EAST TIMOR: Truth Commissioner says process will liberate people
21/01/2002 8:36:50 PM | Asia Pacific Programs
A South African style truth and reconciliation commission came into life in East Timor today, with the swearing in of seven national commissioners in a public ceremony in Dili. The Commission’s job is to establish the truth about human rights abuses committed in East Timor between April 1974 and October 1999. It has the power to compel witnesses to attend hearings and evidence it collects can be used as the basis for future prosecutions - however a fundamental aim is to promote community reconciliation for those who committed less serious offences.
ARAUJO: “I accepted the job because I think I am one of the victims, I think one victim among all East Timorese who were victims for 24 years. We were fighting for freedom and for human rights, for everything. That’s why this commission is a commission that wants to promote human rights here in Timor and I think to create an opportunity for the better living of the East Timorese in the future.
MARES: How serious are the divisions East Timor today as a result of 25 years or more of conflict?
ARAUJO: “This is a most deep division between the pro-autonomy and pro-independence groups. And you see, among the pro-independence and pro-autonomy people, there are also groups that cannot accept one another. And all the groups are still fighting for their own interests.
“That’s why I think the Commission is a very, very, very good opportunity. It’s a place for East Timorese people meet and to accept that they did (things), they are the perpetrators, they are the victims. It is the process of liberation.”
MARES: What’s the relationship between this process of reconciliation and questions of justice - of actually bringing perpetrators to justice, prosecuting them for their acts.
ARAUJO: “This commission is part of the judicial department and we will try our best to bring all the cases, to investigate everything that deals with violations of human rights in East Timor in 24 years, and then we present it and I think the courts will decide whther to punish or do anything.”
MARES: In your experience as a priest do you think those people who have committed crimes, who have done wrong things, as you put it, do you think they will be willing to come forward to admit their guilt?
ARAUJO: “I think it depends on how we approach those people. Because everyone now is looking forward to the future of East Timor. I think we have to respect also those who do not want to co-operate with us. But we’ll try to do our best. We’ll provide them the opportunity and give them a chance to think about what is essential for the future of East Timor for themselves and I think it’s not for the sake of the commission but for the sake of East Timorese people.
“And if they are part of this country, of these people, I think we will decide to do their best to make them sure that we are nto doing this because of our own interests, but for the interests of the people. So we’ll try. We remain open to everyone. So let them decide themselves. We’ll just give them an opportunity to choose to remain in the past or maybe liberate themselves to a new future.
“We want to build unity, a place where all the people can accept and live together. Brothers, even if they have separated in the past. I think this is one of the tasks of the commission. We can bring all them to accept the past as something that happened and the past is something that brings us to this actual situation and will provide us a better future.”
Fr. Jovito Araujo is a Catholic Priest and member of the Centre for Peace and Development. He is President of the Dili Diocese’s Catholic Youth Commission and originally hails from Hatolia in Ermera District.
22 Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation sworn in
Biographies added Jan 23
"On 21 February [January?] 2002, the National Commissioners of the East Timor Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation were sworn in to office, with speeches by Jose Ramos Horta, Sergio Vieira de Mello and Xanana Gusmão, and messages from Mary Robinson and Rev. Desmond Tutu. The following are the names and brief biographies of the Commissioners, from the program for the swearing-in ceremony."
BD: Truth, Reception and Reconciliation / Rekonciliasaun / Reconciliação - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news
BD: East Timor's Judicial System - A collection of recent reports, articles and news