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Latest verdicts blow for East Timor justice - Goff

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

8 August 2004
Media statement

Latest verdicts blow for East Timor justice, says Goff

An Indonesian court's decision to overturn convictions against four security officers is a blow to those seeking justice for the terrible human rights abuses that committed in East Timor in 1999, says Foreign Minister Phil Goff.

The Supreme Court freed four members of Indonesia's security forces, one of them a major-general, who had been convicted by Indonesia’s Ad Hoc Tribunal. It also cut in half the 10-year sentence of militia leader Eurico Guterres.

“The Court has also upheld the earlier decisions of the Ad Hoc Tribunal to exonerate 10 others accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor. Right now, of the 18 original defendants standing trial for these crimes, only two have been sentenced, and both happen to be ethnic Timorese,” Mr Goff said.

“New Zealand has consistently said that those responsible for the crimes committed in East Timor in 1999 must be brought to justice in a manner consistent with the standards of international law.

“I have previously expressed strong views about the inadequacy of the Ad Hoc Tribunal. This latest decision demonstrates that the system has failed utterly to hold to account those responsible for the taking of hundreds of innocent Timorese lives in 1999.

“The task of seeing justice done in this matter must now rest with the international community. The United Nations is consulting concerned countries, including New Zealand, about how to respond.

“New Zealand’s view is that the failure of the Ad Hoc Tribunal requires the establishment of an International Crimes Tribunal in this area, notwithstanding the opposition which might exist to this path being followed.

“In the meantime, New Zealand continues to support the work of the Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor. We have also given substantial financial support to the East Timor government’s Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation which is doing important work in the area of restitutional justice,” Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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