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Special Session Of UNHCHR Adopts Resolution On ET

27 September 1999

Press Release


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SPECIAL SESSION OF COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON EAST TIMOR

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Requests Secretary-General to Create International Commission of Inquiry; Indonesia, Others Opposed in Roll-Call Vote


(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 27 September (United Nations Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights this evening wrapped up a special session on the situation in East Timor by adopting -- through a roll-call vote -- a resolution requesting the Secretary-General to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate human-rights violations there.

Commission members were unable to produce a consensus measure -- a goal stated by several countries at the outset of the controversial three-day meeting. The resolution, which was initiated by Portugal and tabled by Finland on behalf of the European Union, passed by a vote of 32 in favour and 12 opposed, with 6 Commission member States abstaining.

Supporters said the violence that erupted earlier this month after East Timorese voted in favour of independence from Indonesia required an international reaction. The resolution condemned "widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law" committed on the island territory, including the right to life, personal security, physical integrity and the right to property. The resolution also directed the international investigative panel, once created, to work in cooperation with a fact-finding body already appointed by Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission.

Opponents of the resolution, led by Indonesia, said an international commission of inquiry was not necessary. They said Indonesia had acted in good faith, first by allowing the referendum on independence and later by working with the United Nations in attempts to quell violence. They also repeated concerns about the validity of the special session, charging that United Nations rules had been circumvented in convening it.

It was only the fourth time the Commission had been called into special session. Special meetings were held in 1992 and 1993 on the former Yugoslavia, and in 1994 on Rwanda.

A representative of Indonesia said the Government did not consider the resolution binding. He added that Indonesia would support the role of the national fact-finding commission. Earlier in the meeting, Indonesia attempted to strike the portion of the resolution calling for creation of the international commission of inquiry. But an effort to delete the relevant paragraph failed on a roll-call vote of 27 member States in favour of retaining it and 12 opposed, with 11 abstentions.

The report of the special session was adopted without debate.

Action and debate on resolution

HASSAN WIRAJUDA (Indonesia) said the delegation had listened patiently to the comments of the delegates during the session. There had been questions about the legality of the session. Indonesia and other Governments questioned the impartiality of the secretariat, and it was hoped that the process leading up to the special session would not be repeated in the future.

The Government of Indonesia condemned the violence that happened after the ballot, and it was trying to resolve these difficulties in a peaceful manner. It must be remembered that both pro-integration and pro-independence supporters were victims, and that Government buildings were among those damaged. It was the Government of Indonesia which at first had put security forces in East Timor. It was out of concern for the protection of human rights that the Government had supported the creation of the fact-finding commission by the National Commission on Human Rights. The Government of Indonesia was sure the national commission would spare no efforts to find out the cause of the post- ballot violence.

The draft resolution called on the United Nations to establish another commission of inquiry. Indonesia had problems with this; such an attitude and approach could in fact exacerbate the problem. Indonesia would welcome consensus with a Chairman's statement, but the Commission on Human Rights must be above politics. The establishment of the fact-finding commission by the National Commission on Human Rights was an appropriate measure. The other approach of appointing an international commission was high-handed and intrusive, and could inhibit the building of a culture that respected human rights.

The proposed resolution was not appropriate, was not helpful, was duplicative, and could work against the work being done on the ground. There should be a roll-call vote, and the measure should be rejected.

A roll-call vote was held on operative paragraph 6 of the draft resolution, which called upon the Secretary-General to establish an International Commission of Inquiry, with adequate representation of Asian experts, in order, in cooperation with the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights and thematic rapporteurs, to gather and compile systematically information on possible violations of human rights and acts which may constitute breaches of international humanitarian law committed in East Timor and to provide the Secretary-General with its conclusions with a view to enabling him to make recommendations on future actions, and to make the report of the Commission of Inquiry available to the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-sixth session.

By a ballot of 27 in favour and 12 opposed, with 11 abstentions, the Commission voted to retain operative paragraph 6 of the resolution.


