commission will hold hearings with them aimed at getting information and knowledge from February through June 2007.

"The hearings will take place in open or closed door meetings, depending on the wishes of the invitees," he added.

Achmad Ali, member of KKP, meanwhile said, the Commission would try to be equal in inviting the parties both from Indonesia and Timor Leste. "It is important to

avoid an impression that the KKP merely corners Indonesia, instead of seeking the truth," he said.

Achamd said it was also important to help people understand the context of the historical events ahead or in the aftermath of the referendum.

"The UN Security Council has given an opportunity to KKP to make reliable recommendations and we will try to have our recomendations accepted by the UN," he said.

KKP has been assisted by a number of human rights experts in the Commission on Truth and Reconsiliation in some countries.(*)


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