Freedom without justice in East Timor?
[Christian Consultation on East Timor]
8 2 2002
As independence day — 20 May — approaches for East Timor, Christian organisations and churches are calling for the prosecution of perpetrators of human rights abuses in the territory under the Indonesian occupation. CATHERINE SCOTT reports.
On 14 January this year Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri approved 18 judges who will serve on an ad hoc human rights court to be set up in Jakarta. The court will try cases arising from the army-orchestrated mayhem that followed East Timor’s 1999 ‘popular consultation’ in which the majority opted for independence from Indonesia.
Yet with the approach of independence day, 20 May, doubts remain that those chiefly responsible for the crimes against humanity - Indonesia’s top generals - will have been held to account.
The Indonesian president, under pressure from the military to sweep the whole issue under the carpet, has dragged her feet for more than two years since her own human rights commission came up with a list of 23 suspects for investigation. The list was subsequently whittled down to just 18, and excluded General Wiranto, armed forces chief at the time. In the meantime the guilty generals have been promoted and moved to trouble spots such as West Papua and Aceh, where they continue to allow abuses against local resistance movements.
East Timorese human rights defenders are skeptical that the new court will deliver justice. The incidents that it can address have been limited to the period from April to September 1999 and just three of East Timor’s 13 districts. The military role in the 1999 atrocities will therefore not be fully investigated, and convictions are unlikely to reflect the seriousness of what happened.
An international support network of Christian groups and churches at the Twelfth Christian Consultation on East Timor, held in Antwerp from 7-9 December, joined its voice to a mounting international campaign and called for Indonesia to set a deadline of July 2002, after which an international tribunal should be set up to deliver justice. This would allow the East Timorese a chance to move on from the events of the Indonesian occupation.
A statement from the groups participating in the consultation made the following recommendations to UN bodies:
1) There should be a deadline for the full prosecution of perpetrators named in the Komnas Ham Investigation of January 2000, and laws duly enforced. We consider that the UN should state a deadline of July 2002 for this to have been achieved.
2) The international community should, as a matter of urgency, ensure that the Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor has all the resources in terms of personnel and equipment in order to complete its work efficiently. This would include specialist advisors, technical experts, access to information, including from classified sources, and IT. There should be contingency plans for the granting of protection of key witnesses, including the provision of asylum as and when necessary, and specialists in crimes such as rape and sexual abuse.
3) The East Timorese judicial system should be properly resourced by the international community including its non-legal functions such as translation facilities, administrative support, transportation, etc.
4) We welcome the establishment of the Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and trust that its work will complement and reinforce the work of the judiciary and the serious crimes unit, rather than place additional burdens upon it.
5) The international community should continue all of the above support well beyond 20 May 2002 Independence Day.
6) The Indonesian government authorities should compensate East Timor as well as individual citizens, for all damage and loss of life inflicted by its armed forces and proxies since the beginning of 1999.
7) The remaining militias in West Timor must now be effectively disarmed and prosecuted if necessary, so that potential future cross-border destabilisation is averted. This will enable the remaining refugees to return to East Timor if they so wish. In addition, all remaining armed groups within East Timor should now be fully disarmed.
Institute for International Relations Updated Aug
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Email Catherine Scott: Cathy@ciir.org Homepage: http://www.ciir.org
CIIR is a founder member of the Christian Consultation on East Timor (CCET), which has met regularly since 1985. CCET is an ecumenical network bringing together Christian organisations and churches which have relationships with the Catholic and Protestant churches in East Timor. It has mounted a number of solidarity initiatives and statements since its foundation.
2 2000 CCET: Christian churches call for justice and peace in East Timor
Updated Dec 5
"No healing process can start in the knowledge that perpetrators are at large, and will go unpunished. Without healing, East Timor's
unique chance of founding a nation based on higher principles rooted in freedom and equity, will be still-born. Justice is vital ..."
Christian Consultation on East Timor
BD: War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity - A collection of recent press releases, petitions, articles and news
BD: Calls for International War Crimes Tribunal / Pengadilan Internasional - A collection of recent reports, articles and news