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Proposals on Justice for Timor-Leste "Inadequate"

Rights Groups Call UN Proposals on Justice for Timor-Leste “Inadequate”

For immediate release

August 8, 2006 - Two human rights groups today commended the UN Secretary-General's continued attention to the need for accountability for past human rights crimes in Timor-Leste, but called his proposals to the Security Council "inadequate."

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, said that the recently-released report by the Secretary-General on justice and reconciliation for Timor-Leste offers only modest proposals to deal with the lack of accountability for human rights crimes committed in Timor-Leste in 1999 and ignores pre-1999 crimes entirely.

“We welcome the Secretary General's continued attention to the need for justice for the East Timorese. Unfortunately, however, he demonstrates a reluctance to discharge the UN’s special responsibility for justice for Timor-Leste since Indonesia invaded in 1975,” said Paul Barber, advocacy officer of TAPOL. “His recommendations are almost entirely dependent on the judicial systems and political will of Indonesia and Timor-Leste. This continues a strategy that has manifestly been shown to fail.”

"The UN should be taking more forceful actions toward accountability,” said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. “Indonesia has ignored repeated calls to cooperate with international efforts to achieve justice. The government of Timor-Leste, wary of its dominant neighbour, remains reluctant to demand that the Indonesian organizers and perpetrators of crimes against humanity be held accountable."

The SG’s report calls for the revival of international support for investigations and indictments of serious crimes committed in 1999, when Timor-Leste voted for independence, but specifically rules out the resumption of the prosecutorial component of the UN-established Serious Crimes Unit in Timor-Leste. It notes that a substantial number of crimes committed in 1999 have yet to be investigated or prosecuted and over 300 of those already indicted are in Indonesia, out of the reach of Timor-Leste's courts.

"Internal reconciliation within Timor-Leste and completion of investigations into the crimes of 1999 are important to establishing the groundwork for future prosecutions, but these efforts must have adequate resources to finish the job," said Miller. "Relying on voluntary contributions, as recommended, may leave the job incomplete yet again." The report calls for a "solidarity fund... for the purpose of funding a community restoration programme and a justice programme in Timor-Leste."

"The report calls for the Security Council to endorse the findings of the Commission of Experts (COE), but fails to address most of its recommendations and those of Timor-Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), including its call that a UN-backed serious crimes process investigate exemplary pre-1999 cases," said Barber.

The Secretary-General's report was requested by the Security Council in September 2005. In it the SG provides his views on the reports of his COE and the CAVR , as well as on the creation of the joint Timor-Leste-Indonesia Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF). The SG report includes recommendations on the issue, some of which may be included in the next UN mission to Timor-Leste now under consideration by the Security Council.

"The SG while endorsing the findings of the COE concerning the inadequacies of Indonesia's Ad Hoc Court, would put only the mildest pressure on Indonesia to prosecute suspects in Indonesia or to cooperate with Timorese or international efforts," said Barber. “Experience has shown that this is not a credible solution to the problem.”

The report acknowledges both governments’ reluctance to pursue prosecutions of Indonesian officials and recommends that the Security Council ”welcome" the CTF despite its serious shortcomings, including its ability to recommend amnesties, but not prosecutions.

“The Council should not offer its support to the CTF at least until its terms of reference are strengthened to conform with international standards on accountability and the denial of impunity,” said Miller.

The COE reported on the Serious Crimes process in Timor-Leste and was particularly harsh in its criticism of the proceedings of Jakarta's ad hoc human rights court. The COE expressed reservations about the CTF and called for giving Indonesia a limited period of time to credibly prosecute senior military officials who had already been indicted in Timor-Leste; the COE called for the creation of an international tribunal should Indonesia fail to do so.

The CAVR, an independent Timorese body which began work under the UN administration, issued its 2,500-page report on 31 October 2005. Its report covered human rights violations from 1974-1999. The CAVR also endorsed an international tribunal, as well as calling for reparations from countries, including the permanent members of the Security Council, which backed Indonesia's invasion and occupation. The CAVR called for wide dissemination and discussion of its report throughout the UN, as well as among member states including Indonesia. The CAVR report states “Egregious as they were, however, the crimes committed in 1999 were far outweighed by those committed during the previous 24 years of occupation…” The SG's report praised international assistance to help the post-CAVR Technical Secretariat distribute the report’s findings within Timor-Leste.

On July 21, three coalitions of NGOs concerned with the transitional justice process in Timor-Leste, wrote the Secretary-General that "severe shortcomings of the local and international justice processes have helped to create a culture of impunity in which a range of actors believe they can, in effect, get away with murder and other crimes," and called for a reconstitution of the Serious Crimes process. The letter was signed on behalf of the Timor-Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal; the Australian Coalition for Transitional Justice in East Timor and the International Federation for East Timor, which includes both TAPOL and ETAN.

ETAN, based in the U.S., advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. ETAN supports an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity committed in Timor-Leste from 1975 to 1999 and for restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces.

The British-based TAPOL - which means political prisoner in Indonesian - was founded in 1973 and is a leading English language authority on the human rights situation in Indonesia and Timor-Leste.

ENDS

Web site: http://www.etan.org

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