Subject: JP Editorial: RI-Timor CTF: A First Step, Perhaps [+Op-Ed by ELSAM]

also: JP Op-Ed: Between the truth and friendship [by Agung Yudhawiranata, a researcher for the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM)]

The Jakarta Post Thursday, September 27, 2007


A First Step, Perhaps

It will be a miracle if, in the next five to 10 years, Indonesian school children can learn about another Timor Leste story.

A new story is being investigated to combat the standard Indonesian text about the country's former 27th province.

And this story can be seen unfolding through the Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) and its latest hearings held in Dili this week.

The Commission of Truth and Reconciliation of Timor Leste (CAVR) had its first public hearings a few years ago, though its government and parliament have yet to respond to the commission's findings.

So the stories coming from the CTF process are not new, especially to the Timorese.

But it is through the formal setting of the CTF, appointed by two governments, that Indonesians have heard first-hand accounts of what happened in our neighbor's country -- before and after the 1999 referendum leading to its independence.

The commissioners have been asked to filter what they hear and review findings from additional research. They also must review four documents including Timor Leste's serious crimes unit under its judiciary, the CAVR report, the report of the Indonesian government-appointed fact-finding mission on human rights violations to East Timor, and the report of Indonesia's human rights ad hoc court.

Regardless of the commission's final report, which is expected in January next year, since its first hearings late last year, Indonesians following the testimonies have been seen to squirm uncomfortably in their seats.

The story of 1999 is being aired as dirty laundry across the world -- albeit including versions from Indonesian highly ranked and retired officers.

We hope the commission will be able to convince us -- and the world -- there's a sensible explanation for the Timor story offered to-date -- which is the "NGO version" of Timor.

And if the tales are true, would there be official acknowledgements of secret, "heroic" operations "to defend East Timor's integration" in the face of its separatist movement?

For as our soldiers were considered heroic in all the country's "hot spots" and respected no matter what, even the murdered activist Munir had seemed to give up on telling his fellow citizens an international tribunal for generals suspected of crimes against humanity was not such a bad idea.

We resisted, and the international community has today adopted a "wait and see" attitude, pending the report of the commission, but that attitude is accompanied by constant criticism and demonstrations.

The commission is however the first of its kind in the world, because it was set up by two countries -- the former occupier and the newly independent nation.

But the United Nations has effectively boycotted the process, saying it cannot allow its personnel to testify on the grounds the framework of the CTF, which has no mandate to even recommend prosecution of individuals suspected of crimes, violates UN principles for justice.

The latest rallies this week sought to remind the public there can be no friendship without justice, and there cannot be justice without trial.

There is no justice through "a political compromise", protesters said.

The repeated arguments of the commissioners are hard to fathom from the perspective of victims.

Moreover, addressing victims themselves is not the mandate of the CTF.

Unlike other similarly-named commissions globally, "reconciliation" is not even part of its name. Accusations of a whitewash by the CTF of atrocities against Timorese will continue.

And they will only stop under on condition: if the honorable commissioners representing the two nations can come up with a credible report and a common understanding of what happened in 1999 and why.

What constitutes credible may be the main thing bugging all 15 members day and night -- what could be a "common" ground between the highly emotionally charged version of the previously occupied, and the so far coolly detached, official version of a benevolent ruler?

There is little chance now of having an impartial version without the UN presence.

The truth, or the version closest to it, will hurt -- but this is the main mandate of the CTF.

Perhaps then, the CTF would indeed be the first step toward friendship, as its supporters say, if the resulting report is credible. So far, however, it remains a big "if".

The CTF needs all the help it can get. The least we could do is give them the benefit of the doubt, and trust they will do their best.


The Jakarta Post Thursday, September 27, 2007


Between the truth and friendship

Agung Yudhawiranata, Jakarta

The Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) involving Timor Leste and Indonesia is organizing the fifth in its series of public hearings in Dili from Sept. 24-27.

In previous public hearings, the CTF has failed on several accounts in attempts to credibly expose gross human rights violations in Timor Leste in 1999; they failed to accommodate the victims' quest for justice, avoided cross-examining the alleged perpetrators' dismissal of accountability and accused the UN Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) of being the antagonist in the bloodshed in Timor Leste at that time. The CTF also failed to find those responsible for the atrocities before and after the referendum in August 1999.

On several occasions the CTF has invited former UNAMET staff, including former special representative of the secretary-general, Ian Martin, to testify. However, the UN has explicitly stated it will not support the commission process because it was not established according to international human rights standards. The terms of reference of the CTF envisage the possibility that it may recommend amnesty, and do not preclude it from making such a recommendation even in cases where serious violations of international humanitarian law have occurred.

The commission's lack of credibility was seen when it failed to revise the terms of reference -- and amnesty was made available to perpetrators when they confessed and apologized for their wrongdoings. The widely criticized terms of reference violate the "no safe haven" principle, which states that there is no place or mechanism for perpetrators to avoid responsibility.

The UN Human Rights Committee appealed in 1982 to all nations to guarantee that "guilty perpetrators must be responsible, and human rights violation victims should obtain effective remedy and compensation." The CTF ignores the aut dedere aut punire principle, which stands as an international foundation of universal jurisdiction and considers human rights violations as a problem and an enemy of all human kind.

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan said in his report, Justice and Reconciliation for Timor Leste, that perpetrators must be dealt with justly in an independent and fair proceeding. Meanwhile the CTF continues to propose amnesty to the same perpetrators, as a sign of good will.

Civil society organizations in Indonesia and Timor Leste have condemned the impunity granted by the commission. They have urged the commission to practice a more genuine form of justice and to stop being partial to perpetrators of gross human rights abuse.

Grievances of victims' families and civil society organizations in Timor Leste and Indonesia seen during public hearings reflect the commission's tendency to protect perpetrators and water-down the truth on human rights abuse.

The CTF stands on poor foundations in terms of the promotion of reconciliation and the rule of law, when the impunity it offers undermines the (international) judicial system and victims of abuse have long been denied access to justice much less reparation or compensation.

Therefore, the first step to repair the commission's lack of credibility would be the amendment of its terms of reference. Furthermore, providing amnesty based on confessions will not resolve the fundamental question of the political will of a nation in the face of international human rights treaties.

In cases of independent investigation into human rights violations, Indonesian Commissioners should offer impartial cooperation, focussing on justice under the UN conventions and international human rights principles rather than "nationalizing" issues. As a member of the Human Rights Council and Security Council, Indonesia must become open and willing to achieve a credible and transparent judiciary process.

Indonesia and Timor Leste's governments must end this farce and work toward justice and accountability in addressing the atrocities committed in Timor Leste during the Indonesian occupation. Serious crimes such as those which occurred in East Timor in 1999 are not a national matter to be resolved in bilateral agreements, but a concern for the international community as well.

If an ad hoc international tribunal is not feasible, then the alternative is not to entirely to abandon efforts to bring justice. The commission should prioritize the livelihood of victims and not protect perpetrators who serve the interests of both countries' elite. The Commission's lack of authority to prosecute perpetrators is just a sign of a deteriorating judicial process in Indonesia.

The writer is a researcher for the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM). He can be contacted at

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