Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: Belo: Int'l Tribunal for Dignity of Humanity

Diocese of Dili, Timor Lorosa'e Office: Av. Dos Direitos Humanos; Box 4 Bidau Lecidere, Dili, East Timor Facsimile: +670 390 321177 Mobile Phone: +61418 890 141


"At stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt." (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, #47)

The violation of the dignity and basic rights of an individual is an injustice and an act of oppression towards the entire human community. It is an act of injustice and cruel oppression towards humanity itself Violating the dignity and basic rights of a human being does not only forfeit the dignity of the victim himself, but of the perpetrator's as well; for by doing so, he debases the image of God within himself From this perspective, trial before a court of justice or the enforcement of justice against crimes is one form of restoring human dignity for the victim, whose human dignity had been usurped, as well as for the perpetrator, who abandons his own dignity by taking away that of another.

Therefore, we regard with hope, the international community's efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 1999 crimes in East Timor. After due investigation, the United Nations' International Commission of Inquiry and the Indonesian Government's Commission to Investigate Violations of Human Rights in East Timor, referred to the series of acts of violence before, during, and after the 1999 Referendum as "crimes against humanity."

A principle of international law states that "crimes against humanity" are not merely crimes against certain individuals who are the direct victims, not just crimes against a certain nation, but are crimes committed against the whole human race. This goes without saying, that no part of the human race whatsoever, may nullify these crimes unilaterally. International law states further, that the obligation to bring to trial the perpetrators of these crimes does not belong only to the country in question, but to the entire international community as well.

However, we are presently witnessing that the trial to bring to justice those responsible for the crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999 a trial entrusted to Indonesia by the United Nations Security Council has become an instrument to affirm and uphold not justice, but injustice. Both the civil and military officials of Indonesia who were responsible for these crimes were indicted only for "negligence to take action to prevent the clash between two conflicting groups in East Timor society." As such, the seriousness of "crimes against humanity" is reduced to an ordinary criminal act. Furthermore, evidences and witnesses gathered by the Indonesian Commission and the UN International Commission of Inquiry were not used or presented at the Ad Hoc Trial Against Human Rights, in Indonesia. As a matter of fact, the judge during the trial violated Indonesian law by sentencing one of the defendants to 3 years in jail, whereas the law requires a minimum of least 10 years. No wonder then that human rights groups in Indonesia consider the trial a "sandiwara" a theatrical play in order to protect Indonesian civil and military officials.

Efforts at making justice a reality, of involvement in upholding justice, is the responsibility of every believer in God, in the truth and of all those who desire the well-being of humankind. The prophet Isaiah had proclaimed this truth long before the coming of the UN Security Council.

We would like to bring to your attention two recommendations of the UN International Commission of Inquiry to the Security Council: (1) that the Indonesian Government was primarily responsible for the violence in East Timor in 1999 and therefore is also responsible to bring to justice the perpetrators of the violence; (2) if the Indonesian Government fails to bring the perpetrators to justice, then the responsibility to do so becomes the responsibility of the international community.

In order to uphold justice, we appeal to the international community in this case, the UN Security Council to take the necessary steps towards the formation of an international tribunal. From the start, the judiciary process in Indonesia had indicated inability to try the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, according to international standards of law. It behooves the United Nations to expose the truth of what happened after the Referendum of 1999, for the United Nations was a prime witness to it. The United Nations was present in East Timor then, to carry out its mandate to hold a referendum, giving the people of East Timor the right to self-determination.

The dignity of man transcends all. The powerful nations, with their many political and economic interests and who also have a big say in the decisions taken by the Security Council bring in their wake, many of the injustices borne by the people of East Timor and of other peoples elsewhere. Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Populorum Progressio says: "International collaboration on a worldwide scale requires institutions that will prepare, coordinate and direct it, until finally there is established an order of justice which is universally recognized. With all our heart, We encourage these organizations which have undertaken this collaboration for the development of the peoples of the world, and our wish that they grow in prestige and authority," (Populorum Progressio, # 78)

We appeal to the leaders of East Timor, to listen intently to the victims' voices and to that of their families. They are earnestly and continually craving for justice. I wish to reiterate once again what I said in our Pastoral Appeal on Amnesty (June 29, 2002), that the victims should be our primary concern. Jesus the Noble Victim teaches us this. It is time for all the leaders of independent East Timor, to close ranks and in solidarity with the victims and their families say with one firm voice that we demand the establishment of an international tribunal of justice. The sovereign and independent East Timor nation has the right and the obligation to fight for this international tribunal among the sovereign and independent nations of the international community.

We hear from various quarters that a demand for an international tribunal of justice is unrealistic. This is truly a political consideration. From a consideration of law, an international tribunal is the most realistic venue to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, so that the people of East Timor, especially the victims of the 1999 violence and their families may finally be given the justice they deserve. Furthermore, is it not a proven fact that what is politically unrealistic today may become realistic some other time? The Referendum to self-determination of the East Timorese people attests to this. How much more important is the dignity of a human being compared to any worldly consideration whatsoever.

May this rapidly changing world, where values shift constantly, enable mankind to fight for respect for human dignity just as the Lord himself gave His life out of respect and love for His entire human creation.

With my blessings.

Dili, August 27, 2002 /s/ Bishop Carlos F. X. Belo, SDB Apostolic Administrator Diocese of Dili

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