On 6 February 2001, Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, released a report on the situation of human rights in East Timor. The report is the outgrowth of last year's meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC). At that time, the chairperson requested that the High Commissioner report to the 2001 meeting -- currently taking place in Geneva.
The report should provide information on and analysis of matters relating to the investigation and prosecution of crimes against humanity committed in East Timor during Indonesia's occupation of the territory. In this regard, it fails miserably.
The first part of the brief, 10-page report is an account of Robinson's August 2000 visit to East Timor. It tells, for example that she went to Suai "where she laid flowers at the site of a mass killing that took place in 1999" and that she "delivered a keynote address at a workshop on human rights and the future of East Timor" in Dili.
After highlighting the High Commissioner's concern for the number of missing, presumed dead, East Timorese as well as for the "refugees" in West Timor, the report briefly discusses her November 2000 visit to Jakarta. There, Indonesia's attorney general requested technical support from the UNHRC for the investigation and prosecution of crimes that took place in East Timor in 1999. More than five months later, the UNHRC is still waiting for confirmation from Indonesia's ministry of foreign affairs that the cooperation can proceed.
The rest of the report discusses the Office of the High Commissioner's support for and assistance to UNTAET, as well as the activities of UNTAET's Human Rights Unit, and other related matters taking place within East Timor. (Regarding the inadequacy of resources for the investigation and prosecution of "serious crimes' within East Timor, see the last editorial in this message.)
Apart from mentioning last November's meeting in Jakarta, the report says nothing about Indonesia, nor about the lack of cooperation by Indonesian authorities with UNTAET in April 2000. It also fails to point out the continuing impunity enjoyed by Indonesian civil and military authorities, as well as Indonesia's failure to comply with the Memorandum of Understanding that it signed with UNTAET. The words "TNI" and "military" do not even appear in the document; "militia" only appears in the context of a discussion of attacks against three Protestant churches in Aileu last June (reportedly because the Protestant Church allegedly had links to the militia).
While the document mentions Robinson's visit to Dili, it omits the fact that a number of East Timorese called upon the High Commissioner to support accountability through prosecution for crimes against humanity committed prior to 1999.
As a press report from the time explained, however, "Robinson carefully deflected this demand, explaining that though she was aware of 'the terrible crimes committed down the years,' for which she thought a Truth and Reconciliation Commission might be the best remedy, the UN was concerned only with the events of last September , because the destruction had occurred while the UN was in charge."
Finally, the document does not even mention an international tribunal--even though last year's chairman's statement that led to the document took note of the report of the International Commission of Inquiry (January 2000). The Commission called upon the UN to "establish an international human rights tribunal"--a step, according to the Commission, "fundamental for the future social and political stability of East Timor."
Instead, the UN Security Council accepted Indonesia's request to have the first chance to prosecute the accused. The Council, however, called upon Jakarta to bring those responsible for the 1999 terror to justice "as soon as possible." Although more than one year has now passed, there has been very little progress.
By ignoring such matters, the recent UNHRC report facilitates the impunity that continues to reign within Indonesia. It also marginalizes East Timor's pre-1999 suffering by saying nothing about Indonesia's invasion, illegal occupation, and all the associated crimes against humanity committed from 1975 through 1998. In this regard, the UNHRC undermines justice.
The High Commissioner recently announced that she was going to resign her office after one more year. One of the reasons she gave was the lack of financial and political support provided by member-states to the Office of the High Commissioner. While Robinson's office definitely needs more support, the relative lack of support does not justify or explain the shallowness of the recent report.
Reportedly, the Indonesian government is very pleased with the document. And reading the report makes it clear why this would be the case. But for the East Timorese, there is little in the UNHRC document that is hopeful.
As the UNHRC annual session drew to a close in mid-April, the Chairman issued a statement negotiated with the Indonesian government. While not mentioning an international tribunal and downplaying Indonesia's non-cooperation with UNTAET judicial procedures, the statement does urge Indonesia "to bring to justice the suspects of" "the violations of human rights perpetrated in East Timor" (in 1999). It also urged Jakarta "to continue to disarm and disband the militia, to restore security in the refugee camps of West Timor and to take measures to ensure that the refugees could make a free and informed choice whether to return to East Timor or resettle in Indonesia." Although the Chairman's statement is better than the High Commissioner's report, it would probably have been even stronger if the High Commissioner had called for international action to end impunity.
The people of East Timor -- as well as
all those struggling for democracy and human rights within Indonesia --
deserve much better:
truth and justice.
La'o Hamutuk: East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis Updated May 11
La'o Hamutuk (Tetum for Walking Together) is a joint East Timorese-international organization that seeks to monitor, to analyze, and to report on the reconstruction activities of the principal international institutions. It believes that the people of East Timor must be the ultimate decisionmakers in the reconstruction process and that the process should be as democratic and transparent as possible ...
East Timorese staff: Inès Martins, Fernando da Silva, Thomas Freitas; International staff:Pamela Sexton, Mark Salzer Executive board: Sr. Maria Dias, Joseph Nevins, Fr. Jovito Rego de Jesus Araùjo, Aderito Soares
International contact: +1-510-643-4507 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Homepage: http://www.etan.org/lh
La’o Hamutuk Bulletin:http://www.etan.org/lh/bulletin.html
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