Subject: AGE: NGOs brace for Indonesia-E Timor report

also CTF final report due end of March

NGOs brace for Indonesia-E Timor report

March 14, 2008


Human rights groups are worried.

The controversial Indonesia-East Timor "truth" commission into the violence surrounding East Timor's historic 1999 vote for independence will hand down its final report within weeks.

The Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) will have the authority to recommend amnesties for those who perpetrated human rights abuses, but has no power to order prosecution.

It was established by the two countries in a bid to establish a "conclusive truth" about the 1999 violence to help repair relations.

Human rights groups say East Timor's ability to bring those responsible to justice will be key to the future of the country, which has a dismal past track record.

Commission co-chair Benjamin Mankoedilaga said commissioners hoped to hand over the final report to Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and wounded East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta at a ceremony in Bali by month's end.

"But seeing the reality now, what is developing in Timor Leste, and the political business of our president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ... we still haven't got answer (from them)," Mankoedilaga said.

Ramos-Horta is recovering in Darwin after he was shot by assailants at his Dili home last month.

East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao was also shot at a short time later, but escaped uninjured.

Ramos-Horta already has said he forgives rebel leader Alfredo Reinado - killed in the ambush - with whom the government had unsuccessfully tried to negotiate since his escape from a Dili prison 18 months ago on murder charges.

International Centre for Transitional Justice senior associate Galuh Wandita is concerned the upcoming CTF report could also undermine attempts to build a strong respect for the law.

"Obviously this whole policy to put aside justice for political compromise is weakening rule of law in East Timor and the CTF report could just be another step weakening the rule of law," she said.

"That's why we are very concerned. It reflects this consistent policy of the government to put aside the hard questions of justice for more immediate political gains.

"Political compromise is on one hand understandable, but on the other hand, the cost for East Timor is too (high)."

A recent ICTJ report into the CTF warned it risked becoming a "diplomatic charade" unless it delivered a strong and independent finding.

It found the truth body was "deeply flawed" and many witnesses at the public hearings had presented an "alarming version of events" from alleged perpetrators.

But Wandita was optimistic no amnesties would be recommended following lobbying from NGOs and other groups.

CTF co-chairman Mankoedilaga said the report could be controversial.

"We cannot satisfy everyone, there is the possibility (of controversy) but we are trying our hardest to (satisfy everyone)," he said.

He said the findings were unanimous among the five East Timorese and five Indonesian commissioners.

"We went through a struggle (but) there is no dissenting opinion," he said.

"This was a very interesting job for us, in any kind of job there is no smooth work.

"This is a commission formed by two countries, each of them has their own interests."


The Jakarta Post

Friday, March 14, 2008

CTF final report due end of March

JAKARTA: Chairman of the Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) Benjamin Mankoedilaga said Thursday the commission would submit its final report to the presidents of both countries by the end of this month.

"We will finish the report by March 31, and immediately submit it to both President (Susilo Bambang) Yudhoyono and President Jose Ramos-Horta in a ceremony in Denpasar," he told The Jakarta Post.

Benjamin hoped both presidents would be able to attend the ceremony to demonstrate to the international community the report's importance to the two countries.

He said he could not reveal the substance of the report as the authority to make public the report's findings rested with the presidents.

"We will determine in our report whether or not there were any gross human rights violations, and whether we recommend any amnesty for the violators or not," Benjamin said.

CTF was formed in 2005 to conduct an inquiry into alleged human rights violations by the Indonesian Military during the 1999 referendum on the independence of Timor Leste from Indonesia.

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