Expression of Concern at Xanana's Statement
23 April 2001
East Timor NGO Forum Press Release
Expression of Concern at Xanana's Statement regarding an International Tribunal
The NGO Forum is very concerned by National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) President Xanana Gusmao's recent comment, as quoted in Suara Timor Lorosa'e on 23 April 2001, that an International Tribunal is not a priority for East Timor. If he has been quoted correctly, the NGO Forum considers this to be a political statement of an East Timorese politician, since it is unlikely that the families of the victims of violence of Indonesian crimes in East Timor, particularly the families of those murdered by the Indonesian military, would concur with him.
In our view Xanana's assertion on this matter misses the mark entirely, given that the courts both in Indonesia and Dili, in their investigations into instances of crimes perpetuated by the Indonesian military in East Timor, have so far failed to satisfy the victims' families demands for justice.
The NGO Forum regards an International Tribunal as an option that needs to be seriously considered given that to date Indonesia has not made any progress in investigating human rights offences committed by the Indonesian military in East Timor. As Suara Timor Lorosa'e noted in its 21 April edition, we have yet to see an Indonesian general, Probowo Subianto among them, confess to Xanana in a court of justice, whether in Indonesia or at an International Tribunal, their probable involvement in cases of human rights offences in East Timor.
We believe that anyone is entitled to offer comment on the prosecution of war crimes cases in East Timor, provided such comments accord with the wishes of the families of the victims of these war crimes, so as not to reopen the wounds of the families concerned.
"If an international court is not a priority for resolving war crimes cases in East Timor, what other court is able to ensure that the war criminals concerned do not just walk free?" asked Arsenio Bano, Executive Director of the NGO Forum, adding that future improvements in East Timor-Indonesia relations depend inter alia on how Indonesia completes its investigations into the war crimes it perpetuated in East Timor, together with its willingness to assist in the return from Indonesia of East Timorese refugees.