Subject: DPA: Indonesia, East Timor agree to extend CTF

Indonesia, East Timor extend truth panel, say no to prosecutions

Posted : Tue, 05 Jun 2007 08:08:01GMT

Author : DPA

Jakarta - Indonesia and its former colony East Timor agreed Tuesday to extend by six months the work of a joint truth commission tasked at gathering the facts surrounding Indonesia's military rampage ahead of East Timor's 1999 vote for independence. The commission's mandate now extends until February.

At a joint press conference in Jakarta after holding talks with East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the two countries also agreed that the truth and friendship commission would not prosecute anyone found guilty of human-rights abuses surrounding the balloting eight years ago.

Human-rights groups have criticized the commission because it lacks the ability to bring senior members of the Indonesian Armed Forces to justice for ordering military-backed militias to massacre Timorese civilians and raze villages.

"Both of our governments - East Timor and Indonesia - agreed and are committed to solving our past problems based on the principle of truth, friendship and reconciliation, not through the judicial system," Yudhoyono said.

The Indonesia-East Timor Commission of Truth and Friendship, similar to South Africa's post-apartheit Truth and Reconciliation Commission, had been scheduled to conclude its job in August after it was extended for one year in 2006.

"The important things is that we do not allow ourselves to be held hostage by the past," Ramos Horta said. "It will set a precedent for other countries to deal with similar situations."

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and occupied the former Portuguese colony for 24 years. As many as 200,000 civilians died during that period.

In 1999 in a UN-sponsored referendum, East Timor voted to become independent and became a nation in 2002 after being administered by the United Nations for more than two years.

In addition to bilateral economic issues, Yudhoyono and Ramos Horta also discussed education and border problems.

Nobel laureate Ramos Horta arrived in Jakarta Monday for a three-day visit to Indonesia, his first overseas trip after he was sworn in as president May 20.

Ramos Horta won a landslide presidential election last month, replacing former rebel fighter Xanana Gusmao.


Ramos-Horta praises probe into 1999 violence despite rights groups' concerns

JAKARTA, June 5 (AP): East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta praised a much-criticized commission probing the violence that accompanied his nation's break from Indonesian rule in 1999, saying Tuesday it could be a model for other nations.

The body has no powers to recommend prosecution for those it finds responsible for the violence after the territory voted to end 24 years of Indonesian occupation in a UN-sponsored independence ballot.

Ramos-Horta said the East Timorese and Indonesians sitting on the "Commission of Truth and Friendship" were working with courage and honesty.

"I believe that it will satisfy the people of both sides, and it will set a precedent for other countries to deal with similar situations," he said on a trip to Indonesia, his first overseas visit since becoming president last month.

Up to 1,000 people were killed in a rampage by Indonesian troops and their militia proxies during and after East Timor's vote for independence.

UN-backed prosecutors in East Timor have indicted several Indonesian generals for atrocities, but Jakarta has refused to hand them over. Under intense international pressure, Indonesia put 17 officers on trial in 2000 and 2001, but all were found notguilty.

Ramos-Horta and other East Timorese leaders have refused to push Indonesia for justice, saying that building better ties with its giant neighbor would better serve the interests of its 900,000 mostly poor people.

"The important thing is we don't allow ourselves to be hostage of the past but look forward with courage," Ramos-Horta said as he stood next to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,himself a former military general.

Local and international rights groups have criticized the ongoing commission, calling it a whitewash intended to exonerate criminals and perpetuate a culture of impunity. They aredemanding an international tribunal be set up to try those responsible.

The commission, which is hearing testimony from witnesses and examining documents related to the violence, is due to present its findings later this year.

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