Subject: CTF Commission Report Ignores Justice, Church Says

TIMOR LESTE Truth Commission Report Ignores Justice, Church Says

July 29, 2008 | TL05425.1508

DILI (UCAN) -- The report of the Commission for Truth and Friendship on who was behind the violence surrounding East Timor's independence vote in 1999 ignores justice, a Catholic Church official says.

The commission, set up by the Timorese and Indonesian governments, concluded that the Indonesian army directed the violence but also cited allegations of human rights violations by pro-independence groups.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and President Jose Ramos-Horta of Timor Leste (East Timor) officially received the report at a ceremony on the Indonesian island of Bali on July 15. Media reported that Yudhoyono expressed regret for the bloodshed but said Indonesia and Timor Leste would examine the report before proceeding further.

However, the committee Dili diocese set up to evaluate the report, comprising six priests and a nun, says it merely confirms what international bodies already surmised and does not recommend prosecuting those responsible.

Carmelite Father Anacleto Maia da Costa, head of that committee, told UCA News on July 24 that the report "breaks the hearts" of those affected by torture, rape and murder. "It ignores the dignity of people, especially the victims and their families," he said, stressing that "in order to have reconciliation, there must be justice."

The position of the Church "is to stand for justice," which demands the "perpetrators should be held to account for the violence before an international tribunal," and it "will continue to urge the two governments to provide rehabilitation for the victims and their families," he explained. At the very least, he added, the two governments must compensate for the loss of life by subsidizing the education of those whose parents were killed.

On July 15, Father da Costa spoke to reporters in Dili on behalf of the Catholic Church in Timor Leste. The Church, he told them, does not accept "regret" from the Indonesian government, which "does not have enough courage to recognize the wrongs they perpetrated on the Timor Leste people."

Elisa Lobato, 55, a survivor of the brutality in 1999, says the killings at a church in Liquica, 34 kilometers west of Dili, still haunt her. "My husband was killed by the militia in the church, and I can't forgive the perpetrators," she told reporters on July 15.

Emilio da Costa, 57, another survivor, said he wants justice and the arrest of persons responsible for the crimes committed at that time. He also called the "deep regret" expressed by the two countries inadequate.

In early April 1999, pro-Indonesia militia killed pro-independence activists inside the Liquica church compound, where they had taken refuge. The number killed is disputed, ranging from a low of 61 claimed by Indonesia to more than 200 claimed by local people. Father Raphael dos Santos, the parish priest, was among the many who witnessed the massacre.

Indonesia and Timor Leste established the Commission for Truth and Friendship in August 2005 to promote reconciliation between the neighboring countries and to investigate rights violations during the occupation of East Timor.

Human rights activists, lawyers, NGOs and the Catholic Church have criticized the commission since its inception, noting that its mandate blocks its findings from being used to prosecute violators. They also pointed out that the commission focused only on violence around 1999 and not abuses going back to the beginning of Indonesia's occupation in 1975. Estimates of the number of people who died due to the occupation exceed 100,000.

The United Nations boycotted the commission's work largely for the same reasons. The report its Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation published in 2005 documented about 8,000 testimonies of abuse during the almost 25 years of Indonesian rule. The report called for the prosecution of Indonesian military leaders as well as freedom fighters for any offenses they committed.

After a referendum in 1999 produced an overwhelming vote for independence, militias linked to the Indonesian military responded by killing hundreds and destroying much of the local infrastructure. The U.N. estimates about 1,000 East Timorese died in the violence, but Indonesian officials say only about 100 people were killed.

Timor Leste, which became fully independent on May 20, 2002, has a population of about 1 million, 95 percent of whom are Catholics.


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