The Associated Press January 29, 2002
East Timor Asked to Admit Wrongdoing
By PETER JAMES SPIELMANN
NEW YORK (AP) - East Timor will have to face up to atrocities committed by the liberation movement during the 25-year independence campaign if the new nation hopes for true reconciliation and peace, interim Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta said Tuesday.
The mandate of a newly established truth commission has been extended back to 1974, when Portuguese colonial rule collapsed, partly so that human rights abuses committed by all sides and factions could be investigated, he said.
After Indonesian troops invaded and occupied East Timor in 1975, civil war raged in the territory, with the main pro-independence guerrilla group Fretilin battling other factions and the Indonesians.
“In Fretilin-held areas of the mountains, there were gross human rights abuses” as serious as any committed by Indonesian troops or their proxy militias, he told diplomats and human rights activists gathered at the Ford Foundation.
In touring East Timor and talking to villagers, Ramos-Horta said, he was “shocked by the number of Fretilin human rights abuses” reported to him.
Fretilin - the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor - won 57 percent of the vote in an election last year and secured 55 seats in the 88-member assembly that will steer the territory to independence this year.
Ramos-Horta, a co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, is in New York as a guest of the World Economic Forum opening Thursday, and will also speak to the U.N. Security Council on the situation in East Timor.
He urged the United Nations to set up a criminal tribunal to deal with the worst abuses in East Timor, as it sponsored tribunals for the Balkans and Sierra Leone, but said he was not optimistic.
“The U.N. Security Council does not seem to have the courage to do what is logical, to set up a war crimes tribunal,” he said.
Ramos-Horta’s briefing was hosted by the International Center for Transitional Justice, a New York-based human rights group that advises fragile new democracies on how to balance demands for justice with the need for national reconciliation.
Between 1974 and 1999, about 200,000 East Timorese are estimated to have perished - first in fighting between supporters of rival Timorese political parties in the mid-1970s and then as a result of Indonesia’s 24-year brutal military occupation.
BD: Truth, Reception and Reconciliation / Rekonciliasaun / Reconciliação - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news
BD: FRETILIN - Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor / Frente Revolucionaria do Timor Leste Independente - A collection of recent speeches, documents, statements, news and reports
BD: Calls for International War Crimes Tribunal / Pengadilan Internasional - A collection of recent reports, articles and news