The vote was as follows:

In favour: Austria, Canada, Cape Verde, Columbia, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Mozambique, Norway, Peru, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, South Africa, United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Against: Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Japan, Nepal, Philippines, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

Abstentions: Argentina, Chile, Congo, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal and Tunisia.

LUCIANO JOUBLANC (Mexico) said given the seriousness of the situation, it was regrettable that the convening of the special session had been a source of controversy. Mexico would have liked to see the negotiations between Indonesia and the sponsors of the text continued. Operative paragraph 6 in the draft resolution did not meet certain conditions, and that was why Mexico had abstained in the vote on operative paragraph 6, although it would vote in favour of the resolution as a whole.

VICTOR RODRIGUEZ LEDENO (Venezuela) said the Venezuelan delegation had closely followed the negotiations on the draft resolution in hopes that a consensus could be achieved. The inclusion of operative paragraph 6 provided Indonesia with the opportunity to participate in the process of inquiry. It was hoped that a future solution which would accommodate participation of the Indonesian authorities could be found.

MAKOTO KATSURA (Japan) said the content of the resolution raised reservations, and forced the Government to abstain. Japan had tried to facilitate cooperation between the various parties, but unfortunately no consensus had emerged. If the time and situation were right, perhaps an International Commission of Inquiry could have been accepted. But the timing was not right. Japan regretted that the special session had been convened in the first place without wide support. Had it been convened with clear goals in mind, perhaps the results could have been otherwise.

ALFREDO LABBE (Chile) said that Chile had hoped for the adoption by consensus of a Chairperson's statement or resolution. Only consensus could add credibility to an inquiry. Negotiations should have led to a constructive result for a resolution. An investigation through a Government commission with the participation of experts from the region was desirable. The resolution should not be merely a public-relations stunt but should produce a workable political scenario in which to operate.

In a resolution (E/CN.4/S-4/L.1/Rev.1) on the situation of human rights in East Timor, approved by a roll-call vote of 32 in favour and 12 opposed, with 6 abstaining, the Commission condemned the widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in East Timor; the widespread violations and abuses of the right to life, personal security, physical integrity and the right to property; the activities of the militias in terrorizing the population; expressed its deep concern at the widespread forced removal and dislocation of persons to West Timor and nearby areas; at the serious humanitarian situation of the displaced East Timorese, who had been deprived of food and access to basic health services, particularly as it affected children and other vulnerable groups; at the violence and intimidation directed against international agencies as well as most of the independent media; at the lack of effective measures to deter or prevent militia violence and the reported collusion between militias and members of the Indonesian armed forces and police in East Timor; affirmed that all persons who committed or authorized violations of human rights or international humanitarian law were individually responsible and accountable for those violations and that the international community would exert every effort to ensure that those responsible were brought to justice, while affirming that the primary responsibility for bringing perpetrators to justice rested with national judicial systems; called upon the Government of Indonesia to ensure, in cooperation with the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights, that the persons responsible for acts of violence and flagrant and systematic violations of human rights were brought to justice; to ensure that human rights and international humanitarian law were fully respected in regard to all persons within its own jurisdiction or under its control; to continue to implement its obligations under the Agreement of 5 May 1999; to guarantee the voluntary return of all the refugees and displaced persons, including those who had been forcibly displaced to camps in West Timor; to ensure all immediate access by humanitarian agencies to displaced persons, both in East Timor as well as West Timor and other parts of the Indonesian territory, and to guarantee the security and free movement of international personnel; to continue to allow the deployment of emergency humanitarian assistance; to cooperate fully with the High Commissioner for Human Rights and with the special procedures of the Commission on Human Rights and to continue to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Jakarta; called upon the Secretary-General to establish an International Commission of Inquiry, with adequate representation of Asian experts, in order, in cooperation with the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights and thematic rapporteurs, to gather and compile systematically information on possible violations of human rights and acts which might constitute breaches of international humanitarian law committed in East Timor since the announcement in January 1999 of the vote and to provide the Secretary- General with its conclusions with a view to enabling him to make recommendations on future actions, and to make the report of the Commission of Inquiry available to the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights at its 56th session; decided to request the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Representative of the Secretary- General on internally displaced persons, the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to carry out missions to East Timor and report on their findings to the Commission on Human Rights at its 56th session and, on an interim basis, to the General Assembly at its 54th session; to request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to facilitate the activities of the mechanism of the Commission on Human Rights; to request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a comprehensive programme of technical cooperation in the field of human rights, in cooperation with other United Nations activities, focussing especially on capacity-building and reconciliation with a view to a durable solution to the problems in East Timor; and to request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to keep the Commission on Human Rights informed of developments.

