|Subject: East Timor Asked to Admit
Wrongdoing: Ramos Horta
Received from Joyo Indonesian News
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.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
Second Transitional Government East Timor
Wednesday 30 January 2002
For Immediate Release
RAMOS-HORTA ASKED ABOUT FRETILIN
Senior Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Jose Ramos-Horta spoke of peace and reconciliation in East Timor at a Center for Transitional Justice hosted forum, in the United States yesterday.
Speaking on the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation's mandate to investigate all past abuses including those committed after 1974, Dr Ramos-Horta was asked about past abuses that may have been committed by the then leaders of Fretilin.
"I was very impressed by the moral and political courage of the current Fretilin leadership in their decision to set up, early last year, its own investigation to establish the facts about what happened in the past." Dr Ramos-Horta said.
"I am impressed by the maturity that all political parties have shown thus far. The democratic elections of August 30, 2001, which included 16 political parties, passed without one single incident, this is the result of the maturity displayed by the leadership of all 16 parties, and credit must go to impartial East Timorese leaders such as Xanana Gusmao and Bishop Belo for their guidance." Dr Ramos-Horta said.
A witness to the National Pact of Unity, a peace accord signed by political parties for the August 30 elections, Dr Ramos-Horta remains independent of all political parties.
- ends -
Round Table Examines Methods Of Seeking Truth And Justice In East Timor
By Jim Wurst, UN Wire
On Tuesday, Ramos-Horta spoke at a roundtable to explain the workings of the next step in reconciliation in his country. The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation was inaugurated Jan. 21. Unlike the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is the commission's closest role model, amnesty will not be granted. Instead, low-level perpetrators will be allowed to ask forgiveness for their crimes and commit to community service rather than going to jail.
"The number of victims is frighteningly huge," Ramos-Horta said. "How can we simply sign off on an amnesty so that the country can have peace?" he asked. "At the same time there has to be justice, and justice is not to be confused with revenge."
Some kind of balance is also necessary, Ramos-Horta said, because many of the low-level militia members were "stooges" of powerful foreign forces. "The real perpetrators of the violence are in Indonesia and they are powerful," he said, referring to the army generals who organized and armed the militias. "Do we just prosecute the less powerful?"
The mandate of the commission runs from 1974 to 1999, after international troops were deployed to stop militia violence following the independence referendum. Ramos-Horta noted many people insisted on extending the mandate of the commission back to April 1974, the year Portugal withdrew from the territory and one year before Indonesia invaded. This way "gross abuses" by Timorese against Timorese would also be judged, not only abuses by Indonesian forces, Ramos-Horta explained. Otherwise, he said, the commission's work would be "hypocritical."
According to the United Nations, only $1 million of the $3.8 million required by the commission has been pledged, and only about one third of this has been received. Besides the commission, East Timor now has a Serious Crimes Unit, which operates as part of the Timorese judiciary rather than as an independent commission, to deal with crimes such as murder. While differentiating between "serious" and "non-serious" crimes comes with its own set of problems, Ramos-Horta said treating all crimes the same would means "the courts would be totally clogged."
This coexistence of a truth commission and prosecutorial procedure is a unique feature of the Timorese process, said Paul van Syl, former executive secretary of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Because of the "globalization of justice," the East Timorese could examine the strengths and weaknesses of other tribunals, he said. He called the idea of community service "community-based plea bargaining" and a "dramatic improvement" over the South Africa model.
Van Syl now works for the International Center for Transitional Justice, a New York-based group that helps transitional societies deal with histories of abuse. The center sponsored the roundtable.
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