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East Timor Victims Demand Justice


East Timor National Alliance for International Tribunal

A refutation for Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Jose Ramos Horta:
Victims Wish for An International Tribunal


Indonesian media reported that during the preliminary meeting of the Commission for Truth and Friendship in Bali, August 4, 2005, the Timorese foreign minister Dr. Jose Ramos Horta stated that the victims of crimes against humanity in Timor Leste do not wish for an international tribunal and do not press for compensation, what they wish for is to know what actually happened.

If it is true that the foreign minister made such statement, we believe that such statement is against the reality. During the meeting with the Commission of Experts, formed by the UN Secretary General to evaluate the crimes against humanity judicial process, the families and representatives of victims from all across Timor Leste had stated that they are demanding an international tribunal. They aid that the courts held in Indonesia cannot be trusted because it was but a charade to protect the people responsible for those crimes. On the other hand, the courts held in Timor Leste by the Special Panel of Dili District Court cannot be depended on to dispense justice because of lack of resources and cannot reach the people responsible who live in Indonesia.

A few years before, during the farewell visit to Timor Leste in 2002 of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Mary Robinson, the families of victims and survivors met in various places stated their demand that justice be served through an international tribunal. Hence, at the end of her visit, Mary Robinson said, “In all the places I visited, I have seen that the people of Timor Leste wish for justice. I hope that the leaders of Timor Leste would hear this wish and take the same position.”

We do not understand the foundation of the statement of our foreign minister. We wish to ask, “Where did the foreign minister conduct his consultation with the survivors and their family?”

It is true that there is no referendum to determine whether the people wish for an international tribunal or not, but various voices from various parties within the community assured us that an international criminal court is the only hope for the victims to achieve justice. The same opinion was also voiced during the many sessions of Audiensia Publike, held by the Commission of Acceptance, Truth and Reconcilliation. The same opinion was also voiced by the Timor Leste Catholic Church. In April, the Bishop of Dili Dom Ricardo and Bacau Bishop Dom Basilio do Nascimento sent a joint statement to the UN Commission of Experts, to ask for the creation of an international tribunal for crimes against humanity and other war crimes in Timor Leste from 1975 to 1999.

The opinion that the victims and their families do not want an international tribunal is only a new excuse from a number of political leaders in Timor Leste, especially the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Jose Ramos Horta and President Kayrala Xanana Gusmao, to support their own opinion that Timor Leste does not need an international tribunal. Previously, the excuse was that Timor Leste needs an economic development, while the cost of an international tribunal is high and Timor Leste simply could not afford it. This is a baseless excuse. Timor Leste is not the one who would form and fund international criminal court because the crimes committed were violations of international law, and as such, the one who is reponsible to create it and fund it is the United Nations.

Another excuse thrown said that justice had already been gotten by Timor Leste, that is the independence. This is also a baseless excuse. Timor Leste was struggling for its independence from Portugal when Indonesia invaded and subsequently occupied the country and hence prevented the process – such invasion was obviously a violation of international law. Since the people were still committed to their struggle for their rightful independence, the Indonesian military committed various cruelties to stop it – which is also a violation of international law. So it is natural that a tribunal should be held for both crimes, to hold the people responsible for the invasion, the occupation, and other subsequent serious crimes against humanity accountable. It is the only way to ensure justice. Justice cannot be traded with economic development, much less a sort of “compensation” for the victims.

To state that an international tribunal is not needed by the people of Timor Leste is against the Timor Leste 2002 Constitution. The Constitution created by the democratically elected representatives is a reflection of the wish of all the people of Timor Leste. Particularly, article 160 of the Constitution stated that for serious crimes committed during 1975 – 1999 must be resolved through a tribunal, national or international. Finding the truth is needed, by finding the truth does not automatically constitute justice. It is only a part that helps complete the process to achieve justice.

It is ironic that Timor Leste, which for almost a quarter of a century was victimized by the attitude of large countries with “realpolitik” position that let the invasion, occupation, and various human rights violations during the occupation, are now voluntarilly follow the common “realpolitik”: the countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and a number of other countries do not wish for an international tribunal on Timor Leste issues.

We hereby demand the leaders of Timor Leste (which during the occupation struggle against unjust “realpolitik”) to go back to the basic value of justice. Do not forget that it is due to the people of Timor Leste who fought against unjust world “realpolitik” that we now have our sovereign and independent state of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste.

Dili, August 7, 2005
Representatives of the families of victims

Edio Saldanha Borges

Maria Afonso de Jesus


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