The roll-call vote was as follows:

In favour: Argentina, Austria, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Columbia, Congo, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Norway, Peru, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, South Africa, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Against: Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

Abstentions: Cuba, Japan, Morocco, Republic of Korea, Senegal and Tunisia.

DENIS LAPATAN (Philippines) said it had been courageous of Indonesia to allow East Timor to vote for independence. The Security Council had worked with the Government of Indonesia to help combat the problem following the referendum. Regrettably, the resolution before the Commission on Human Rights rendered the National Human Rights Commission in Indonesia, which had created a fact-finding commission, meaningless. For this reason, the Philippines would not support the resolution.

GUILLERMO GONZALEZ (Argentina) said the delegation voted in favour of the resolution, but a consensus resolution with the full support of Indonesia would have had a greater value. In light of the urgent situation in East Timor, Argentina had voted for the greater good.

HASSAN WIRAJUDA (Indonesia) said this body in the last few days had been sadly divided. There had been a question about the legal validity of convening the session. The Indonesian Government opposed the resolution, and it was not binding on Indonesia. The Government would support the role of the fact-finding commission that had been created by the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia. That was the best way to proceed.

LIU XINSHENG (China) said China was against the resolution, largely due to the proposal for an international inquiry.

H. M. G. S. PALIHAKKARA (Sri Lanka) said Sri Lanka had participated in this session because of the importance of the subject matter. It had hoped that there would be a consensual outcome, and it was too bad that it was not possible. The human-rights abuses in East Timor were deplorable. When a Government extended its fullest cooperation to the United Nations, extreme care should be taken when proposing new mechanisms.

CARLOS AMAT FLORES (Cuba) said Cuba had followed with concern the situation in East Timor, and from an early date had pressed for a full restoration of peace and stability. The Government of Cuba had also supported self-determination for the East Timorese people. But the wording of operative paragraph 6 of the resolution seemed to prejudge the course of events; the national fact-finding commission was mandated to make its findings known and to make recommendations. Indonesia should be allowed to honour its commitment to the international community.

GEORGE MOOSE (United States) said it supported the resolution because of concern over human rights abuses in East Timor. From the beginning of the special session, it had held the view that an appropriate international response included an international body to investigate events in East Timor since January 1999. The United States had strongly favoured reaching consensus on the issue, and with more time, it could have been possible. Still, the resolution demonstrated international concern about the events in East Timor. OMAR SIDDIG (Sudan) said Sudan deeply regretted that a consensus resolution was not found. It would be better if the National Commission of Indonesia made an inquiry on its own. The Government there had demonstrated its clear intent that peace would prevail. An international commission would not be more beneficial.

SAVITRI KUNADI (India) said despite the serious doubt surrounding this session, India had participated with a constructive spirit. It had hoped that following the violence in East Timor, the session would be a calming influence. The effectiveness of the Commission on Human Rights came not from coercive techniques, but from its ability to promote cooperation between countries. Unfortunately, consensus was not reached in this case.

TEHMINA JANJUA (Pakistan) said Pakistan had voted against the resolution. The delegation had made an error in its vote on paragraph 6; Pakistan would write a letter to the Commission stating that its vote on the paragraph should have been "no" instead of "abstains." A consensus was not far away at the time the vote was held. Appointment of a Special Rapporteur would have been a useful addition.


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