The council voted overwhelmingly in support of the tribunal and also endorsed legislation to establish a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The moves were initiated by council member, Mr Aniceto Guterres, East Timorís best known lawyer, who also heads the countryís Yayasan-HAK human rights foundation.
While it is expected a truth and reconciliation commission could be successful in East Timor, diplomats and human rights lawyers said they anticipate efforts to establish an international court would run into serious international opposition.
A truth commission could see militiamen involved in less serious crimes facing a community-based system of justice, rather than a court of law.
ďThis is in no way a move away from providing justice to those most heavily implicated in the crimes of 1999, but a means of providing a workable mechanism to bring communities together to deal with tens of thousands of minor offences that took place,Ē said Mr Patrick Burgess, the United Nations head of human rights in East Timor.
Those who appeared before the commission would be required to undertake community service, pay restitution and make a public apology. ďThis commission will have the power to look into and hear testimony about human rights abuses dating back to 1974,Ē Mr Burgess said.
It could deal with crimes which included involvement in the destruction of private property or low-level intimidation but not serious crimes of murder, rape, torture and organised violence. Those are being investigated by a Serious Crimes Unit, he said.
Human rights groups claim up to 1,500 East Timorese independence supporters were murdered in a reign of terror that followed the UN-brokered referendum held on August 30, 1999. Indonesia has promised an ad hoc tribunal of its own to try those responsible but its terms of reference are restricted to violence which occurred after the ballot and does not include a series of bloody massacres committed in the lead-up to the vote.
The UN warned it reserves the right to establish an international tribunal if Jakarta fails to bring those responsible for the violence to justice but increasingly that looks like a hollow threat.
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System Monitoring Programme (JSMP)
Added June 9
JMPS is a new human rights project set up by the East Timorese Juristsí Association and the Timorese/international organisation La'o Hamutuk. JSMP aims to assist the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, the East Timorese public and the international community by making recommendations for ongoing reform of the fledgling judicial system of East Timor.
The main objective of the programme is to improve the quality of justice provided by the newly established judicial system, and to promote human rights and the rule of law in a meaningful and transparent manner for the people of East Timor through:
BD: Calls for International War Crimes Tribunal - A collection of recent reports, articles and news
BD: Truth, Reception and Reconciliation - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news