For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668; cell: 917-690-4391
Charles Scheiner, 914-831-1098; cell: 914-473-3185
December 21 - The International Federation for East Timor (IFET) urged the Secretary-General to establish a Commission of Experts to investigate whether the perpetrators of serious crimes committed in East Timor have been brought justice.
IFET wrote to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "to encourage you immediately to appoint a Commission of Experts to continue the international community's unfulfilled task of ensuring justice for crimes against humanity committed in Timor-Leste during the Indonesian occupation."
The Secretary-General is scheduled to meet the Foreign Ministers of Timor-Leste and Indonesia this afternoon to discuss a plan by the two countries to form a joint Commission on Truth and Friendship.
"Names have been named; truth has been reported. What remains is to bring the perpetrators to justice," IFET argues in its letter.
IFET calls on the Secretary-General "to allow a Commission of Experts to evaluate the current situation and efforts toward justice up to this point, and to recommend future measures which may be implementable as political situations evolve, perhaps including an international tribunal. The United Nations must not abandon its responsibility for justice to the governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia."
Since, "Timor-Leste and Indonesia are not equal partners, with a common interest in justice. A bi-national commission will be just another mechanism for Indonesia to bully its smaller, weaker neighbor," IFET writes.
The Presidents of Indonesia and Timor-Leste agreed to form a Commission on Truth and Friendship at a summit in Bali last week. The truth commission has been described as an alternative to UN initiatives, including a Commission of Experts.
"A proposal to establish the Commission of Experts has been on the Secretary-General's desk for months. We don't understand what is taking so long," said Charles Scheiner, of the International Secretariat of IFET.
The full text of the letter is available here.
IFET was formed in 1991 to support East Timor's human and political rights at the United Nations. It has 34 member groups from 23 countries.
After Indonesia violently exited East Timor in 1999 following 24 years of brutal military occupation, two processes were established to prosecute serious crimes, including crimes against humanity, committed in East Timor during the final year of the occupation. The Indonesian Ad-hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor is widely considered a sham, acquitting all of the Indonesian officials brought to trial. The UN-backed serious crimes process in East Timor is scheduled to end next May, although nearly 80% of those indicted, including a number of high-ranking Indonesian officials, remain in Indonesia, out of reach of the courts in Dili, East Timor.
Once appointed by the Secretary-General, the Commission of Experts would examine these two processes and propose next steps.
Indonesia set up an ad hoc human rights court in early 2000 to deflect calls for an international tribunal for crimes committed as part of the Indonesian military's 1999 campaign of terror in East Timor. The widely-criticized court issued its final verdict on August 5, 2003. While six of the 18 people tried were convicted, all but one of those convictions were overturned on appeal. A ruling on the appeal of the last defendant, East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres, has yet to be issued.
In 1999, prior to and after East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence, the Indonesian military and its militia proxies killed more than 1400 people, displaced three-quarters of the population and destroyed more than 75% of East Timor's infrastructure.
The Security Council mandated the establishment of the Serious Crimes Unit in Dili to conduct investigations and prepare indictments to assist in bringing to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity and other serious crimes committed in East Timor in 1999. It also created the Special Panel courts to hear serious crimes cases. The SCU filed its final indictments this month, although half of the 1999 murders and numerous other crimes have not been investigated.
No judicial process has yet been established to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during Indonesia's illegal invasion and occupation of East Timor prior to 1999, when the Indonesian military was responsible for the deaths of more than 200,000 people, one-third of the population.
Last September, a broadly-representative conference of East Timorese civil society organized by the Judicial System Monitoring Programme agreed that accountability for these crimes is an unfulfilled obligation and an international responsibility.
International Federation for East Timor (IFET)
Secretariat: Charles Scheiner P.O. Box 88, White Plains, New York 10602 USA
U.N. Representative: John M. Miller
48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA
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